Leading the fight against gender-based violence in Uganda.
Since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic, cases of gender-based violence have increased exponentially. Movement restrictions and the lockdown have further restricted young women and girls from seeking support.
Young leaders all over the world, concerned by the rising cases of violence in families have stepped up to ensure that women’s rights are respected. Prudence, a 25-year-old young leader from the Kamuli district in Uganda was no exception.
Companies including sugar factories in my area were downsizing their staff. I noticed that mostly young women and girls were affected. It was unfair.Prudence
Teaming up with young leaders.
In the middle of a strict lockdown, it was difficult for women to walk to the district headquarters or police station to report cases of violence. Most duty bearers were working from home too, so they would be greeted with empty offices even after the long travel.
“I shared this challenge with fellow young leaders in the Busoga, Tororo, Bukedea and Lango sub-regions. I found that their communities were facing the same challenge. That is when we resolved to start community helplines across the six districts.”
Setting up community helplines.
After sharing her concern with Restless Development, Prudence was given a phone and a new sim card to operate the helplines. She also created awareness posters which were distributed in her community. The advert was further publicised through messages on Ssebo FM and KBS FM, two radio stations in Kamuli to ensure every community member’s access to the helpline.
In various communities across Uganda, young people were at the frontline of operating the hotlines. They were actively identifying, referring and reporting cases of economic violence that young women and girls were experiencing.
“In one of the sugar factories in Kamuli, a girl was laid off without valid reason. When she called the helpline, I immediately reported and referred her to the Labour Officer in Kamuli. The Labour Officer swung into action immediately. The girl was reinstated.”
Young leaders handled a similar case in the Buyende district.
A female worker who hadn’t received her due salary was facing the risk of sexual exploitation at her workplace. The helpline intervened and issued a warning letter to the institution and the employer and the due salary was paid.
If it wasn’t for the helpline, I would have suffered continuous violence from my boss.Young female worker
Prudence together with her fellow young leaders has impacted the lives of 330 community members affected by domestic violence and exploitation at work. She has also set up free self-improvement and crochet classes to empower young girls in her community.
Ensuring sustainability of the helpline.
To ensure that the respective local governments improve on service delivery in combating domestic violence and economic exploitation of young women and girls and further promote the sustainability of their innovation, Prudence and her team have handed over the helplines to the respective local Governments. The Labour Officer leads the helpline.
Prudence and her young team of leaders play the role of monitoring and addressing cases of gender-based violence and economic exploitation.
“The informal sector is heavily unregulated in Uganda. The lack of regulations has affected girls the most. Employed women are highly exploited. Helplines like ours play a huge role in raising awareness and solving cases that would have gone unreported.”