While Uganda embedded women’s rights in their 1996 constitution, gender-based violence (GBV) is still prevalent. Domestic and sexual violence is common, and child marriages and female circumcision are practiced to this day, mostly in the Karamoja region. Cultural and religious views on male-female relationships play a major role in this. Together with our local partners, Mensen met een Missie works to combat GBV by engaging religious leaders, educating female circumcisers, and challenging gender norms. From 2020 onwards the programme includes actions specifically aimed at men and boys, to train them to become agents against GBV.
A brutal civil war raged in Northern Uganda for over twenty years. Violence has left the population traumatised and has played an important part in Ugandan women’s deteriorating position in society. Despite relative political stability and economic progress, more than 40% of the population still lives below the poverty line.
Gender-based violence (GBV) in the country results from power inequalities fuelled by gender discrimination and entrenched in the social and religious beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes about women and men and their roles in society. It includes domestic and sexual violence, child marriages, and female circumcision. 50% of women experience physical and/or sexual violence from their partners, 40% of women are married before the age of 18, and 1% of women undergo female circumcision.
There is a lack of support systems for victims of GBV, but some civil society organisations do provide psychosocial and legal support. The participation of religious leaders and religious institutions to fight against GBV is low, and in some cases, their message is counterproductive and encourages violence against women. There are laws in place to protect women, but they are not implemented enough.
Gender-based violence (GBV) in Uganda results from power inequalities fuelled by gender discrimination and entrenched in the social and religious beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes about women and men and their roles in society.
Alongside our 13 local partners, we work to prevent violence against women in Uganda. We do this through:
Providing support to victims of GBV
Uganda is a deeply religious country, and many women turn to their religious leaders when they encounter (sexual) violence. Therefore it is imperative these leaders know how to adequately deal with this issue. Through dialogue and training, we provide tools that enable them to counsel and guide women and families that have been victims of GBV. Together we make a map of the support structures that are in place in their regions so that they can refer women and men if needed. In the Karamoja region there is a focus on reducing female genital mutilation.
Challenging harmful gender norms
To effectively reduce violence against women, it is crucial to work with the same communities for an extended period of time to change discriminatory norms. We reflect on the use of religious texts to promote gender equality. (Social) media, radio programmes, educational materials, music, dance and drama are used to challenge norms and raise awareness about GBV. It’s essential to include men and boys in the conversation and train them on positive masculinities.
Promoting the active participation of women’s leaders Women’s leaders can play a crucial role in this programme. As a result, they are encouraged and trained to play a more active role and speak up about their vision on preventing and reducing GBV. Also, we work with the mostly male religious leaders and authorities to create more openness to women’s participation.
Through dialogue and training, we provide tools that enable leaders to counsel and guide women and families that have been victims of GBV.
Women are encouraged and trained to play a more active role and speak up about their vision on preventing and reducing GBV.
My husband cheated on me and abused me. I wanted to leave him but didn’t know how. Francis Lokwiya’s help made my situation a lot better. Hopefully he can help many more women like me. – Abuya Santa (43)
Together with our local partners, Mensen met een Missie has managed to:
Work with religious leaders to make them more aware of the issue of GBV and encourage them to play an active role in combatting it
Train partner organisations in mediation techniques such as non-violent communication, that they will share with religious leaders and communities in order to improve their mediation skills
Develop a manual to work with religious leaders and communities to discuss harmful gender norms
Together with MenEngage Uganda, organise training to specifically train men and boys to become agents against GBV
Work with police officials and women’s rights organisations to provide legal and psychosocial support to couples
Encourage, through continued dialogue, 63 circumcisers in the parish of Tapac to abandon the practice
Save 19 girls from forced marriages in Tapac, and place 11 of them in school
Support around 2000 victims of violence and refer them to the support structures that are in place, where necessary