Bikers continue to raise awareness on gender-based violence
"You find children wandering aimlessly in the village. When you ask them where their parents are, they say their father ...
They come from different professions - a policeman, an administrator, a medical officer, etc. But the bikers riding from Kampala to Bundibugyo all have one objective: fighting gender-based violence and campaigning for equal opportunities for girls.
On Wednesday (December 9, 2020), the third day on the road, the bikers made a stopover at Kyegegwa district headquarters to have a word with community leaders, women and girls, before carrying on their journey to Fort Portal.
Agnes Burungi, the Kyegegwa gender officer, encouraged girls to stay in school and avoid bad peer groups, noting that 3,008 girls in the district had become pregnant this year alone, forcing many of them to drop out of school.
Edvin Tukahirwa, one of the women from the community who attended the meeting with the biking activists, said because many of the women are mistreated and beaten by their husbands, they are unable to provide their children with the care they need. Without proper attention, the children are further exposed to more violence.
"You find children wandering aimlessly in the village," she said. "When you ask them where their parents are, they say their father beat their mother and they do not know where she slept"
Some of these girls have left school to work in bars and they are no longer able to get an education, which further leaves them vulnerable to abuse when they eventually get married early.
Women 'beaten like cows'
Rose Kyohangire, another member of the community, said men have not been taking care of their families and yet they cripple their wives' efforts to provide.
"Women are not allowed to take their produce to the market to sell," she said.
Adding: "They are beaten like cows. We were not even allowed to attend sensitisation programmes like this, but with the intervention of organisations, things are changing for the better."
Rogers Niwagaba, who is a resident in the area, concurred that things are improving.
"Role model men in the community champion and participate in fighting domestic violence among their peers," he said.
"These role models teach other men to participate in domestic work, such as cooking. Previously, men would come home demanding food and if they did not find any in the kitchen, would beat their wives," said Niwagaba.
"Now that they participate in these chores, they realise there was no food earlier on and execute their duty to provide."
Niwagaba said other causes of gender-based violence in the area include alcoholism, poor nutrition and lack of education.
Men return to their homes drunk and beat their wives under the influence of alcohol. Because of poor nutrition, children fall sick a lot and when women ask for money to take them to the hospital, they are served another beating, added Niwagaba.
But with increased education, cases of gender-based violence are reducing in some parts of Kyegegwa, he concluded.
Meanwhile, the cycling team continues to draw attention on their 400km journey, which started on Monday at the ACORD Uganda offices in Kampala. Along the way, they are disseminating information on the need to fight gender-based violence.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday evening at around 7:30 pm, the 12-strong bike team pedalled into a busy Kyegegwa town after cycling for about eight hours and covering a distance of 123 kilometres.
Visibly exhausted, they gulped energy drinks, water and oral rehydration solutions (ORS) to hydrate their systems, before settling in for a night's repose.
New Vision's Miriam Namutebi captured the moments . . .