Author: angelaassiimwe

The Sweet Drink

Firstly, I would like to thank God for our lives.

I also would like to thank all UWONET donors & members, government institutions, CSOs, participants from the kigezi region and other districts represented who have come out today to celebrate the 2nd Regional Women’s Week.

My name is Angella Asiimwe. I titled this story, The Sweet Drink.

At this 2nd Regional Women’s Week, I would like to tell you a story of a girl with a child. It is the story of my life and the story of the lives of 25% of the Ugandan girl child that gets pregnant before age 18. It is also the story of The Remnant Generation (TRG) girls a home for teenage mothers that are sexually assaulted by family members, strangers and people in positions of power and influence like their teachers and guardians.

Many circumstances made me become a teenage mother and a school drop-out at 15 years. So why did I drop out of school? And Why did I get pregnant?

It all started before I was born, my father died when I was 9 Months so I didn’t get a chance to see him. My brother and I were then raised by our single mother who was a young woman, unwed but with a diploma in education. She was my mentor, shero, my everything and was also a feminist though she never identified as one. My mother was a primary school teacher who got less than 50,000shs per month but it didn’t stop her from helping other women and girls in our community plus her family. She believed that we rise by lifting others. She did everything in her power to ensure that we went to good schools and even got me a scholarship with St. Matia Mulumba Catholic Church in Old Kampala that committed to pay my fees up to Senior Four.

I lost my mother to HIV/AIDS when I was 6 years old and after her death everything changed. My mother didn’t have a lot but I remember a time during the funeral when people started fighting for property. I was in Primary Three at the time but I understood what was going on. By that time, we did not even know any relatives on our father’s side, so our maternal relatives became our guardians.

My Aunt Grace became my new mother. She really took good care of me and I managed to even finish my Senior 4. She catered for all my needs apart from school fees that I got from St. Matia Mulumba. However, her husband decided to leave her because he blamed her for not having a child with him. My Aunt got so depressed and even stopped working. At that time, I knew my life was going to change again.

The Church would no longer pay my fees because I had completed Senior Four, so my Aunt sent me to our other relatives to cater for my needs. None of them took me on, I presume because they had a lot on their plates. I talked to my brother who was then pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery and he advised me to look for a job as I wait for him to finish school and take me back to school. I got a job as a shop attendant.

I also had boyfriend and after 2 months of dating, he took me out to a night club. I had never been to a club nor had I ever taken alcohol. He convinced me to take the “sweet soda” that I did not know. Little did I know that Smirnoff was an alcoholic drink, it was indeed sweet and tasted different so he got me another bottle. The next thing I remember was I woke up in a pool of blood and I was in a lot of pain. My entire body was hurting as if I had had a fight the night before, however, I thought that I had gone in my periods and the body hurting was the side effects of the “sweet drink”.

4 months down the road, an older woman who was my neighbor told me, “Angella you look pregnant” I knew that it was not possible because I knew that I was a virgin. However, I thought about it and I realized that I had been missing periods. I had not undergone any sexual and reproductive health rights education so I did not know what to expect. I started getting very sick and even decided to get malaria medication. The older woman insisted that I go do a checkup so she referred me to a clinic, however I couldn’t afford a pregnancy test kit, so I went to a government hospital. The test came back positive for pregnancy. At first, I thought it was a bad dream. The doctor asked me details about the months and I told him that I was still a virgin. She told me to remember when I last saw my periods and that’s when I connected the dots to the day I woke up in a pool of blood and in a lot pain. I explained it to her and she confirmed that I had been intoxicated and sexually assaulted by my boyfriend.

I lost my job as a shop attendant after the pregnancy started to show and my 2 roommates threw me out because I couldn’t contribute to rent. I resorted to sleeping on the street, under big garbage bins and in village cinema halls. I also started doing laundry for people in the neighborhood, washing toilets, baby-sitting children, among other things so as to get money to buy something to eat.

3 months later, one of the ladies that I helped baby sit told me to sleep in her wooden store. It was a big opportunity and I was so excited that I managed to get shelter. I put grass in a sack to make a mattress and it would even rain on me sometimes but I felt safer than sleeping on streets. I did unpaid care work for her in exchange for that shelter and she also allowed me to continue doing work for other people.

After a month the lady threw me out because she was afraid what would happen if I gave birth in her store, so I had to go back to the streets of Mbarara to hustle again. I got so desperate that I tried reaching out to family; however, no one wanted to associate with a “bastard” who had brought shame to the family. I was afraid to ask my brother for help because he was still a student and I did not want to disappoint him.

I was later told by one of the ladies I cleaned for that I could get shelter at the government hospital by pretending I was due any time, although I was actually due in 2 weeks. But first, I decided to look for the baby daddy whom I met after 4 days of searching. He was very angry after telling him that I was pregnant. He said “We had sex once so it can’t be possible to impregnate you and we don’t impregnate girls in our family before marriage so go look for the father”. I informed him that I was heading to the government hospital so all I needed was him to at least accompany me. He refused and did not even give me any money so I walked over 7 miles to reach the hospital. All I had with me were two dresses in a polythene bag and a Good News Bible therefore I kept praying that God sees me through the trying time.

God answered my prayers by sending a guardian angel called Robert, a student doctor and my brother’s friend. He helped me with most of the necessary items because I did not have anything for a Mama kit. There were few beds so I kept faking labour pains so that they don’t throw me out, but 9 hours later I got serious labour pains and Robert helped me in delivery. I was all alone but God saw me through.

I left the hospital a day after and headed back to my baby daddy’s home. However, he was so furious to the extent that he called his two brothers to come and throw me out. The two brothers did as they were ordered and as I tried to stop them from taking my luggage, they lifted my son and put him outside in grass. I felt so broken and I had no option but to leave and head to my relatives in village.

On arrival, my relatives also had no kind words for me because they felt like I had embarrassed them, I was chased from one house to another until one of my uncle decided to take me to his home. His wife, though threatened to leave him if I was in their house and she gave him an ultimatum; either to let her stay and look after her children or let me stay and become the new wife. My uncle did not make a decision, so the wife left. I stayed and one of her daughters loved my son so she always defended me yet she was younger than me.

However, when she didn’t return after 2 weeks, my uncle asked me to leave and I went to live with our neighbors “Mzeei Kafeero Family” who took good care of me and I remember the “Mzeei Kalire Family” who sent me milk since I came to the village so am so thankful and grateful to them, I later taken in by another Aunt Manganda who was very understanding. Both her and her husband agreed that I could stay. My relatives wrote letters ordering my Aunt’s husband to throw me out however he did not abide by their orders.

I later went to see my brother when my son was 9 months. He encouraged me to take care of my baby and still promised to take me back to school. He indeed fulfilled his promise after graduation by taking good care of me and even paid my fees and tuition until I got to second year law school. He was not able to continue paying for me, so I requested for a student loan and I got several things to do so as to cater for me and my son’s daily needs like tutoring other students at campus, buying and selling second hand clothes to students, singing in karaoke and acting comedy with a group called Aftermath. At that time the money I was making was not enough to cater for all the needs so my best friend Bigingo Jeninah Tynnah (Pinkie) would always chip in to clear some of the bills, especially to do with my son.  I also started volunteering with constitutional and human rights organizations and this helped me to get a job right after university with Center for Constitutional Governance and I cleared my student loan after 3 years of employment. I then joined Solidarity Uganda, FIDA Uganda, The Remnant Generation, Akina Mama wa Afrika and did consultancy with several women rights organizations’ like UWONET, CREA among others. I also founded The Voice Consults a Media and legal consultant firm and co- founded The Remnant Generation a GBV shelter for teenage mothers and am also their board member and Advisory board member of International Rescue committee that does work on ending GBV in emergencies.

Its during and after university when I also met amazing women like Sarah Bireete, Miriam kyomugasho, Hon. Miria Matembe, Hon. Irene Ovonji, Rita Aciro, Farida Namatende, Mercy Munduru, Solome Nakaweesi,Hon. Adeke Anne, Anabella Nakabiri,  Scovia Arinaitwe, Eunice Musiime, Pauline Kahubiire , Prof. Tushabe wa Tushabe, Beatrice Mulindwa , Hon. Tezira Jamwa, Melissa Wainana among others who have been uplifting me. I also got several young women whom I deliberately started to uplift and mentor like Kiconco Brenda , Rita Asiimire, Chebet Esther, Donna Keirungi, Joana Vitundwa, Charity Katwine, Lisa Omubitokati among others.

This experience helped me become who I am today.  A mother to my 12-year-old son, a feminist, a human rights activist, an entrepreneur, the founder of The Voice Consult a legal and media firm, and a lawyer by profession that advocates for the rights of all women and girls. As Michelle Obama said “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage but rather view that experience as one of your biggest achievements.”

My background helped me become passionate and deliberate in supporting a girl with a child and all girls in and out of schools. Most organizations and even government focus more on the girl child leaving out the 25% of the girls with a child yet they commit to leaving no one behind and promotion of SDG No. 5 of gender equality.

Just like the theme of this 2nd Regional Women’s week, “Building bridges: Creating an inclusive culture United Women Can!” we  need to ensure that girls get mentors so as to create sisterhood and create safe spaces for survivors of sexual assault by investing in their flourishing by transforming a culture of shame to a culture of Hope and Grace.

I fought the good fight, however I would not have managed if it was not for God, my brother, my best friend, my mentors , mentees , friends everyone that has played a role in my life. We rise by lifting others so let’s stop telling our daughters and sisters that they can’t make it.  I remember a time when several people told me, “You are destined for failure” others said  “You will never get a job because unemployment rate is so high and many lawyers are on the street” while others said “It is better to abort rather than giving birth to a child that will be miserable and suffer for your stupid mistake” . Just like actress Taraji P. Henson says, “If you allow people to project their fears on you then you won’t live.”

If I had listened and believed in those people then I wouldn’t be a lawyer today and my son would not be a P.7 vacist (He sat his PLE this year). I am  28 years now and am just getting started.

I thank you all.

Angella Asiimwesweet drink

THE SILENCE ON SEXUAL HARRASMENT IS DEAFENING

There have been several conversations courtesy of Akina Mama wa Afrika about the #MeTooUg  including the dialogue held during the  4th National Women’s Week aimed at building and strengthening an accountable movement to respond to sexual violence in Uganda and the parallel event convened  during the Human Rights Convention on 9th May where we  discussed the #MeToo movement in the context of Ugandan women mostly working in the informal sector (At this platform Mwesigye Samantha shared her story about sexual harassment in the workplace) .

On 20th of May 2019 women4Ug, an organizing platform of Uganda women movement and NGOs such as Akina Mama wa Afrika , UWONET, Chapter Four, CEDOVIP, Isis Wicce and others held a press conference to demand that the government of Uganda put in place an action to end sexual harassment in the workplace. We made several demands seeking justice for Mwesigye Samantha and called upon Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to treat Samantha’s complaint with the urgency it merits and to ensure that she is protected from victimization and retaliation. We also petitioned the speaker of parliament to take a firm and quick action against sexual harassment. The speaker committed to take up the matter with immediate effect and we are still waiting to see what yields out of that conversation.

Sexual harassment in the work place has drawn a lot of controversy from very many people because of their different perceptions related to negative cultural and social norms which normalize harassment of women. No wonder some people consider women as property and sex objects that are born to make men happy. “Women like touching their bums and breasts so it is just a way of showing that we like them. How does that amount to sexual harassment?” asked Chris who was a journalist during the #Justice4Samantha press conference.

Most Ugandans need awareness creation about sexual harassment at their workplace, communities, and schools because according to Section 7 of the Employment Act, 2016, Section 128 of the Penal Code, Cap 120 and the Employment (Sexual Harassment) Regulations, 2012 sexual harassment is illegal. However, the challenge is implementation of these laws. Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual behavior which could make a person feel offended, humiliated, intimidated, and/ or objectified. Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, emotional or written. Perpetrators of sexual harassment are liable for their own behavior however employers can also be held vicariously liable and that is why is important to have sexual harassment policies and gender sensitive committees set to address such cases.

As a human rights activist who is so passionate about issues affecting women and girls, I am so disappointed in our government because it has on several occasions failed to protect us. The government must address issues of child marriages, girl with a child (Teenage pregnancies) among others which are as a result of sexual harassment. We have 82% of the girls sexually harassed right from primary schools to institutions of higher learning. Some of these girls are violated by people in positions of power and authority like teachers who demand sex for marks in universities and other institutions of education.

Uganda is ranked as the 9th Hotspot of child marriage in the world. Approximately 35% of girls drop out of school because of early marriage and 23% do so because of early pregnancy (UNICEF, 2015). The reason for early marriages is rooted in the traditional and social norms, poverty, and bias against girl child education among others. As a survivor of sexual harassment who got pregnant at the age of 15, it was a challenging experience because I became an outcast from my community and was banished from family. I had to do all kind of jobs including domestic work to simply survive. There were no shelters that I knew of from which I could seek support. I had to hustle my way through life until I gave birth at 16yrs. I was privileged to have a brother who decided to take me back to school. Only few girls get the chance to return to school after they have had a child. This experience inspired me to study law and become an activist who advocates for women and girls’ rights.

1 in 4 girls in Uganda is either pregnant or already a mother before the age of 18. I was relieved in July 2017 when I learnt about the Remnant Generation, an organization which rescues and rehabilitates pregnant teenage girls who have survived sexual assault/harassment. The organisation invests in the girls’ flourishing by providing safe spaces, counseling, access to education, and job training. They see these girls through their healing process transforming a culture of shame into a culture of grace. I got to know more about them in July 2017 through Dorah Mwima Barrak a friend who was running a campaign titled “One Too Many” to fundraise for them. It captured my attention and I ended up joining the family of teenage mothers because at one point in my life I was that girl. I started working with them since then to date and am currently a Board Member who is proudly associated because they do an amazing job. Kudos to Annabelle Nakabiri who started this initiative.

There are rampant cases of sexual harassment at workplaces and the silence is deafening. The silence is palpable in both public and private sectors. I made a hard decision and declined an internship offer due to sexual demands from an employer who asked for a sexual favor so as to grant me internship and job opportunity after university. I can’t imagine that this experience is isolated.  There is need for sexual harassment policies in every organization in order to protect employees, volunteers, and interns.

Cases of sexual assault and harassment in institutions of learning also continue to be widely reported in different the media. According to the report on investigation of sexual harassment at Makerere University 2018, the Committee led by Dr. Sylvia Tamale found gaps and weaknesses in the existing policy. Since the policy was passed twelve years ago, gaps in policies and implementation have afforded deficiencies and need to be corrected in order to strengthen the provisions of the policy and to improve its efficacy. The Committee also noted that the university environment is generally attuned to a patriarchal culture which stereotypes females as sexual objects and there is a campus “frater­nity” culture, all of which shape attitudes that contribute to inappropriate sexual behaviour. Am glad Makerere University with the support of FIDA Uganda has set up a committee to review its Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment; I was one of the few members that constituted the policy, and I look forward to its implementation. I hope other schools and institutions of higher learning will also enact policies to address sexual harassment cases.

defile 2 (2)Sexual harassment is not limited to institutions of education. On 10th June 2019, Capital FM Uganda reported a police officer attached to Mawanda Road police station who was remanded to Luzira for defiling a victim in custody. The prosecutor stated that on 25th May 2019, the 29year old police constable, Samuel Okot, defiled a 16year old girl prisoner. Another media house known as Voice of Gomba reported on 12th June 2019 that a 13year old pupil who was abducted on her way to school in Maddu – Gomba district was defiled by a 40year old man. However, the perpetrator has not been arrested.

Time is up and we need to rise up against sexual harassment because we currently have over 41 children raped everyday which is an equivalent of 3 school buses yet the government is silent and has failed to even set up Gender Based Violence shelters for the survivors to attain legal, health, psychosocial services and economic opportunities. The same applies to the sexual offences Bill which is a critical law that consolidates relevant laws relating to sexual offences, provides for punishment of the perpetrators and clarifies ways in which survivors can access justice. These are long overdue and should be addressed as soon as possible so as to contribute to the ending of sexual harassment.

The silence is deafening and time is up for us to break the silence because “Your Silence will not protect “–Aurdre Lorde.

 

Celebrating Diversities

It was a chilly morning as my Cab driver, Steven, drove me to the airport. My folder containing workshop documents fell on the floor and caught Steven’s attention to help gather the documents. While putting the documents back in the folder, he commented rather confidently,  “Madam why is your folder having BLTG?  Isn’t it illegal to have things that clearly represent the LGBTIQ community?” My first impulse was, ‘this person clearly knows what LGBTIQ is because of two reasons: he knows the full acronym; and that there is a community of LBGTIQ.’ So many thought started crossing my mind and I did not want to make any assumptions. I thought to myself, I am a feminist, a strong feminist, a feminist who is determined to transform our society, to rid our society of shame about those who are different, and to rid our society of intolerance and to promote acceptance and love. So, rather than ask Steven questions, I decided to start the conversation about diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and how people with different sexual orientation and gender identity than what we consider the norm are also entitled to all human rights because they are human. Steven assured me that his culture and religion considered anything other that heterosexuality unacceptable. So I asked him about his personal perspective and it was amazing to hear him express his inner convictions. Steven told me he believed that all human beings are equal and it is ok for people to be diverse sexualities and gender identities, but that the illegality of difference is an issue of negative social norms.

In such short a ride from Kampala to Entebbe airport, we had such an amazing in-depth discussion by which we were both clear that all human beings are entitled to human rights and freedoms. But there was one thing I was still holding back from Steven, and that is the BLTG acronym he had seen on the folder. I told him that the BLTG is an acronym for Build Local and Think Global for which I was going to attend a deep dive workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, on inclusive GBV Programming in Emergencies. I told Steven that I am part of the BLTG Initiative with other members who are engaged in a global, multi-agency initiative that aims at promoting women’s transformative leadership in Gender Based Violence (GBV) Emergency Preparedness and Response. We are feminist, women’s rights, grassroots organizations, activists, academics, national-regional and network organizations working in emergencies and fragile contexts and committed to the protection and empowerment of women and girls. Steven was excited to learn about both BLTG and LGBTIQ. It is always encouraging to meet one person here and there who actually thinks differently and possibly walks against the grain amidst the ocean of suffocating social norms.

Arriving in Cape Town, my heart was filled with joy to see amazing women coming together for a noble cause. The BLTG Deep dive workshop underscored creating inclusive environments for ALL women and girls within GBV emergency response programming so as to improve and increase accessibility, inclusion, safety and security in GBV prevention activities or response services.

One of the most interesting discussions was when Gina emphasized that we should never just head to the field in an emergency seeking to identify women or girls with diverse sexual orientations, as this could put them at extreme risk. Instead, we focused on our role as service providers to make our services accessible and welcoming for all women and girls with different diversities.

Jennate emphasized that as GBV service providers, we need to create awareness, encourage discussion, celebrate diversity, and promote and support action that is inclusive for all women and girls. This struck a cord with most participants because Jennate called us to personally examine our unconscious bias that influences excluding of women and girls from different ethnicities and religious denominations. It was clear to us all that even though inclusion is at the forefront of what we do, we all harbour unconscious bias by focusing on women and girls and not all the social categories of women and girls that shape their experience of GBV. We, therefore, agreed that we need to seek out, bring into the fold all women on GBV awareness, and celebrate women and girls with disabilities, adolescent girls, older women, women and girls with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, and women and girls from diverse ethnic and religious groups, and women of different social classes because GBV does not exclude.

Another key aspect shared was that of Journaling our thoughts and feelings.  Sophie Wangui, a staff of IRC and an Alumni of Akina Mama wa Afrika African Women Leadership Institute, explained that journaling is necessary and it improves mental clarity, help solve problems, and improve overall focus. Sophie  also said that journaling builds up our writing skills over a period of time. She shared her blog on https://sophiangugi.com/2019/04/12/tired-i-am-tired/amp/?__twitter_impression=true  on a GBV story about a young Kenyan girl.

The workshop was indeed a powerful, informative, challenging and motivating workshop. It provided the much needed and fitting space in which participants felt safe to share knowledge and skills in relation to not only how to address issue of GBV Emergencies, but also how to take care of our own selves and live fulfilling lives.diversity

Celebrating Diversities

diversityIt was a chilly morning as my Cab driver, Steven, drove me to the airport. My folder containing workshop documents fell on the floor and caught Steven’s attention to help gather the documents. While putting the documents back in the folder, he commented rather confidently,  “Madam why is your folder having BLTG?  Isn’t it illegal to have things that clearly represent the LGBTIQ community?” My first impulse was, ‘this person clearly knows what LGBTIQ is because of two reasons: he knows the full acronym; and that there is a community of LBGTIQ.’ So many thought started crossing my mind and I did not want to make any assumptions. I thought to myself, I am a feminist, a strong feminist, a feminist who is determined to transform our society, to rid our society of shame about those who are different, and to rid our society of intolerance and to promote acceptance and love. So, rather than ask Steven questions, I decided to start the conversation about diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and how people with different sexual orientation and gender identity than what we consider the norm are also entitled to all human rights because they are human. Steven assured me that his culture and religion considered anything other that heterosexuality unacceptable. So I asked him about his personal perspective and it was amazing to hear him express his inner convictions. Steven told me he believed that all human beings are equal and it is ok for people to be diverse sexualities and gender identities, but that the illegality of difference is an issue of negative social norms.

In such short a ride from Kampala to Entebbe airport, we had such an amazing in-depth discussion by which we were both clear that all human beings are entitled to human rights and freedoms. But there was one thing I was still holding back from Steven, and that is the BLTG acronym he had seen on the folder. I told him that the BLTG is an acronym for Build Local and Think Global for which I was going to attend a deep dive workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, on inclusive GBV Programming in Emergencies. I told Steven that I am part of the BLTG Initiative with other members who are engaged in a global, multi-agency initiative that aims at promoting women’s transformative leadership in Gender Based Violence (GBV) Emergency Preparedness and Response. We are feminist, women’s rights, grassroots organizations, activists, academics, national-regional and network organizations working in emergencies and fragile contexts and committed to the protection and empowerment of women and girls. Steven was excited to learn about both BLTG and LGBTIQ. It is always encouraging to meet one person here and there who actually thinks differently and possibly walks against the grain amidst the ocean of suffocating social norms.

Arriving in Cape Town, my heart was filled with joy to see amazing women coming together for a noble cause. The BLTG Deep dive workshop underscored creating inclusive environments for ALL women and girls within GBV emergency response programming so as to improve and increase accessibility, inclusion, safety and security in GBV prevention activities or response services.

One of the most interesting discussions was when Gina emphasized that  we should never identify women or girls with diverse sexual orientations because it puts them at risk; as service providers, our goal is to serve them therefore it is important to serve all women and girls from different diversities.

Jennate emphasized that as GBV service providers, we need to create awareness, encourage discussion, celebrate diversity, and promote and support action that is inclusive for all women and girls. This struck a cord with most participants because Jennate called us to personally examine our unconscious bias that influences excluding of women and girls from different ethnicities and religious denominations. It was clear to us all that even though inclusion is at the forefront of what we do, we all harbour unconscious bias by focusing on women and girls and not all the social categories of women and girls that shape their experience of GBV. We, therefore, agreed that we need to seek out, bring into the fold all women on GBV awareness, and celebrate women and girls with disabilities, adolescent girls, older women, women and girls with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, and women and girls from diverse ethnic and religious groups, and women of different social classes because GBV does not exclude.

Another key aspect shared was that of Journaling our thoughts and feelings.  Sophie Wangui, a staff of IRC and an Alumni of Akina Mama wa Afrika African Women Leadership Institute, explained that journaling is necessary and it improves mental clarity, help solve problems, and improve overall focus. Sophie  also said that journaling builds up our writing skills over a period of time. She shared her blog on https://sophiangugi.com/2019/04/12/tired-i-am-tired/amp/?__twitter_impression=true  on a GBV story about a young Kenyan girl.

The workshop was indeed a powerful, informative, challenging and motivating workshop. It provided the much needed and fitting space in which participants felt safe to share knowledge and skills in relation to not only how to address issue of GBV Emergencies, but also how to take care of our own selves and live fulfilling lives.

Celebrating diversities

It was a chilly morning as my Cab driver, Steven, drove me to the airport. My folder containing workshop documents fell on the floor and caught Steven’s attention to help gather the documents. While putting the documents back in the folder, he commented rather confidently,  “Madam why is your folder having BLTG?  Isn’t it illegal to have things that clearly represent the LGBTIQ community?” My first impulse was, ‘this person clearly knows what LGBTIQ is because of two reasons: he knows the full acronym; and that there is a community of LBGTIQ.’ So many thought started crossing my mind and I did not want to make any assumptions. I thought to myself, I am a feminist, a strong feminist, a feminist who is determined to transform our society, to rid our society of shame about those who are different, and to rid our society of intolerance and to promote acceptance and love. So, rather than ask Steven questions, I decided to start the conversation about diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and how people with different sexual orientation and gender identity than what we consider the norm are also entitled to all human rights because they are human. Steven assured me that his culture and religion considered anything other that heterosexuality unacceptable. So I asked him about his personal perspective and it was amazing to hear him express his inner convictions. Steven told me he believed that all human beings are equal and it is ok for people to be diverse sexualities and gender identities, but that the illegality of difference is an issue of negative social norms.

In such short a ride from Kampala to Entebbe airport, we had such an amazing in-depth discussion by which we were both clear that all human beings are entitled to human rights and freedoms. But there was one thing I was still holding back from Steven, and that is the BLTG acronym he had seen on the folder. I told him that the BLTG is an acronym for Build Local and Think Global for which I was going to attend a deep dive workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, on inclusive GBV Programming in Emergencies. I told Steven that I am part of the BLTG Initiative with other members who are engaged in a global, multi-agency initiative that aims at promoting women’s transformative leadership in Gender Based Violence (GBV) Emergency Preparedness and Response. We are feminist, women’s rights, grassroots organizations, activists, academics, national-regional and network organizations working in emergencies and fragile contexts and committed to the protection and empowerment of women and girls. Steven was excited to learn about both BLTG and LGBTIQ. It is always encouraging to meet one person here and there who actually thinks differently and possibly walks against the grain amidst the ocean of suffocating social norms.

Arriving in Cape Town, my heart was filled with joy to see amazing women coming together for a noble cause. The BLTG Deep dive workshop underscored creating inclusive environments for ALL women and girls within GBV emergency response programming so as to improve and increase accessibility, inclusion, safety and security in GBV prevention activities or response services.

One of the most interesting discussions was when Gina asked participants whether GBV service providers are supposed to identify or serve women and girls with diverse Sexual orientation. It became an eye opener because sometimes we focus more on identifying our key targets yet it puts some of them at risk therefore it is important to serve all women and girls from different diversities.

Jennate emphasized that as GBV service providers, we need to create awareness, encourage discussion, celebrate diversity, and promote and support action that is inclusive for all women and girls. This struck a cord with most participants because Jennate called us to personally examine our unconscious bias that influences excluding of women and girls from different ethnicities and religious denominations. It was clear to us all that even though inclusion is at the forefront of what we do, we all harbour unconscious bias by focusing on women and girls and not all the social categories of women and girls that shape their experience of GBV. We, therefore, agreed that we need to seek out, bring into the fold all women on GBV awareness, and celebrate women and girls with disabilities, adolescent girls, older women, women and girls with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, and women and girls from diverse ethnic and religious groups, and women of different social classes because GBV does not exclude.

Another key aspect shared was that of Journaling our thoughts and feelings.  Sophie Wangui, a staff of IRC and an Alumni of Akina Mama wa Afrika African Women Leadership Institute, explained that journaling is necessary and it improves mental clarity, help solve problems, and improve overall focus. Sophie  also said that journaling builds up our writing skills over a period of time. She shared her blog on https://sophiangugi.com/2019/04/12/tired-i-am-tired/amp/?__twitter_impression=true  on a GBV story about a young Kenyan girl.

The workshop was indeed a powerful, informative, challenging and motivating workshop. It provided the much needed and fitting space in which participants felt safe to share knowledge and skills in relation to not only how to address issue of GBV Emergencies, but also how to take care of our own selves and live fulfilling lives.diversity

The 4th National Women’s Week: A Diverse, Unifying Space.

From the 23rd to 25th October, 2018, over 1,500 women and men from around Uganda met at Hotel Africana in Kampala for the 4th National Women’s Week. The over-arching theme of the gathering was ‘Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges: Unleashing Collective Power’.

Daily, dozens of comprehensive discussions and sessions were held covering a wide spectrum of gender equality and women’s rights issues – from reproductive justice to women economic empowerment, Me Too Uganda Conversation by Akina Mama wa Afrika ,women’s leadership and governance to unpaid care and gender inequalities in the workplace, Sexual harassment to inequalities in education, among others.

The Women’s Week also saw unconventional discussions on issues of self-care, with serious (and much-needed) conversations taking place on women’s rights activists’ tendency to disregard personal needs and care until it’s too late, often leading to ‘activist burnout’. There were special sessions dedicated to issues like mental health, emotional and financial well-being of feminist activists, ageing gracefully, and early menopause. Femme Forte also set up make-up spaces for those who felt like relaxing and getting a little pampering. The spaces were complemented by soothing music and soft drinks.

Besides the richness and relevance of the discussions held during the women’s week, another highlight of the forum was the diversity of participants. The forum brought together all kinds of people from all walks of life; cross boarder traders, hawkers, market women, rural small holder farmers, students, out of school girls and boys, men, corporate women and men, religious leaders, among others. Members of the opposition shared tables with members from the ruling government, as did religious leaders belonging to different denominations. The forum was a unifying space.

Also, unlike the past National women’s week, 4th National women’s week attracted a significant increase in participation from younger feminist activists. For the first time, at least 40% of participants were women under the age of 30. Better still, the young women did not only attend the forum as participants, but convened sessions of their own. Some of the young women led organisations that participated and also convened sessions included; The Voice Consult Ltd , Femme Forte, YAH, UYONET and The Cradle. The heavy engagement of young women during the week portrayed the women’s week’s commitment to strengthening the women’s week by building bridges.uwonet pic

Bolstered by the momentum of the week, UWONET’s Rita Aciro closed the forum on an optimistic note, tracing the many ‘big ideas’ that had emerged and calling for continued commitment to building a more diverse united women’s movement.

THE GIRL WITH A CHILD

Hi, my name is Carol. I am a Survivor of rape. It’s an honor to share my story with you.

I was sexually abused from age 5 to 12 years old.

When I was 5 years old, I was raped by my father. The abuse started very slowly, but enough for me to react to it after 5 more years. I would feel pain and bleed every time my father had sex with me. I thought to myself, ok that is how he expressed his love. Then words were put with these actions like, “You are mine, don’t you ever leave me, stay in the house.” Then it just progressed to, “If you leave me, I will kill you.”

I then reported to my relatives who advised me to report to my paternal grandfather however we lived in an extended family so both my father and grandfather lived in the same compound. Both of them started raping me and I decided to seek refuge in a nearby church.

At the church I talked to a leader who reported to the local chairperson. The chairperson advised me to return home so that he gathers enough evidence to use in accessing justice however when he confirmed my allegations then he also invited me to his home and also raped me.

I decided to run away from home and that’s when I met the Remnant Generation Family after moving from different homes, churches and streets. They helped give me shelter however little did I know that I was already pregnant. I didn’t know the father of my child because 3 men had been sexually abusing me.

The Remnant Generation helped me access justice by ensuring that all the offenders are imprisoned however my grandfather died shortly after being sentenced. My family blamed me for bringing an incest curse in our family and killing my grandfather so at first I felt like I was serving the life sentence!

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Even though my offenders can’t hurt me anymore, I still smell their body, feel their presence, and hear their voices.

I couldn’t seem to break the cycle of abuse. I kept blaming myself for the death of my grandfather and imprisonment of the offenders. I felt I was the problem. But through counseling I have come to realize that the problem wasn’t me.

I started therapy with the Remnant and am now a  girl with child even though my child .

I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I am working hard on healing myself again.

I am not that little girl anymore.

I am a mother

I am Strong!

I am a Feminist !

I am a graduate!

I am a Lawyer!

I am a CEO!

I am a Board Member of the Remnant Generation!

I am Courageous!

I am Brave!

Today I am giving back to all young girls and women who are Survivors of sexual violence by sharing my story. But most of all, showing I found my voice again!

If I could find my voice then you all can therefore let’s break the silence!