Change is a long term and difficult process but possible; people willing to change lives go through a process. It calls for commitment, determination as well as self -discipline.
Similarly, a number of approaches have been used by Civil Society, Policy Makers and other Institutions to address Violence against Women (VAW) in Uganda. Unfortunately, some have encountered challenges along the way and have been short-lived.
In light of this, ACFODE organized a training on SASA (Start Awareness Support Action approach), a scientifically proven methodology for addressing VAW. The training which included 20 staff and members (15 F and 5 M) took place from 24th to 25th May 2017 at Eureka Place and Suits, Ntinda-Kampala. The team was introduced to the causes, types, and effects of VAW.
Simply put, VAW refers to any threat or act directed at a girl or woman that causes harm and is meant to keep a girl or woman under the control of others. Some of the causes include; Power imbalance between men and women whereby men are portrayed as superior and women inferior; lack of effective communication between the partners; inadequate love; unfaithfulness, and cultural beliefs. The rest are just contributing factors.
Effects of VAW include; physical injury, increased risk of contracting HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), low birth weight babies as well as depression.
SASA describes change in a four stage step and each of these corresponds to a particular type of power.
START (per-contemplation stage) which involves preparing staff and community activists who will be contributing to change. It also involves selecting community activists and learning about the community. This stage corresponds with Power within; the strength that arises from ourselves when we recognize the equal ability within all of us to positively influence our own lives and community,
AWARENESS; where community activists are supported to gain confidence and conduct other formal activities Power over; means that one person or group can control another person or group,
SUPPORT involves strengthening skills and connections between community activists. Power with which is felt when two or more people come together to do something that they could not do alone.
ACTION which involves trying out new behaviors; maintaining a desired change is also very important under this stage. Power to which is the belief, energy and action that individuals and groups use to ensure that all community members enjoy the full spectrum of human rights and are able to achieve their full potential.
The training was very engaging with interesting methodology such as role plays and stories which were used in most of the sessions to enable participants gain deeper understanding.
A role play titled ‘the new planet’ was employed. The instructions were that participants had to greet one another, follow laws of the land and for each greeting, say their names and provide new information about them. Participants were then given shapes of squares and circles (in paper form) with rights written on them. None of them questioned the decision of the facilitator but rather acted as instructed.
In the end, participants had mixed feelings about the exercise; while some confessed to have felt more powerful and superior, others felt sorry for those who had squares and were powerless. This was a very interesting but educating role play. The take home message is that; in our society, we might have laws and policies that guide us or protect our rights but then we don’t have the power to influence those laws such that our rights are protected.
Participants engage in the role play titled ‘New Planet’
Sometimes we wonder why some communities don’t change. SASA brings out the barriers that are likely to hinder positive change. These barriers include enabling or supporting one to continue in a wrong act, judging, discouraging, labeling or blaming a person who is in the wrong. In the process of change, we are most likely to be influenced by those who are nearest to us like friends and family and it is through them that we can cause change to individuals and communities.
The SASA approach is being adapted and implemented in 60 organizations in 20 countries across the Globe. The approach employs evidence based training methodology in tackling VAW which inspires and enables communities to re-think and re-shape social norms. SASA helps communities, individuals and social set ups to reflect on their own lives and relationships before trying to influence others.
In Uganda, there are different ways in which social norms support men having power over women in either spoken or unspoken rules. These exist in relationships, families, communities and laws/institutions. For example; in some communities, women are not supposed to speak in public or become leaders; in some families, there is preference for male children when it comes to education and inheritance; in the police, the choice of marriage partner for a female police officer is dictated upon yet it is not the case for men, the law also limits joint ownership of property to a marital home.
This training was very educative, informative, eye opening and also interesting given the interesting methodology. Participants appreciated the topics of discussion, knowledge and experience of the facilitators and made commitments on how they would make use of the knowledge and skills acquired.
Some of the voices that were captured are as follows;
“I will take it upon myself to empower/ capacitate women to question laws and policies and demand for their rights.”
“In future I will try to pass on SASA knowledge to my fellow workmates through organizing a work shop like this one where I will invite facilitators and be part of them as well.”
“I will integrate aspects of power and SASA methodology to change certain aspects of my life which I have been battling with.”
“I plan to go back to the drawing table and plan on how to engage the community activists to influence positive change by effectively using SASA approach.”
“I plan to address barriers to change, not to be judgmental, not to condemn others, not to discourage those struggling to create a change in the relationship and not to blame those victims and perpetrators but encourage them to change.”
Gender and Economic Policy Department