For over 25 years, the 16 Days of Activism campaign has pursued its mission to prevent and end gender-based violence (GBV) in all forms, and demand gender equality across the world. This year, Girl Up Initiative Uganda joins the rest of the world by advocating to put an end to gender-based violence in our schools, homes, and communities.
In Uganda today, over half (56%) of young women and girls – aged 15-24 years – have experienced gender-based violence in their lifetime. GBV is a result of unequal balance of gendered power and can manifest in physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence. It is the most common type of violence that women and girls experience worldwide, and it can have a devastating impact on their mental and physical well-being.
GBV is a widespread challenge facing the health and well-being of adolescent girls in Uganda. It affects girls’ ability to focus and excel in school. In addition, there are limited, if any, safe places in Kampala for victimized girls to go, so the safety and security of girls experiencing GBV cannot be guaranteed. Our team recently counselled and supported two girls, Charity and Judith (pseudonyms).
Charity and Judith are two adolescent girls living with their uncle in Kampala. He started sexually assaulting them on a daily basis. The girls did not talk to anyone about what was going on because their aunt told them that this was a way to repay him for his kindness. During one of our engagements with the girls, Charity explained the situation to her teacher. She told her that when her aunt was previously confronted by another one of her teachers, her aunt fled to another residential area. The girls are now left to stay alone with their uncle.
Sexual abuse cases like these are extremely difficult to solve. Given that Uganda has signed and ratified international conventions protecting women and children from violence – the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – the girls’ uncle could be charged in court with child defilement. However, the girls’ safety is at risk if they report because they will likely stay with him during the court proceedings. Even if he were to be convicted of a crime, they will have no place to live if their only relative is gone.
We are advocating for safe homes for survivors of violence to be established at every regional police station. Girl Up Initiative Uganda is also working closely with the Child Protection Unit of the local police to find solutions to cases of violence experienced by our girls. In the coming years, if nothing changes at the national level, we aim to open a Girl Up Uganda Center to serve as a temporary shelter for girls. In the meantime, we will continue to teach our girls about their rights as enshrined in national and international laws, and how they can be peer educators in spreading their knowledge to their friends and family members.
Participating in advocacy campaigns such as the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV is another key avenue for spreading our messages, especially to girls outside the formal education system, so that all can fully exercise their potential and contribute to social change.
This year, we are planning the following activities for the 16 Days Campaign:
- A girl-led advocacy march through the community with placard information; to engage community members (especially men) in conversations about supporting girls and their right to an education, while putting an end to gender-based violence.
- A celebration of the 240 girls that are graduating from our 2017 Adolescent Girls Program.
- On November 30th from 5pm-6pm (EAT), Girl Up Initiative Uganda will be hosting a Twitter Chat. Join us and share your views on how best we can reduce gender-based violence in education!
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence provides a platform to speak to key stakeholders about policy changes we would like to for gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and girls’ right to an education. During this campaign, Girl Up Initiative Uganda calls on the government and other key stakeholders to:
- Promote girls’ education by providing girl-friendly school environments
- Improve the availability of and access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services for girls and women
- Establish capacity-building trainings for local police and Child Protection Units to build their skills on how to address issues of GBV
Together, we can end gender-based violence in education and make schools safer and more secure for adolescent girls!