The Shadow Pandemic: Faith Actors Responding, Preventing and Advocating to End Gender-Based Violence in Uganda (Webinar)

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By Linda Soelberg, DanChurchAid

On 25th November 2020, Side by Side, DanChurchAid, Rural Action Community Based Action, Church of Uganda, Lutheran World Federation and Mothers’ Union, co-hosted a joint virtual event with Ugandan faith actors on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, LWF General Secretary gave the opening remarks, that focused on SGBV as one of the most widespread forms of human rights violations. He highlighted the impacts of COVID-19 on SGBV on women and girls worldwide and how these undermined their ability to live a life in its fullest. Furthermore, he highlighted the need to hold duty-bearers and perpetrators accountable for these violations. He concluded that faith actors are committed to speak out and work together to act against SGBV and that more resources should be available for faith organisations to act on these issues.

Panel presentations:

Irene Anena, programme officer on gender and social justice at the Church of Uganda and chair of Side by Side Uganda Chapter, gave a presentation that focussed on how faith actors and church structures respond to, prevent and advocate on SGBV in Uganda. She highlighted among others; the SASA-Faith methodology to mobilise communities in recognising GBV as a problem and the engagement of men in responding to SGBV and transforming masculinities within a patriarchal society. She likewise highlighted advocating on a legal and policy level, to create a policy environment that supports the efforts to end SGBV. She concluded that Covid-19 has brought it clear, that GBV is a shadow pandemic, that all have a collective responsibility to address.

Paul Orikushaba, head of the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) refugee protection and community development program and a member of ACT Alliance, answered the following question during his presentation; what are the challenges in ending SGBV in Ugandan communities, nationally and globally? He shortly started by highlighting the different levels of challenges, on a global level, there should be more advocacy initiative proposals, and on a national level, there should be a stronger push for policy reforms and legislation. Concerning the local level, he highlighted two main challenges: 1) The cultural and religious norms existing within the communities, that allows SGBV to happen and the need for awareness raising activities against SGBV, like reinterpretations of religious texts. 2) Weak law enforcement and policy implementations, making the prevention and responses to SGBV challenging. He concluded that there should be more attention to strengthening the social supports towards people experiencing SGBV, within the refugee camps, but also in the host communities, by engaging more with different stakeholders, like the police, health workers, district leaders and others.

Barbara T. Mugisha, provincial coordinator at Mothers’ Union and Family Life and part of the Church of Uganda Province, started her presentation by introducing the different prevention strategies being used by Mother’s Union. She highlighted the awareness raising activities on SGBV, breaking down cultural beliefs and encouraging women and girls to speak out and report SGBV. She additionally highlighted the need to understand the root causes of SGBV and transforming negative parenting, through mentorship trainings and community-dialogues with people in the communities, including the community leaders to improve the pro-activeness of ending SGBV. She concluded that when faith actors join hands together, SGBV and covid-19 can be coped with.

Vincent Mayega, head of programs at the Rural Action Community Based Organisation (RACOBAO), an ACT Alliance member organisation, started his presentation by emphasizing that SGBV is rooted in culture and the communities’ perceptions on gender roles. He subsequently highlighted the following tools, methods, and resources, required to tackle SGBV; 1) Community dialogues with faith leaders taking lead in addressing deeply rooted norms and practices related to gender. 2) Community sensitisation lead by community leaders carrying out campaigns to address the sociocultural norms, as they held a strong voice within the communities. 3) Mass media campaigns through radio and TV, bringing in faith leaders from different faiths to speak to people being affected by or responsible for SGBV. 4) SASA faith method, where faith leaders come together to fight SGBV and breaking the silences within the communities. He concluded by stating that the above-mentioned methods and tools are good fruits of change in the communities.


Highlights from the Q&A session

During the Q&A session, many questions were raised by the webinar’s participants, where especially two questions were highlighted. The first question put attention to the methodologies used by Church of Uganda to tackle SGBV. Irene Anena emphasized the need to create faith spaces where faith actors meet and identify perceptions and understandings of gender justice. Furthermore, within these faith spaces, there is a need to positively reinterpret the secret texts, to avoid people justifying acts of SGBV by blaming the bible. Another method mentioned, is to work with and empower men and boys to become agents of change and consequently challenge the negative cultural practices. The second question put attention to what efforts can be done to change the mind set of the people in communities where culture is deeply rooted. Paul Orikushaba stated that culture defines us and everything we do, but that culture is as well one of the hardest things to tackle. A way of changing the mind set of the people, he agreed with Irene, is the need to engage with men and boys to obtain positive masculinity and consequently tackle SGBV.


Closing remarks

The webinar ended with closing remarks by the different panellists. Barbara T. Mugisha highlighted the need to ensure that everyone takes a collective responsibility to end SGBV and addressing gendered stereotypes. Vincent Mayega underlined the importance of understanding the context in which the violence happens and the issues that the communities are struggling with, to apply an effective approach to cope with SGBV. Irene Anena stressed the need for church actors to collectively raise voices, break the silences and advocate to ensure that there is a policy environment supporting access to justice for the survivors of SGBV. Paul Orikushaba highlighted the need to promote positive masculinity right from the childhood and stressed the importance of funding faith actors to promote justice and prevention mechanisms for women and girls in risk of SGBV.

You can watch the webinar via our Facebook page here.


#FaithAgainstGBV #16Days #ShadowPandemic

Posted by: Side by Side | Wednesday, December 16th, 2020
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