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Action Aid rallies against violence

By Stella Naigino

Added 16th December 2019 12:18 PM

There are many women suffering gender-based violence silently. Prossy Nansubuga is another such victim She got married in 1999, but after 16 years into her marriage, she says her husband started practising witchcraft.

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There are many women suffering gender-based violence silently. Prossy Nansubuga is another such victim She got married in 1999, but after 16 years into her marriage, she says her husband started practising witchcraft.

When you meet Suzan Okory and start talking about men and marriage, she will quickly change the topic. 

A resident of Kalimari in Bwaise, a city slum, Okory no longer believes in marriage. She thinks men are opportunists who are there to exploit and batter women. The mother of four cannot recall how many times she was battered and abused sexually by the father of her children. 

At first, she thought it was normal for a man to beat his wife, but when she listened to stories from other women, she realised that it had become a habit that needed to be stopped. “My husband used to beat me and the children which worried me a lot,” Okory says. 

She adds that heavy drinking made it even worse. Whenever her husband went out on a drinking spree, he would return and beat her up. The frequent beatings forced her to walk away from her marriage for fear that she would die in the hands of the man. 

It was around that time that a friend told her about ActionAid Uganda and what it does to help women deal with domestic violence. “I went to ActionAid offices and reported my case. They helped me deal with my abuser. They filed a case against him,” Okory says. 

Today, she has settled with her mother and the four children in Kalimari, Bwaise. ActionAid gave her capital to start a business that she runs to support her family. Okory is, however, not alone. 

There are many women suffering gender-based violence silently. Prossy Nansubuga is another such victim She got married in 1999, but after 16 years into her marriage, she says her husband started practising witchcraft. 

“He stopped us from eating fish, meat and even gave us days when we were supposed to bathe,” Nansubuga says. “Since he was the man of the house, we accepted his rules, but whenever he was away from home, we acted against these orders. This is something that did not go down well with him when he found out,” she adds. 

“He then became quarrelsome and stopped providing for the home. However, we stayed put and thought he would change,” Nansubuga says. This behaviour went on for four years, but Nansubuga was quiet. 

However, what made her finally speak out was when one of her children fell sick and her husband stopped Nansubuga from taking the child to the hospital. The child later died. “This got me so upset and I lost the little love I still had for him. I realised that I was not married to a human being but rather a demon,” she says.

It was precisely at this point that she got to know about ActionAid and went to them for help. Through ActionAid, her husband was arrested and charged for his actions. However, this did not save the marriage. Nansubuga quit and today she is being supported by ActionAid. She was given capital to start a business that helps her to support her five children. 

“Even when it is not enough, at least we can afford a meal,” she adds. National reports on gender-based violence indicate that women aged 15–49 (22%) report that they have experienced gender-based violence at some point in time compared with fewer than one in 10 (8%) men. 

A sanctuary Alice Iwelo, a psyco-social support officer at the ActionAid gender-based violence shelter in Bwaise says domestic violence against women is still a big issue in Uganda and needs to be addressed if it is to reduce. She says ActionAid a non-governmental organisation, has laid out strategies to help women curb violence against them in marriages. 

But the rate at which the vice is growing requires other parties to come out and join the fight, especially the Government to put the vice to an end. Iwelo says the problem is big as the Bwaise ActionAid shelter alone receives about eight cases of gender-based violence daily. 

However, she says many more victims do not know who to run to or where to report the cases. Others know who to report to but fear to speak out because they are still tied by social norms and cultures. “It is time we rise up as Ugandans and help victims in our communities speak out against gender-based violence so that together we put the vice to an end,” Iwelo says. 

What is ActionAid doing 
Iwelo says ActionAid runs several programmes that help empower a woman and also protects her rights. One of the programmes is helping women deal with gender-based violence. She says through its 10 shelters across the country; ActionAid helps provide accommodation for a woman who has been violated in different forms. 

It could be physically, sexually, mentally or socially. “When they come to us for help, we give them first aid, counsel them, listen to what they have to say, assess their problems and devise means of helping them,” Iwelo says. In extreme cases, where the victim has no shelter, we give them a resettlement package and in this package we ensure that they can live on their own and provide for their families. 

“The package involves a small amount of capital where the victims are encouraged to start a business that they can run to sustain their families,” she says. She adds that they also work with the Police, Judiciary, religious leaders, health centres and the media to have clients’ cases handled. 

These referral points also help the victims find peace and joy. Florence Akol, the project coordinator at ActionAid, says they also aim at eradicating poverty among women which to them is the biggest reason family members are fighting each other. Challenges Akol says funding is still small yet they receive big numbers of victims with high expectations.

“Because of the low funding, we are not able to reach their expectations but we do what we can,” she says. She adds that some of their referral points are at times not co-operative in their way of operation. Some of the victims need money but some of the referral points may not understand the urgency of the case and this interferes with the available evidence. 

Akol calls upon the Government to prioritise funding issues such as gender-based violence because, in the future, the Government could be solely responsible for such victims.

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