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Recommendations of the Domestic Violence Act Coalition to the Government for an Engendered Response to COVID-19

KAMPALA, Uganda– The Domestic Violence Act Coalition has called upon the Ministry of Health, Ministry of  Local Government, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Office of the Prime Minister, Equal Opportunities Commission, and all the Task Forces at National and District level managing the COVID-19 pandemic, to incorporate a gender perspective into the risk reduction and response plan and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to not only achieve better outcomes for women and girls, but for everyone, during this COVID-19 lockdown period.

The coalition offered a number of recommendations as follows:

Involvement of women in all decision-making processes at all levels in all sectors that form part of the risk reduction and response plans, so as to enhance the possibility of having women’s practical and strategic needs duly considered and met.

The Child and Protection Department of the Uganda Police Force should remain operational and fully equipped with transport, protective gear, and a toll-free line to respond to violence against women and girls’ cases. They held that the police should work with organizations that operate shelters to provide safety for survivors of domestic violence. They also recommended that the family and children’s court is equipped and supported to remain operational as an essential service provider.

Access to medical services for survivors of physical and sexual violence should be considered as priority, and a fees waiver for medical examinations and treatment of related cases.

Media sensitization on prevention of domestic violence and encouragement of violence free homes, including advice on procedures to access support in case of threats of abuse, or actual abuse.

Government should encourage community members to exercise vigilance to avert violence against women, including reporting to authorities any such cases.

Donors and development partners should continue to support Uganda’s COVID-19 response, by allocating specific funds to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, and to ensure the sustenance of programming for prevention and response services, and the implementation of emergency response plans.

Additional funding and flexibility with allocated funds should be granted to implementing partners to respond to emerging issues of violence against women and girls.

Priority should be given to female and child-headed households as they face exacerbated vulnerability, and that food be given to individuals rather than households so as to regulate the unequal power relations within households and reduce women’s dependence on men thereby ensuring that they feed their children.

Food to female and child-headed households should be distributed by women responders to prevent abuse, harassment, and the exploitation of women and girls.

Special support, including incentives in form of subsistence allowances, transport, food, and medical insurance should be accorded to women at the frontline such as nurses and other emergency response workers.

Measures to prevent sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation of women while on duty should be put in place, and incorporated within the standard operating procedures guiding the different responses to ensure safety of women stipulating the stringent penalties for non-compliance.

Provision of protective gear to all women at the frontline, and the enabling of all pregnant women to continue accessing maternity services and other necessary sexual and reproductive health services.

Government should freeze interest rates on all acquired loans for women and men working in the informal sector, while also putting in place a small-business rebuilding plan to provide interest-free startup packages to revive such businesses at the end of the pandemic.

Provision of protective gear and additional security to women who have opted to stay at their stalls in different markets, and mechanisms for safe accommodation nearby should also be considered in partnership with hotel or hostel owners.

The elderly should be registered and provided with much needed support in the form of food, soap, water, and other necessaries. Periodic monitoring should be conducted by the relevant local government structures to ensure the constant flow of necessities.

Emergency response services for the elderly to access health care should be placed at every sub-county to ensure timely provision of much needed support.

Prioritization of maternity and sexual and reproductive health services, including designated transport for expecting mothers or those due for their antenatal and postnatal appointments, also including immunization services for babies and toddlers.

Persons living with HIV/AIDS should be provided with their drugs and adequate food for the entire duration of the lock down, whilst also ensuring transport to health facilities in case of emergencies.

Streamlined support for persons with disabilities, including registration for easy follow up and ensuring adequate access to basic necessities such as food, water, soap, and health care services during the lock down.

Gender sensitive information on prevention and response to COVID-19 should be provided and translated into local languages to enhance everyone’s safety.

Government should invest in short and long-term avenues to provide safe and portable water for constrained communities in rural and semi urban areas during and after the COVID-19 response.

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