According to the Domestic Violence Act 2010, Gender Based Violence constitutes any act or omission of a perpetuator which harms, injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or wellbeing, whether mental or physical of the victim or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse and economic abuse. Examples of GBV cases in Bushenyi include: Domestic Violence, early marriages, battering, defilement, rape, access and control of economic resources.
Gender Based Violence is a major development impediment in Bushenyi district, on average, Bushenyi GBV actors handle 5-10 cases daily. Across the district, GBV has manifested in different forms including; Assault and wife battering, denial of parentage, failure to provide basic necessities, illegal sale of family land, sexual violence i.e. Rape, Defilement and denial of conjugal rights, emotional or psychological, economic violence i.e. access to, control, and ownership of resources, etc
This has in the long run resulted into low esteem amongst survivors, low productivity, Psychological trauma and its effects, STD infections such as HIV/AIDS, denial of sexual and reproductive health rights, death, divorce, child neglect, school dropouts, juvenile delinquency, and acceptance of GBV as part and partial of societal norms.
The most affected sub counties are Nyabubare, Kyamuhunga, Kakanju in Igara-west, and Rwentuuha town council in Igara East according to Mrs. Faith Amanya Betega, the Bushenyi district Gender Officer.
To tackle or prevent this predicament, the district in partnership with Reproductive Uganda Bushenyi Branch, has switched to using community dialogues to prevent and handle cases of Gender Based Violence and if possible, make Bushenyi district a Gender Based Violence free society through working with all stakeholders right away from grass root level by challenging gender norms.
The community dialogue approach was adopted on Tuesday, 11th June, 2019 during the Reproductive Health Uganda breakfast meeting with institutional and Civil Society Organization heads at Ankole Resort in Bushenyi town. The meeting was attended by Bushenyi district local government officials including the Chief Administrative Officer, District Health Officer, District Education Officer, and the Community Development Officer.
All these come at a time when Bushenyi district is implementing the Prevention Plus project, which was adopted by Reproductive Health Uganda(RHU) in partnership with Sonke Gender Justice to implement evidence-based gender transformative approaches in the fight against Gender Based Violence and its components in communities around Bushenyi district.
The move has been joined by Civil Society Organizations, police, prisons, paralegals, institutions, faith-based organizations, and at the implementation level, more technocrats like Community Development Officers, sub county and parish chiefs, plus local government leadership will be engaged.
Mr Chris Abaho, the RHU Bushenyi branch Prevention Plus project coordinator is convince that the idea of using community dialogues has been brought on table by stakeholders and CSOs that are working with communities and they already know issues at hand and once the approach is taken on, it will create tangible impact as far as ending GBV is concerned.
“The approach promises some sustainability because its an issue of stakeholders who feel its their responsibility to end GBV. The CSOs and institutions are not doing it for the first time. They already have structures on ground, which provide platforms through which such issues can be addressed. I feel we shall achieve more with this approach.” He said
He adds that the approach will create space for people in communities to fully express their concerns better than the way it would be if stakeholders only used radio to send messages and sensitize people.
“You see, if you use radio, some people will call in or send messages because they have airtime on their phones, but the other affected person or the victim of GBV may not get that chance, but once these dialogues are put in communities, they will give opportunity for everyone to contribute and share as they join efforts to end GBV,” said Mr Abaho
The Bushenyi District Police Commander, Mr Joe Komakech says, police have already designed a program for Nyabubare sub county, which is the most GBV hit sub county, and if other stakeholders and service providers join them and have community dialogues at least at parish level, a change will be realized.
According to Mrs. Faith Amanya Betega, the Bushenyi district Gender Officer and lead facilitator at RHU Bushenyi branch, different stakeholders are encouraged to put in the limited available resources and time for the cause.
Community dialogues to end GBV are not an expensive approach because there are people, who would want to put their energies and resources in realizing social change in society, says Mr. Apollo Lee Kakonge, the Western Ankole Civil Society Forum.
The initiative is among different action points put in place to implement the Prevention Plus project in Bushenyi district having been the first district to undertake the project.
In 2018, the district put in place a Local Action Plan (2018-2012) aiming at nurturing an environment that makes Bushenyi a GBV free Society. The step shows that the district has committed itself towards eradication of this vice by devising means and strategies outlined in this Local Action Plan. This is incoherent with SDG 5 Indicator No.2 which sets to eliminate all forms of violence against women, men, young girls and boys.
The district had a Local Action Plan that expired way back in 2016, but due to high incidences of GBV, the District realized that there was a need to renew the Action Plan. However, the District Local Action Plan proposes some strategies to address GBV and it followed a baseline survey and a series of participatory meetings by district stakeholders, politicians and technical staff.
The district has suffered challenges in addressing GBV. Linking gender and violence to development has not been prioritized by most communities and individuals in Uganda as a whole. Many cases of GBV remain invisible because it is seen as a private issue and often stigmatized. The situation is made worse by the low levels of awareness of gender relations and how they can be improved in the community for peaceful co-existence.
Nonetheless, the district has set different strategies to curb down the debacle. They include; conducting community campaigns with messages on GBV prevention and Gender Justice, development of Information Education & Communication (IEC) materials, mobilization of grass root communities to participate in Prevention Interventions, involvement of media in Prevention Interventions, Involvement of faith-based organizations to integrate GBV messages in their day to day work, etc