While women are battling for equal rights all over the world, the existing power imbalance between women and men renders the former vulnerable to violence. Back home (in Northern Uganda specifically), the widely practiced customs of child, forced and/or early marriages, widowhood rituals and wife beating are among the issues that stand in the way of a just, peaceful and safe environment in most homes. This kind of social system gives men primary power in roles of leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property and resources, whilst reinforcing women’s low status in society.
Convinced that such a kind of societal setting perpetuates gender inequalities, ACFODE conducted refresher training for Community Activists in Apac and Dokolo districts on implementation of the awareness of SASA! as a tool for preventing violence against women (VAW).
Guided by the following objectives, the event attracted 122 participants (63 F, 59 M); who were selected based on their characteristics as role models who lead by example in their communities. They included – religious and cultural leaders, parents and teacher representatives from forums such as PTAs, local council leaders, boda boda cyclists, malwa brewers, among others.
- Documenting the activities implemented, lessons learned, key emerging issues, good practices, opportunities utilized and challenges faced by the community activists in implementation of the Awareness phrase of SASA!
- Assessing the applicability of the knowledge of SASA! in prevention of VAW by the community activists, and;
- Equipping participants with new methods/tools for the implementation of the awareness phrase of SASA!
The refresher training was a follow up event of an initial orientation meeting that had been conducted in March 2017 during which ACFODE identified and trained over 130 community activists on power imbalance and its relationship between VAW. These were later commissioned to use the SASA! methodology to challenge the status quo.
During the experience sharing sessions, participants pointed out gender inequality and discrimination as root causes of VAW, influenced by the historical and structural power imbalances between women and men which exist in varying degrees across different communities.
They also related VAW to women’s lack of power and control, as well as to the social norms that prescribe men and women’s roles in society and condone abuse. “Inequalities between men and women cut across public and private spheres of life, and across social, economic, cultural, and political rights; and are manifested in restrictions and limitations on women’s freedoms, choices and opportunities. These inequalities can increase women’s and girls’ risks of abuse, violent relationships and exploitation,” said one of the participants in Apac district.
Negative cultural norms and practices, limited awareness on women and girls’ rights, community demands for “allowances” to attend sensitization meetings as well as negative perspections towards the women’s movement were some of the challenges the community activists mentioned encountering while doing their work at the grass root level. In light of this, Ms Regina Bafaki, the Executive Director of ACFODE challenged them to be persistent in furthering the woman’s cause.
“When you are fighting VAW, be like the street preachers in Kampala who teach the same message over and over again without getting tired. Where as some people listen to them and change, others don’t. However, this doesn’t stop them,” she advised.
At the end of the trainings, the community activists from Apac, Ibuje, Akokoro and Chegrere sub counties in Apac; and Bata and Kangai sub counties in Dokolo district developed action plans for cascading the acquired knowledge and skills to community members. Conducting one on one discussions and group discussions with the likes of: mother’s union, youth and farmer groups, Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs); and utilizing existence platforms such as family, clan, church, and community meetings, radio talk shows, were some the actions the participants pledge to take on in order to create awareness on VAW and power imbalance.
ACFODE will oversee their implementation by doing routine monitoring, and providing technical assistance where necessary.
Public Relations & Communications Specialist