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The Re-birth of War Affected Women in Northern Uganda

GWED-G is a Community Based Women rights organisation working in Northern Uganda since 2004 Promoting women’s rights, Fighting against sexual and gender based violence, promoting peace building and economic security for the war affected women in the Northern district of Uganda.

Northern Uganda has been engulfed by insurgency for the last 23 years, which led to the displacement of an estimated 1.6 million people. However, since 2006, there has been relatively some peace in the region and communities are continuously working towards returning back to their original homeland and rebuilding their homes, these shift in transition is coupled with grave and intense ongoing human rights violations, harassment of women including property grabbing especially land with limited access to justice. Gender and sexual based violence are among the leading cases documented by development partners.

The insurgency caused by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) has been the largest, longest and most brutal of guerrillas’ war to have docked the country.

The instability that affected Northern Region of Uganda since 1986 has resulted into abduction, conscription and coercions of countless children below the age of 18 years old and women, these led to a violation of the rights of women and children. There were massive abduction of women and children for ferry of looted foodstuff and as wives. The situation is characterised by deaths, displacement, poverty, sicknesses and dissertation. Followed by rape including gang and mass rape by the military, killing and amputations due to use of land mines and cutting and slicing of people’s Mouth, Nose, Ears, Arms and many others, looting of food, farming tools, and household utensils, Abduction of adults and children, burning down houses and IDP centres while wounding and murdering civilians. Occasional bombing of people in crowded places e.g., market places and Dancing Halls, ambushes of vehicles, cyclists, and people moving on foot.

The women have been in the centre of all these episodes witnessing every incidence physically, emotionally and physiologically. Also with their bodies which were also used as weapon of war. Some women who suffered from forced pregnancy due to rape or sexual torture gave birth to children whom until now are abandoned and neglected as products of conflicts. Eventually, the women who were abducted by the LRA forces came back 90% infected with HIV/AIDS and others with children born in captivity. Both soldiers fighting, women have been assaulted by invading rape’s role as an opportunity and the situation of impunity which exists during armed conflict. Rape is not only a side effect of war, but an open act as communication between men to show their power, unfortunately they do to women which are symbolic representation of the motherland, or the nation, and an assault on them is an assault on the entire people. In addition, women hold together communities and families in times of war and attacking them contribute to the defeat and disintegration of communities and families. For the victim of rape, the pain is far from insignificant. Rape is a form of torture in which power is exerted through invasion and pain. Coupled with this pain is a loss of dignity and an attack on a woman's identity. For the formerly abducted young girls who are returnee has always had untold stories which are not only painful to hear but symbolised with grave violations of women rights and degradation of future generation of women. Stories captured how the young girls and women were distributed as wives to soldiers during abduction just by issuing men shirts while they are lined up, the owners of the shirts will find their wife, others were forced to sleep with their brothers including forcing them to kill and chop human bodies into pieces using panga—machete including indulging into labourers duties under tied security.

It is not easy putting a total smile in the faces of these women ......................., no price can payback their humiliations, abuse, discriminations, torture, etc. These are also the women who are trying to return to their original homeland to settle with their families. Food, Shelter, Health, Education, Employment, Property, Water, are quiet inadequate and others not there completely not available for the women or Northern Uganda. Programs that focus directly women are not catered for by most agencies although women issues have been handled as cross cutting issues.

GWED-G is currently conducting activities to create awareness on women’s rights, promoting protection and respect for women groups ( including rights to access justice at grassroots levels. Since these women have been weakened already by war, issues of gender and sexual violence is very common and to them it looks fine when a woman is battered or suffered domestic violence. GWED-G is also working on Prevention and Response to SGBV project where it conducts referrals for victims for both legal, medical redress and psychosocial support services including counselling.

Poverty burns like bushfire and women are very poor especially widow, child mothers, disabled women, and those living with HIV/AIDS. GWED-G is also working to promote women rights to property especially land because most widows are facing challenges of property grabbing and inheritance rights. Secondly land is the only Asset currently left since the war destroyed most of the infrastructures, animals and etc. Apart from Women there is a particular problem for LRA returnees (weather ex-combatants or abductees) land rights of these groups has not been so easy. Family members often deny them their land rights from their paternal grandparents or relatives. Land ownership is an essential part of their social re-integrations and acceptance back in communities, these needs is necessary to work on for a sustained family peace of the returnee.

GWED-G is also conducting women empowerment programs including capacity building activities for women local leaders and local authorities, support with IGA interventions and livelihood especially agriculture is as well a priority.

We believes that with the levels of destruction of our social infrastructures, families and homes for the community in northern Uganda, it’s not going to be very easy to rebuilt the community easily unless women are put into the centre for all support, planning and interventions. The war took about 20 years and it’s believed that it will take approximately the same period to fully recover the people of northern Uganda.

The need to incorporate strongly women rights with responsibility and influence policy for women is important for effective post conflict recovery of coherent and vibrant Northern Ugandan women.

We are grateful to be sharing stories and activities from Northern Uganda through this network.

If you feel you can support or connect to help the women on northern Uganda, please get in contact with us. gwed-g-uganda@hotmail.com for more details, documentation, research, surveys.

• Support 1-100 widows and child headed girl’s household to access land and re-built their home to have destiny in this planet.
• Educate Remove 1-100 girl from child labour work and take to school.
• Pay legal Fees for 100 women to access justice from GBV, land wrangle, and Medical support.
• Support grassroots women conference that can bring over 500 women per sub-county to discuss women rights and promote their participation in democracy and decision making processes at grassroots levels.
• Support to 1 minibus that can transport women freely from their return sites to access maternal and child health/new born and reduced on maternal morbidity for women.
• Support with mama kits/procure, that can be distributed to expectant mothers for safe delivery.
• Organise activities for youths especially FAC – Formerly Abducted Children through re-integrations programs and rehabilitation of their minds and homes especially in areas of counselling and psychosocial support services for young girls especially those with children.
• Support the empowerment of women and women groups through resource mobilisation activities and rebuilding livelihood.
• Invite GWED-G staffs to attend conferences, workshops and network with other women organisations to build on strong network of women in the North. Facilitate trainings, organisational development, resource mobilisation and network building and alliance for strong women institutions in the region.

This is great opportunities for us to work with you and share information and learning.

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