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Gov’t Urged to Empower Communities Against GBV Beyond NGO Support :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Gov’t Urged to Empower Communities Against GBV Beyond NGO Support

Elizabeth Kemigisha, Manager of Advocacy and Policy at The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers-FIDA, speaking at a press conference, emphasized that the struggle is predominantly led by NGOs, which, due to financial constraints, face sustainability challenges.
28 Nov 2023 07:08

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Organizations at the forefront of combating Gender-Based Violence have urged the government not to delegate the fight solely to donors and Non-government originations- NGOs. This came to the fore on Monday during the launch of a campaign dubbed "16 Days of Black" spearheaded by ActionAid.

The campaign is part of the annual global activism movement against Gender-Based Violence. Elizabeth Kemigisha, Manager of Advocacy and Policy at The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers-FIDA, speaking at a press conference, emphasized that the struggle is predominantly led by NGOs, which, due to financial constraints, face sustainability challenges.

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In Kemigisha’s perspective, active government engagement and the empowerment of communities are imperative to protect victims and proactively prevent cases, thereby providing a sustainable solution to the pervasive issue that is detrimentally affecting society. 

Hawa Birabwa, an advocate at the Justice Centre Uganda, echoed similar concerns, emphasizing that while NGOs and donors play a critical role in the fight against gender-based violence, reliance on them indefinitely is not sustainable, given their transient nature. According to her, there is a pressing need for initiatives that empower communities.

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Birabwa suggested that these efforts should specifically target religious and cultural groups to address practices that contribute to gender-based violence in the country. She highlighted that certain practices within these groups, such as the vows taken during weddings that bind couples "till death do us part," can result in strained relationships where individuals endure abuse but find it challenging to seek divorce. Additionally, some community practices inadvertently support victims in continuing to live with their victimizers. 

Birabwa emphasized that without active government involvement in addressing gender-based violence at the grassroots level within communities, the fight against GBV risks becoming a mere annual event without tangible results. She also underscored the importance of engaging men in advocacy efforts, stating that empowering only women and girls while neglecting men and boys fails to break the cycle of GBV.

In their joint statement, the organizations led by ActionAid also pointed out that despite the alarming statistics of GBV in the country, there is insufficient funding dedicated to addressing this issue, even within the national budget. She expressed concern that there is a lack of robust responses, including investments in the prevention of GBV.

"Despite these glaring statistics, an insignificant proportion of the national budget is directed towards robust responses, including investment in the prevention of GBV. Donor funding for women's rights work continues to shrink despite increased momentum and clear evidence of need. Systems to track and enforce budget allocations for gender equality remain weak and data on national budgets to address violence against women and girls are hardly available,” the statement reads in part.

Meanwhile, while discussing the matter, Kemigisha highlighted instances where government intervention has proven beneficial, citing the adoption of special court sessions for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases. These sessions have effectively reduced the backlog of cases. 

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The initiative was initially a pilot program responding to the pressing need to address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence offenses, enhance survivors' access to justice, improve their experience within the justice system, and alleviate case backlogs dating back to 2014. 

The success of these sessions has led to their incorporation into the judiciary, garnering positive feedback. Reports indicate increased reliability and consistency among involved parties such as the police, health services, justice system, social services, and the victims.

Kemigisha emphasized that the government could play a pivotal role in dismantling structural barriers hindering victims from obtaining justice, such as the practice of certain health practitioners selling Police Form 3. 

Annually, the world unites in the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), launching a campaign that spans from the 25th of November, commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women, to the 10th of December, observed as International Human Rights Day. 

The dedicated days serve as a central focus for coordinated global initiatives aimed at increasing awareness, advocating for change, and standing in solidarity against the complex challenges presented by gender-based violence. Throughout these crucial 16 days, individuals, organizations, and communities across the globe join forces to intensify their commitment to eliminating violence and upholding the fundamental rights and dignity of every individual.

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