In 2011, Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), begun implementing the Peace Building Fund project in the 7 districts of Acholi sub region. The key project outcome that UWONET worked towards achieving was “Peace Building Processes; Recovery, Reintegration, Protection systems and structures established and accessible to vulnerable groups/affected population groups.
Implementation of the project rolled out in 2011 with ICON as a sub-contractee. UWONET targeted different categories of people in the Acholi community who have a major role to play in recovery of peace in the region and these included: the opinion leaders, district technical team, women councilors, the Justice, Law and Order Sector, young women leaders, young male and female champions, civil society and the community at large.
Because UWONET is primarily rights based the key strategies used in implementation of this project involved capacity building and facilitating community dialogues on pertinent issues that would help reduce tolerance of gender based violence in communities hence promote peace.
From the 25th -29th June 2012, a team from UWONET set out to the Acholi sub region to undertake a mini assessment of the project’s achievements, relevance, challenges and gaps and hence document lessons to inform any future interventions in the region. Some of the key findings show the renewed hope brought about by the project among the beneficiaries as elaborated below: Resulting from the community dialogues facilitated by the district based civil society Gender Based Violence (GBV) alliances/coalitions formed and supported with initiative of UWONET, several targeted communities took action to address violence. For instance Luyam ward, Anaka Town Council, in Nwoya district, took initiative to pass a community by-law on wife beating. In this the community leaders have jurisdiction to counsel and caution the perpetrator. In case the perpetrator fails to change, the leaders are given powers under this by-law to give punishment of beating; giving 15canes if the perpetrator is a man or 5 canes if she is a woman.
In addition, the dialogues have helped to promote activism and vigilance against violence among communities a case in point women’s group in Bobi Sub County Gulu district who have taken initiative to carry out regular sensitization visits to health centres particularly at antenatal care points, in maternity wards and at other public gathering to give information about GBV. The group explained that because in most villages the women are too busy to attend to the community dialogues for long hours, they can easily target them at the health care units where they are also able to open up to the health workers about the violence they are facing.
All in all the district CSO GBV alliances appreciated the initiative and opportunity of collective action to address GBV in the communities. They noted that the alliances have also helped to strengthen referral amongst civil society organizations. The district technical team on the other hand noted that the timely training on gender budgeting helped to influence integration of gender concerns in the current district plans and budgets particularly as demonstrated in Pader district plan.
There are challenges and resistance from the community on the concept and interpretation of women’s rights (twero pa mon) which majority of the men perceives it as giving a lot of powers to the women. Tradition, other cultural activities and attitude have also been a hindrance to women who report domestic violence cases and in most cases they are violated by the community members with the perception that domestic violence is a silent affair.