By Catherine Bekunda
Sexually abused women should be given opportunity to tell their experiences to the heads of state during the International Conference on the Great Lakes region.
The Parliament Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, made the remarks yesterday while addressing the organisers of the event and MPs. The one-week event will start next week at the Speke Resort Munyonyo.
She was speaking at the opening of the one-day workshop to orient legislators on the importance of the organisation at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday.
Kadaga urged the organisers to allow women who were sexually abused during times of conflict to give first-hand accounts to the 11 heads of state expected to attend the meeting.
“After war, many women have painful experiences that these presidents need to know. They have faced rejection from their families and have no economic livelihood,” she argued.
Kadaga disclosed that following the end of wars, a lot of emphasis is put on rehabilitation of physical infrastructure neglecting to restore people’s emotions.
She explained that many children and women who had returned from captivity in northern Uganda had been rejected by their communities.
“There is need to empower them economically so that they can improve their livelihoods. Unfortunately, the Peace Recovery and Development Plan does not offer psycho-social help,” Kadaga said.
The Munyonyo summit will run under the theme: United to Prevent, End Impunity and provide Assistance to Victims of Sexual Gender Based Violence.
The summit will dedicate a special session to deliberate on the strategies required to address challenges of sexual gender-based violence in the Great Lakes region during conflict and peace times.
According to the 2006 Uganda Demographic and Heath Survey, 59% of Ugandan women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical and sexual violence.
A total of 1,536 women were raped in 2009 according to the Police crime report, while in the same year, 156 women died due to domestic violence.
Nathan Byamukama, a programme officer at the organisation’s secretariat in Burundi, called for proper use of men’s power.
“Of what use is it for a man to demonstrate his power by beating up his wife. That is a waste of time,” he said.
The countries that make up the organisation are Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Burundi.
Others are Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Angola and the Central African Republic.
The organisation aims at establishing sustainable peace and security, economic growth, co-operation and good governance among its member states.
“The Great Lakes region is interlinked. Instability in one country easily affects its neighbours hence the need to seek a regional approach for sustainable peace and development,” said Peter Mugimba, the organisation’s co-ordinator in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.