Mrs Museveni added that laws and traditional practices that undermine the welfare of girls and women should be done away with.
PIC: First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni (centre), Chief Justice Bart Katureebe (second-left), US Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac (second-right), Global Justice Programme official Laure Sudreau (third-left), Director of Public Prosecution Mike Chibita and Women in Leadership that were honoured; Racheal Odoi Musoke (checked blue and black jacket), Cecilia Ogwal, Rhoda Kalema, Monica Chibita and Solome Bbosa (right) picture during the Women in Leadership Conference at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Tuesday. (Credit: Maria Wamala)
KAMPALA - The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni has urged parents educate the girl-children so that they are empowered on how to respond to sexual and gender-based violence.
While opening the Women in Leadership Conference organised by the Judiciary of Uganda in partnership with Pepperdine University Center for Women in Leadership at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel in Kampala, the First Lady said the family setting is the primary educator and instructor for the girl-child reechoing the saying "When you train a girl you have trained a nation."
"I, therefore, urge mothers and fathers everywhere to make family education a key priority in educating the girl-child because this is where any child should be groomed with values. This will strengthen their inner ability to resist sexual advances and also to respond where there is GBV in their lives," Mrs Museveni said.
What government is doing
Speaking at the conference themed, "The Impact of Sexual-Gender Based Violence on the Girl-Child and the Admiration of Justice Interventions," the education minister said the NRM Government was committed to fighting SGBV.
She added that the Government had put in place Universal Primary Education to keep girls in school to ensure that the girl-child does not miss out on education.
"A girl-child needs education to get knowledge and sensitisation on social and moral behaviour. Education is a right of all persons. All Ugandan children have a constitutional right to be educated without undergoing humiliating and degrading experience." Mrs Museveni said, challenging participants to dispute the role education in their empowerment.
"Women in leadership gathered here will testify that education has played a big role in their journey of empowerment. The educated child can differentiate between what is right and what is wrong." Mrs Museveni said while addressing development partners and women leaders, who have contributed in the fight against SGBV from Uganda, Kenya, the US and Zambia.
A cross-section of women in leadership attending the Women in Leadership Conference raise their hands in soliderity to fight sexual and gender based violence at Sheraton Kampala Hotel on March 13, 2018. (Credit: Maria Wamala)
Safe education environment
To enable successful education of the girl-child, the First Lady said education should be conducted in a safe environment, calling on women in leadership to champion peace and tranquility so that girls can learn in a safe environment.
Mrs Museveni added that laws and traditional practices that undermine the welfare of girls and women should be done away with, saying that boys and girls, women and men are equal before God and equal before the law.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said most traditional practices favour boys at the expense of girls.
"Where many of us come from, the girl-child was the sacrificial lamb in many homes that did not have the means to send children to school. For example, where I come from, it was easier for a family to find money to send the boys to school but not for the girl," Katureebe said, adding that this made them get married at 14 years of age.
Katureebe said: "In courts, we are beginning to see that out of 10 cases that come to us in the criminal section six of them 10 are related to defilement and rape."
SGBV victims access to justice
Katureebe decried the many unreported SGBV cases.
"Access to justice for the marginalised is still a problem. For example, to whom does a village girl who is defiled by a relative report?" Katureebe wondered.
He cited a tricky situation in which a nine-year old was being defiled by her father.
The girl reported to her stepmother, who instead accused her of seducing her husband and being sexually immoral. It was not until the girl's paternal aunt visited home that she opened up and the aunt took the matter to authorities.
According to Katureebe, the father of the girl was sentenced to 15 years in jail.
Katurebbe said 95% of SGBV are not reported to court, thus the need to increase access by introducing special courts to handle cases. He, however, said resources were limited, but promised to work with other stakeholders to see this come to reality.
To inspire other women to stand up for girls, women leaders were honoured with awards and among them were; Vision Group board chairperson Monica Chibita, former education minister Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire, girl-child education champion in Uganda Rhoda Kalema, senior technical adviser JLOS Racheal Musoke, Solome Bosa and Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal.