• Nov 25, 2021 . 3 min Read
  • Rights defenders rally to break cycle of violence against women

KCCA executive director Dorothy Kisaka addressing stakeholders during Wednesday’s conference.
Geoffrey Mutegeki
Journalist @New Vision

Women rights defenders are rallying stakeholders in Uganda to amplify efforts towards the attainment of gender equality and women's empowerment in all spheres of life.

Despite the various efforts deployed in favour of the fight against gender-based violence, this bad vice, unfortunately, continues persistently.

Rights activists want leaders to develop and implement policies that address issues related to women and girls’ rights, advocate for their protection and prohibit violence and harmful practices and other social norms that disempower women and girls.

This was highlighted on Wednesday during the 4th Annual Women Human Rights Defenders’ Conference 2021 held in Kampala.

Organised by the Human Rights Centre Uganda, the conference was held under the theme The Phenomenal Woman: Restoring Hope in Challenging Times.

Speaking as chief guest, Dorothy Kisaka, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director noted that violence against women is one of the critical impediments to women’s realisation of their fundamental rights including the rights to life, human dignity socio-economic and political development.

“We need to create an environment where women can blossom, where women are respected, and as a phenomenal woman who is are already up there, you should ensure fellow women blossom,” Kisaka said.

She revealed that women need to stand in their spaces, embrace them and move towards ensuring that they change the world.

“People are anxious and suspicious, waiting for help from others. Be that phenomenal woman who is willing to help, to open doors for others and support others,” Kisaka said.

She said women are special creatures created with a womb; a womb is made to nurture.

“We are having a smart city campaign and women should be on the forefront towards helping us achieve this. If we put on the role of being a parent, we will change this country,” Kisaka said.

According to Justice David Batema, the struggle for women’s rights defenders and kicking out SGBV is not for women only but for everyone.

Batema said everybody should consider themselves an important ally in the fight against violence against women and girls.

As a result of the lockdown and movement restrictions to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda has seen a spike in violence against women cases.

“COVID-19 has shown us how dirty our society is. We began seeing the sexual offences which we never realized were around us. Rape, incest, marital rape have all increased,” Batema said.

Following school closures, gender inequalities intensified for the poorest girls and adolescents who faced a greater risk of early and forced marriage, sexual abuse and unintended pregnancy.

“The most outstanding form of SGBV has been teenage pregnancy. If we have all these numbers, it means many are being abused and engaging in sex but because they are not pregnant, we can’t tell,” Batema said.

He notes that the perseverance of SGBV is a result of gender power relations reflected in accepted social norms, entrenched in patriarchal systems characterised by male dominance, unequal distribution of resources and power combined with social institutions that sustain gender inequality. 

“Men use violence to maintain these privileges society have offered them. I think it is time we made gender studies compulsory, right from nursery. Children should know what gender equality is so they can grow to appreciate the dangers of abuse,” Batema said.

He revealed that the moment we understand gender equality we shall understand SGBV.

Hassan Shire, executive director Defend Defenders says SGBV and COVID-19 have shattered many dreams and undone the strides made to ensure the rights of women are protected and respected in Uganda.

“We need to ensure GBV is stopped, women participate in decision making and work to change the mindset of men at all levels starting with the people at home,” Shire said.

Dr Zahara Nampewo, the executive director Human Rights and Peace Centre at Makerere University said there is a need to empower women and men to talk about SGBV.

“SGBV is a sensitive topic but we need to break the culture of silence, the culture of not reporting cases and not talking about them,” Nampewo said.

She revealed that reporting cases of SGBV should be made possible and women should support each other.

“Women we need to be there for each other and use all these informal social networks to reach out for one another and encourage people to open up,” Nampewo said.

Nampewo said the rights of women to physical and psychological integrity are often compromised when women are subjected to violence.

"SGBV is learned, We all learn these abuses because of the culture and the society we are in. society has for long accepted these abuses as a normal practice,” Nampewo said.

Poverty and lack of income and assets add to women’s vulnerability to violence.

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