Mainstreaming GBV among women and girls with disability

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WOUGNET’s advocacy activities under its Gender and ICT advocacy program include;-research, studies, analysis, advocacy for e-governance, e-access and policy reviews. Also as part of the activities under this program WOUGNET implements projects and sub-programs that promote gender equality among communities. The Gender Evaluation Methodology approach (GEM) is used when undertaking research and making analyses to ensure that the gender perspectives are integrated into policy and legal frameworks. This methodology is meant to ensure that women’s needs are legally catered for.

One of the ongoing projects run under the Gender and ICT Advocacy program to address issues of violence against women is the Gender Based Violence (GBV) project. This project has seen WOUGNET be a part of a number of global movements and activities including the UNWomen initiative on the 16 days of activism in 2015 which was meant to highlight the need to end gender based violence through social media campaigns. Although the activities in the GBV project have been specific to women in general citing their vulnerability and a host of other justifications, Girls and Women with Disabilities (GWWDs) have not been given the much desired attention as an even more vulnerable group of women. As a result there is awareness of the problem among women as a whole, but not among a section of women who are three times more likely to face some form of GBV in their life time because of their disabilities.

While carrying out a research project in the pilot districts of Kotido, Koboko and Pader to assess the ever growing and life threatening issue of GBV, the National Union of Women with Disabilities – Uganda (NUWODU) recognized an existing gap in most women rights advocacy programs and organization activities. This was in the fact that most women rights advocacy organizations generalize the needs of women and rarely recognize the needs and challenges faced by GWWDs. This prompted NUWODU in the second and what would have been the final phase of this project to bring together relevant CSOs and government institutions to begin a discussion on the inclusion of GBV among GWWDs in their advocacy program areas and project activities.

At a workshop held on the 28th June 2016, at EUREKA place, NUWODU brought together women advocacy organizations and select public institutions to sit at a round table discussion to share their experiences on the inclusion of GWWDs issues in their respectful organization programs. The workshop was also meant to interest participating organizations in this project by engaging them in a discussion aimed at agreeing on recommendations and a way forward on the inclusion of prevention of GBV and response strategies for women and girls with disabilities in their organizational structures and programs.

It was at this workshop that a representative from OSEA (Open Society East Africa) confirmed that they would continue to fund NUWODU for yet a third phase of this project. This is with the aim that NUWODU will be able to enlist the help of relevant institutions as they strive to end GBV among GWWDs. It is hoped that this would be achieved by guiding partner organizations on how they can mainstream GWWDs issues in their program areas and project activities. It was also agreed that individual organizations can begin mainstreaming and inclusion of GWWDs issues particularly GBV issues by:-

– Carrying out more research to inform us more on GBV especially among GWWDs and how this affects their personal lives and communities as a whole.
– Segregate more information on GBV and disseminate it to the public.
– Educating MDAs (Ministries Departments and Agencies) on GWWDs challenges and needs.
– Giving GWWDs and people who become disabled as a result of GBV a platform to tell their stories and share their opinions. This has the potential to effect change.
– Making use of referral networks to help advise on sensitization activities on issues affecting GWWDs including GBV.
– Widening information sharing scope to include community members in which we run our different projects. While informing communities we can also mobilize them against GBV.
– Organize for trainings on issues affecting PWDs but especially GWWDs

The global spot light has turned greatly on the need to end the persistent issue of violence against women and girls. As advocates of women’s rights, we need to understand the nature and magnitude of violence against them and in this case of a more vulnerable group among them – the GWWDs. This workshop was a step forward in an effort to engage stakeholders in a discussion on a way forward on mainstreaming GBV issues among GWWDs in their program areas.

It was recognized that there is much need for information and guidance on how to approach this issue and in the future many more that GWWDs face on a day to day basis. Though present and often pervasive in most societies and cultures, GBV among GWWDs is a very sensitive and often hidden issue. As a result it has persisted and is even seen as an acceptable part of life in some communities. The issues surrounding the challenges that institutions face even when considering mainstreaming GBV issues among GWWDs in their programs, range from;- a lack of strong support and sectoral coordination, to significant cultural or religious barriers to admitting, confronting and even discussing the issue. Yet, resolving some of these issues is essential to help qualify the problem, inform policies and design programs that can help combat GBV particularly among GWWDs.

Compiled by H. Susan Atim – Information Sharing and Networking.