Side by Side Uganda celebrate official chapter launch

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The Side by Side Uganda Chapter was officially launched on the 25th of October 2018 at Namirembe Guest House. There were over 120 people who attended the launch, and they were comprised of faith leaders from the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches (Uganda Joint Christian Council), ACT Alliance members, representatives from the Danish Embassy, development partners, representative from the interreligious council of Uganda, government representative and members of the legislators, chaplains, mothers and father union members, boys brigade, male champions, community activist, youth leaders, representatives form the institutions of learning and the media houses. The chief guest was the Honourable Helen Grace who is a Member of Parliament and Vice Chairperson for Equal opportunity committee of the Parliament.

The theme for the launch was the role of faith in advancing gender justice, inspired by scripture:

‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3:28).

The opening session was presided over by the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Church of Uganda, who welcomed all the partners to the Side by Side launch. He said as the leader of the Church they are willing to work together to advance the role of faith for gender justice. Gladys Nairuba, Side by Side Global Steering Group member, thanked the Danish Embassy for their support and the partnership with Dan Church Aid, UJCC and Church of Uganda. Gladys shared how Side by Side is a growing global movement of people of faith who want to see gender justice become a reality across the world. She shared why the focus on faith leaders is important for achieving gender justice.

The Director for Households and community transformation of the Church of Uganda, called upon the development partners and the government of Uganda, especially the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, to greatly support their work. The Country Director of Dan Church Aid, Peter Bo Larsen, said that they have worked on social and economic justice for a long time, and found that everywhere gender plays a big role. He also shared that in 2016 DCA introduced terminology around gender justice, and was pleased to see that two of their partners, UJCC and Church of Uganda, spearheaded the launch of Side by Side. Peter continued by saying that religious leaders have a lot of power and called them “sleeping giants” because they have a lot of potential to influence the process of social transformation. The representative from the Danish Embassy agreed that gender is prominent in every area they come across, and that it will also be a massive economic gain for the whole society to achieve gender equality.

The key note address was made by Rev Canon Stephen Gelenga. He highlighted that transformation does not mean leaving the terms men and women behind, but to lean on each other side by side and complement each other at all levels. He urged that if we were created in the image of God, why then should there be a distortion on how we treat each other? Here he gave the example of Adam who had praised God for the gift of Eve. He further appealed to the Church and the community to let the women serve, saying that women had played pivotal roles in the Old Testament (2 Sam 2:1-11). The address was concluded by saying that his desire was that the launch of Side by Side would be a time to shift gears and honour women and value gender justice – to God be the Glory.

The Rev. Canon Titus Kutosi talked about the opportunities for the church and its structures in advancing gender justice. He appreciated the fact that over 90% of Ugandans ascribe to a faith, and that this makes it possible for faith leaders to mobilise people for gender justice because of the trust invested in them by their followers. Sarah Kasule, Mothers Union Coordinator, shared her discussion on breaking barriers within faith structures to achieve gender justice. She specifically mentioned the socialisation process and highly patriarchal society, some unfavourable faith doctrines, misinterpretation of sacred texts and limited capacity of faith leaders in understanding gender justice. Sarah called upon all to appreciate creation, empower the family, empower the faith leaders as people listen to them and trust them, mainstream gender in church work, support the government and the CSOs.

Susan Labwot, the Program Coordinator of Uganda Women Network, continued the discussion by sharing the good practices in advancing gender justice from their perspective. Gender has a lot of stereotype surrounding it and breaking through that requires change in practices and behaviours from all key stakeholders. What has worked for them has been their involvement in advocacy, documentation and research, disseminations of findings for learning, strengthening network and coordination with other development actors, resource mobilization and joint programming.

Rev. Canon Captain William Ongeng, the Provincial Secretary for the Church of Uganda, concluded the day by sharing possible strategies that the faith leaders can adopt to advance gender justice. Firstly; we must have deliberate engagement to train and mentor key people; faith leaders and male forks should be engaged as a strategy. He said that in most churches there are more women than men, but that men attend social gatherings more than women. It is therefore important to raise awareness also at the social gatherings. Secondly, awareness creation on gender justice in our churches through the word of God during sermons. And finally, he talked about the collaboration among faith leaders to allow free ministry and give extensions to every person. He concluded that all God’s creations were the same.

A message from the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, given through Rev. Canon Gelenga, and a joint statement from the co-chairs of the Joint Christian Council was shared at this official launch.

 

With thanks to Irene Anena and the Side by Side Uganda chapter for sharing these important discussions with the movement.

Posted by: Rachel Tavernor | Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
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