United Nations Population Fund Program Analyst for Gender-Based Violence and Humanitarian Response – Adjumani, Urban Planner, Researcher, Gender Specialist, Former Team Leader of Governance and Gender at Mercy Corps, attended a fellowship (the UK and Kenya) of Women, Peace, and Security where she did an internship at African Union.
Let us talk about the Women, Adolescents and Youth, Rights and Empowerment Programme. What is the project about and where are we?
The WAY program is a 5-year humanitarian program that is being implemented in 7 other districts in both the West Nile and Northern regions. The program in its 3rd year now is funded by DANIDA through UNFPA but implemented CARE International, Outbox, different districts, Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, Ministry of Health and Reach a Hand Uganda. We work with about 5 departments at the district that is; Production, Education, Community Based Services, Health, and Planning. The programme mainly focuses on the thematic areas of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
Here is what we have so far done or are doing-especially for the women;
· We are strengthening young people’s clubs in schools. We so far have 56 school clubs in both primary and secondary schools in all sub-counties. Each sub-county has about 5 – 6 groups.
· We are economically empowering teenage mothers who dropped out of school through supporting Youth Savings and Loan Associations. We have 36 groups. There are about 3 per sub-county. Each of these groups saves about 5-6 million per year. we also link these groups to the Youth Livelihood projects through the Community Development Officers.
· We are also mentoring in and out of school girls on GBV, teenage pregnancies, Family Planning and SRHR. We have one mentor per sub-county who is expected to mentor 15 girls and 15 women.
· We have male action groups (role model men) who mentor men on positive and supportive masculinity as well as family planning. There are 15 per sub-county and each is supposed to mentor 10 house heads per year.
· We also have women and youth safe spaces where 40 participants converge at a time. There are currently 7 but we are planning to construct 7 more this year. Women and Youth use these spaces to give each other psychological support, do knitting, baking and discuss Gender-Based Violence cases and issues.
· We are also integrating SRHR and GBV into livelihood intervention projects like Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative. We develop talking points for farmer groups and shared responsibility.
· We also do advocacy about GBV focusing on social norms. We empower women to question bad cultures that incite GBV like marrying off early. We have SASA activists who does awareness.
· We have also carried out the capacity building of other stakeholders that we work with. For example; we trained about 70 Health Workers on how to document issues on adolescent health and GBV so that reviewing progress is easy. These have at least conducted 6-7 integrated outreaches in each sub-county.
· We also have youth champions who raise awareness about issues affecting the youth. We also have youth who are mentored and trained for 1 year to come up with innovations (Up Accelerate Program by Outbox) to solve SRHR related issues.
In Adjumani we have 3 groups that have to develop a product that can be sold. For example; one group is making a mama kit from local inputs.
All I can say is that we are doing our best. You can see this is a well thought out program. If it is well implemented to achieve its objectives, there will definitely be a great impact in districts where the project is running because of the kind of reach and connectedness of each component.
In your view, do women support each other? Especially the women of concern.
Well, we must remember that these women are living in places with people they previously barely knew. But I am impressed that the women UNFPA supports are utilizing the women's spaces to build social capital. Our partner CARE International will tell you how easy the women form groups in meetings and usually, there is cohesion in the saving scheme.
So I would imagine there haven’t been incidences where women abuse the safe spaces?
I haven’t heard of any incident so let us say they don’t. But normally, there is an in charge who is a caretaker who ensures the items of the women are safe. All I keep hearing is that more women want to join their group. We just usually tell the extra ones to form their own group so that the safe space is not under-utilized.
Finally, what would you want to tell the women in Adjumani?
“It is a very important day because it is a reminder to women to push for the rights of other vulnerable people. Women must speak out for other women and use their positions to create opportunities for other women especially those at the grassroots. It is also a reminder to women to step up efforts and rally behind the struggle to empower more women wherever they are. Women should also use this day to rally the men and boys to stand firm and tall for the women in their lives. Therefore, it should be a day when everyone comes together to raise the flag for all women. There should be no more discrimination, violation, and exclusion.”