Uganda: Fighting Gender-Based Violence Will Help Reduce HIV – Activists

Activists from Care International Uganda, have urged Ugandans to join the fight against gender based violence which in return will help reduce the risk of HIV infection.

Speaking during the occasion to observe the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence under the theme “UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”, Lilian Ssengoba, the head of Justice Program at Care International says that one in three women in the whole world has suffered a form of violence, whereas the same has happened to one in two children in Uganda.

She noted that this state of affairs is appalling.

“Gender-based violence equally affects people at work. It affects productivity but also if violence happens at home, it affects productivity at work and in the end, as a country, we cannot achieve our national development plan,”Ssengoba said.

She urged to preach this gospel at their places of work and at home.

Ssengoba said it is high time government invested more resources in equipping the departments that provide services in addressing gender-based violence like the police and community development officer s.

She insisted that there is need to change the mindset of Ugandans and that it will create impact.

According to Care International, Uganda’s labour force is highly occupied by men although women have a high rate of participation at 76%.

Data shows that women in public sector employment are at 37% whereas those in private sector employment stand at 29%.

The study also shows that unemployment is highly affecting women at 11.7% compared to men who are at 8. 4%.

However, Care International commended the government for improving gender participation at all decision-making levels, reducing gender gaps and implementation of targeted laws or policies to protect women’s rights.

Glory Mkandawire , the Chief of Party, John Hopkins University, Obulamu- USAID said that although there has been improvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS, a lot needs to be done.

“Our communities need to be gender-based violence-free. In terms of HIV, many countries in the world and different organizations have worked so hard over so many years since we had HIV. However, there are still other things we need to wake on,”Mkandawire said.

“For example, we are still seeing a lot of infections among young people, especially girls, so we need to intensify our interventions there. We also need to make sure all our children are born HIV-free. It’s also very important that we address gender issues and that we meet everyone, not just a group of people,” she called.

Edtone Babu , the program manager at Care International revealed that one of the forms of violence against women is economic violence.

He noted that on many occasions, when a woman and a man are doing the same job, the man is paid more, adding that in some instances, men are in control of the income of the women.

“There are cases of men owning ATM cards of their wives. We know that without involving men, this struggle cannot work. We work to involve men and create dialogue at the household level.”

Babu said not only women, but men also face gender-based violence but “most of them don’t talk because they think it’s unmanly to say you were beaten by your wife.”

He noted that usually, emotional abuse is the biggest for men where they are abused by their wives.

According to Babu, HIV is yet another cause of violence in a family especially when there is no communication.

“In most of the families, when there is HIV unless there’s communication, you get a lot of fights, accusing each other of bringing the disease which creates violence.”

“Also, there are people who cannot take their drugs because they have not disclosed at household level and that affects adherence and in some way it promotes violence. Where there is communication, where people are disclosing and psychosocial support, we can fight HIV and gender-based violence.”

According to Esther Nampijja Regina , the head of human resource at Care International Uganda about 95% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, by partners or non-partners, since the age of 15 years.

She noted that about half of the women in Uganda (47%) face economic violence and two in every ten women (23%) are forced to give their earnings to their partners whereas one in every ten women (10%) gave up paid jobs because their partners refused then to work.

According to the Uganda Police Annual Crime Report (2021), a total of 16,242 cases of GBV and violence against children were reported country-wide of which 8,065 were cases of domestic violence, 6,838 were cases of defilement, 749 were cases of rape, 223 were aggravated domestic violence leading to death, 144 were cases of indecent assault and 39 were cases of child abduction.

Nampijja noted that GBV is rooted in gender inequality, saying that without equality, women will continue to be at risk of violence.

“This is true for own offices. Addressing the root causes of GBV can improve incomes and reduce food insecurity. Women’s empowerment results in improved food outcomes for women and can increase overall household resilience to food insecurity.”

She says that in Uganda, teenage pregnancy remains unacceptably high at one in four adolescent girls which she says was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic due to closure of schools.

She also highlighted the new emerging forms of violence precipitated by information communication technologies (ICTs) such as cybersexual abuse and stalking.

At the workplace, Nampijja says violence and harassment are global problems, particularly affecting women.

“Some estimates suggest that as many as 2 billion working women have experienced sexual harassment. About nine in every ten women in Uganda (86%) had ever experienced an act of violence at the workplace within the 12 months preceding the survey. Verbal abuses was the most frequent form of workplace violence (84%). You could be one of the statistics.”

“It is a major barrier to women’s access to economic opportunity and decent work. GBV also has broad social and economic costs across societies, including costs on public services, lost income and productivity,” she said.

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