She walked leisurely the last leg of her daily 6km journey from home to school. On this Thursday evening, the Social Studies lesson had ended at 6:15pm. Along with her peers at Mufumi Primary School in Tororo district, Gladys Musimante, 11, strode on unti
She walked leisurely the last leg of her daily 6km journey from home to school. On this Thursday evening, the Social Studies lesson had ended at 6:15pm. Along with her peers at Mufumi Primary School in Tororo district, Gladys Musimante, 11, strode on until the last quarter of the journey, when she was left alone.
Suddenly, Musimante heard giggles. On turning, she saw two guys standing her way. â€œCan we look at your books?â€ one asked, while advancing.
But Musimante was thinking fast. She swung her right leg and kicked one of the guys on the left rib. He staggered and fell to the ground, groaning in pain. Musimante then ran unhurt.
This sounds like fiction, but it is a true account of the evening of November 13, 2008. Musimante is one of the girls undertaking Karate lessons that have been inculcated into the school co-curricula. The aim is to enable girls attain skills of self-defense in a society where defilement is high.
Mufumi, an organisation that promotes the girl-child education, recently introduced martial arts lessons in schools in Tororo. The organisation, named after Mufumi village in Tororo, also fights for the rights of women.
Joyce Ayo, the trainer, defines Karate as the ability to use the upper and lower limb to fight an enemy. The girls are trained in the art of punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes.
The executive director of Mufumi, Turner Atuki, says due to the increasing abuse against women and girls, it is inevitable to empower them.
Statistics at Tororo Central Police station indicate that 802 girls were defiled between January and November last year. Statistics also indicate that 90% of the sexually-molested women and girls not only get traumatised, but also get unwanted pregnancies.
â€œAbout 40% of such women have contracted HIV. â€œWith self-defence skills, the girls would be in position to defend themselves against defilers and rapists,â€ says Atuki.
On a hot afternoon, 12-year-old Nanzerina Akech leads over 20 girls in the drills under a tree shed. Bare-foot and clad in white costumes, complete with belts, they stand astride. You would think they are soldiers on parade as they swing their arms and legs in the air.
To instill discipline in the girls, they are cautioned against engaging in fights. They should also only apply the skills when they are in danger. The conventional way that girls have been using in defending themselves from rapists and defilers has been screaming, which has proved ineffective, according to Atuki.
â€œBesides screaming when cornered by their tormentors, the girls ought to have skills of martial arts to put up a spirited resistance,â€ says Atuki.
Defilement: A schoolgirlâ€™s dilemma
According to the Police statistics, a total of 12,230 defilement cases were registered countrywide in 2007. Of these, over 4,000 defilers have been charged.
Girls are normally defiled by people close to them such as relatives, neighbours and teachers.
This can happen anywhere; at school, on the way to and from school and during festivities. Teachers are among the leading defilers, says Kampala Extra Region Police spokesperson Simeo Nsubuga.
According to a 2008 study funded by the World Bank, 4% of upper primary school pupils were defiled by teachers last year. This means 43,000 girls from Primary Five to Seven, between 10 and 14 years, have been sexually-abused by the very people who should protect them.
Self-help tips-Sensitise children about the dangers of early sex.
-Children should avoid entering houses of people of the opposite sex alone.
-Do not let your child walk long distances alone, especially during odd hours
-Teach your child to decline suspicious gifts from men.
-Encourage your child to speak out.
-Spare time to listen to your childrenâ€™s problems, lest they fall prey to defilers.
-Schools should recruit more female teachers to sensitise adolescent girls.
-Schools should introduce sex education on the syllabi.
-Parents should avoid getting compromised by culprits through bribes.
-Report any case of assault to the Police.
Compiled by Chris Kiwawulo
Tororo girls take karate lessons to fight defilers