Uganda: Addressing Domestic Violence in Conflict Zones

Sr. Semerita Mbambu CSC

A Ugandan sister from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. She is Journeying with victims of domestic violence and Human Trafficking. She worked with Rwenzori Forum for Peace and Justice (RFPJ) as a program assistant, works with the Association of Religious in Uganda and coordinates peace and justice activities for the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Cross in Uganda. 

 

Combating Domestic Violence in Conflict Zone in the Rwenzori and Northern Region of Uganda

The Sisters of the Holy Cross are committed to being a prophetic voice for peace, justice and healing in the world, while standing compassionately with God’s suffering people. One way the Sisters live the commitment to justice is by taking corporate stands. Individual witness and action are very important, but there is a different energy, strength and emphasis to publicly witnessing to an issue of justice as a Congregation.  Sisters of the Holy Cross have issued a number of statements on many challenges and /or problems faced by the people they serve in different parts of the world including Uganda where they have served for more than 50 years.

Social justice is a crucial issue that Sisters have been focusing on including addressing the issues of violence that has been experienced in war tone zones in the northern Uganda and the constant violent ethnic tensions in Rwenzori region. The situation of the conflicts and war has forced a number of families to live in camps where domestic violence has been rampant affecting much a number of women and children.

Domestic violence in Uganda has been advance by a number of factors ranging from psychological, spiritual, and socio-economic among others. Sisters of the Holy Cross have worked hard in responding to their social corporate stands including addressing the issues of domestic violence in war tone regions in Uganda and the following interwoven interventions have been put in place:

  1. Advocacy on the rights of the victims of domestic violence. There is lack of information among the public and the victims of war who in turn face the challenges of domestic violence. In Uganda especially in the Rwenzori region and the northern region women and children have been greatly affected by the pangs of war as well as domestic violence in the camps where they seek refuge. The Rwenzori region has been affected by the successive violent ethnic conflicts which has affected many families and the northern Uganda was for 20 years affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Both conflicts situations in all regions caused displacements of families, making them live in camps where life is unstable and uncomfortable. Sisters of the Holy Cross in responding to the corporate stand have worked with other stakeholders in both regions to conducts advocacy activities regarding sharing information about the human rights of the victims in camps.  Women and children have suffered the pangs of war as well as those of domestic violence. In advocating for rights of women and children against domestic violence in camps, the following have been implemented:
  2. Conducting radio programs to educate the public on the causes and effects of domestic violence especially those effected by conflict.
  3. Working with different stakeholders in popularizing messages of hope to the victims of domestic violence against women and children.
  4. Sisters have worked with other stakeholders in creating awareness about the forms domestic violence in among the war affected communities of the Rwenzori and northern Uganda by sharing print information, using community meetings (Barazas) to sensitize communities.
  5. Psycho-social support to the victims of war and domestic violence. Sisters of the Holy Cross through their justice and peace programs have been involved in offering of the Psycho-social support to the victims. Victims have been experiencing marital rape, rape by outsiders, sexual harassment by drunken community members, and defilement of girls in camps. Sisters of the Holy cross have been working hand in hand with other stakeholders in providing psycho-social support to the victims of the above crimes against human. In offering the psycho-social support to the victims of domestic violence and war, Sisters have been engaged in the following activities:
  6. Offering of the safe environment for the victims
  7. Responding to the health needs of the victims
  8. Spiritual counseling for some victims
  9. Reintegration of victims in the communities.
  10. Establishing of the economic activities. Victims of war live in camps and face challenges of poverty. Sisters of the Holy Cross have been working hand in hand with other stakeholders especially the local governments and local NGOs to establish income generating activities for the victims. There have been a lot of information sharing on how victims of war as well as victims of domestic violence would start income generating activities. One of the causes of the increased domestic violence in the war tone zones is poverty, lack of land for farming, congestions in the camps. Sisters with other stakeholders are trying to help women who are most affected by domestic violence to train them in a number of trades including, vegetable growing, teaching them of how to save and lend the little monies they get.

Building Synergies to Combat Domestic Violence in War Tone Zones in Uganda

In building synergies to combat domestic violence in the war tone zones of Uganda especially in the Rwenzori region and Northern Uganda, Sisters of the Holy Cross have the following approaches:

  1. Employing a continues multi-stakeholder approaches especially partnering the local community-based organizations.
  2. Partnering the local governments in handling the issues of domestic violence.,
  3. Partnering with the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development in addressing domestic violence that require government hand.
  4. Working with ecumenical and interreligious council of Uganda in addressing domestic violence issues in the communities.
  5. Sisters of the Holy Cross are members of Association of the Religious in Uganda who have worked collaboratively in sensitizing the public to address the challenges of domestic violence in the Rwenzori and Northern Uganda.

CHALLENGES AND LESSONS LEARNED

Sisters of the Holy Cross have faced challenges working in war tone zones in Uganda:

  1. It has been realized that working among the victims of war and as well as the victims of domestic violence possess great difficulties especially in dealing with displaced and affected populations in camps.
  2. Issues concerning victims of war are big enough to be handled satisfactorily by one stakeholder, there has been a challenge of coordination among others.
  3. Addressing the issues of domestic violence among the communities in displacement camps causes the demand of mega financial support to address a number of needs by the displaced people. Sisters of the Holy Cross cannot ably finance mega projects that can support the needs of the victims of war.