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Raising community awareness on gender-based violence in Bugongi town council, Sheema district, Uganda

By  Kamusiime Catherine  & Agaba Antony COVOID – Uganda 

 ‘’My husband had been forcing me into sex and has been so hurtful little did I know that he was violating me. I had talked with him severally but he would proudly tell me that, he married me and paid the bride price to my parents and therefore has a right over me. I had never thought of reporting such matters to authorities because I would feel ashamed of betraying my culture. One day, I was going to the market and met our local council chairperson who told me about how COVOID was planning to meet residents of the village for an awareness meeting and told me to attend the meeting. That day turned my life. they told us about different forms of GBV that included marital rape/forced sex and its dangers. I realized for how long I have been violated by my drunkard husband and immediately thought of reporting him to the authorities. It was one Sunday morning that I reported the matter to the LCI chairperson and both of us were invited for dialogue, and counselling and our issues were resolved. Since then, my husband has reduced drinking, he no longer forces me to have sex of sex and our family is full of happiness now. ‘’ I would ordinarily not have reported but due to engagement with Gender Based Violence(GBV) Champions I was able to report and be supported’’ This story was narrated by Ms Gloria (not real name) of Kyengiri village, Bugongi town council, Sheema district;

Gender Based Violence (GBV) Champions, a voluntary structure trained by COVOID a Ugandan based Voice grantee are raising awareness through community dialogues, and meetings on GBV , its causes and implications. Consequently, there is increased awareness of gender-based violence-related issues among community people, enhanced their knowledge of GBV issues and increased the number of GBV cases reported in the community.

’We are happy that COVOID and VOICE have enrolled and empowered GBV survivors to fight against gender-based violence in Sheema District and Bugongi Town Council in particular. Previously there was poor reporting of GBV cases and in a month we would register one or two cases that were largely domestic violence cases of physical injuries, bruises and emotional violence among women. However, since May 2022 many GBV survivors have come out to report cases of violence that include domestic violence. In June alone, we received 10 cases of domestic violence and 3 cases of child neglect. This has been as a result of efforts by COVOID-trained champions and duty bearers in campaigning against negative cultural beliefs that cause domestic violence and sensitization of communities against the dangers of GBV.’’ –  Ms Atwongirwe Penninah, Bugongi town council.

In March 2022, COVOID a grantee-partner of Voice in Uganda carried out a baseline survey that was was conducted to establish the magnitude of Gender Based Violence among women and girls in Kigarama Sub County and Bugongi Town Council, Sheema District. The findings revealed that there is a high prevalence of GBV in the district at 52%.

The most common form of violence was domestic violence, emotional abuse, child marriage. The main perpetrators are men at 85%.  Unfortunately, 89% of GBV was experienced at home. The major causes of these GBV cases include alcoholism, poverty, and denial of access to top family property among others. The research also showed that there were no GBV response networks or groups within the district and GBV duty bearers are faced with institutional challenges hence delayed access to services by survivors. The research recommended; the development and implementation of interventions for awareness creation and prevention of GBV targeting men and boys (husbands and in-laws); supporting women and girls faced with GBV to seek litigation and legal services through the strengthening of referral linkages and systems; improving documentation and access to GBV care records in the project areas;

To address the identified problems, COVOID  trained GBV Champions to strengthen their capacity so that they can conduct community dialogues on GBV, Identification of GBV Survivors, GBV cases identification, management and referral within their respective areas of operation. This has translated to increased awareness of GBV issues in Bugongi Town council and Kigarama sub-county, Sheema district. Through GBV champions, COVOID has been able to identify and support 86 GBV Survivors and this is contributing to lowering the magnitude of GBV issues. This was realized through mapping, identification and capacity building of 40 GBV Champions and role model men in Kigarama Sub County and Bugongi Town Council in Sheema district that took place between 3rd and 5th May 2022. Capacity building of champions centred on GBV prevention and response: Collaboration and support of duty bearers (Community Development Officers, Police, Health facilities, legal aid etc) and rights holders.

’The intervention has eased our work in reaching out to GBV survivors and service providers; Use of local government structures to mobilize communities e.g local council leaders and other influential persons like religious leaders and church platforms for GBV messages and Continuous onsite support and mentorship to GBV Champions by the project team have improved their understanding of GBV issues, approach, prevention strategies and response.’’ – Ms Kamusiime Catherine, MEAL Officer, COVOID.

’After the training, I got the skills on gender-based violence interventions and response, and right now I know where to report cases of GBV. Am also engaging my fellow friends on the challenges they are facing on gender-based violence.’’ Moses, GBV survivor.

GBV Champion facilitating a community awareness activity on dangers of Gender-Based Violence in Nyakabungo village, Bugongi Town council, Sheema District on September 15th 2022

Mr. Bedda( In red shirt), GBV Champion and Town Agent during Gender based violence creation awareness session for community members of Rwakicunduru village, Bugongi Town council, Sheema District on August 16th 2022.

The work of the GBV champions has also reduced workload for duty bearers in the two sub counties. The team testify of the relief they now have because they are able to direct their efforts to address other critical issues in the sub counties. Mr Bedda Ninyikiriza, is a Town Agent of Kyamurari South Ward, Bugongi Town Council. He also doubles as a trained GBV champion and narrates;

’We used to receive more cases of Gender-based violence through our weekly court sessions organized by local government. Averagely 3 to 4 cases every sitting regarding gender-based violence and commonly were family neglect by men, domestic violence and women’s denial of men to sell family properties (land). In January 2022, we were brought on board by COVOID. We were involved in preliminary meetings and we welcomed the project I was lucky to be selected among model men GBV Champions to support project implementation. As I talk now, GBV cases have been reduced in our court sessions and for the last months of July 2022 and August 2022, we have not received any GBV cases at all because most GBV cases are handled and resolved well by trained GBV Champions through mediation between couples, counselling and referral. This is attributed to the massive sensitization sessions conducted and counselling done by GBV Champions that has enhanced the knowledge of community people. People now report GBV cases to local council leaders and champions within their communities, they no longer travel a long distance to town council offices or town agent offices to report. This has reduced our workload and helped us with many opportunities to refer GBV case examples to champions which is a structure that never used to be there before COVOID’s interventions-  Mr Bedda, GBV Champion and Town Agent during a Gender-based violence creation awareness session for community members of Rwakicunduru village, Bugongi Town council, Sheema District on August 16th 2022.

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