There is a wave of change sweeping across Bundibugyo leadership that is making deliberate decisions to change the status quo and phase out some undesirable cultural practices and norms in their society. This leadership has had the privilege to attend the SASA! Together trainings that kicked off in 2019. The sessions carried out by UGANET team of End Violence Against Women Prevention are now at the awareness stage of the trainings.
Bundibugyo is a district located in the far western part of Uganda. Like most African cultures, the district has a male domineering and superiority characteristic over women, one of the biggest problems in the area.
Men in this area will openly tell that they have a natural superiority over their female counterparts. This is just how business is run in homes, and in most cases, even for fairly well to do families, boys will be sent to school while their sisters will stay home to do house chores.
When UGANET kicked off the SASA together trainings in 2019, the team of trainers found difficulty in changing the mindsets of their trainees who believed that men and women cannot be on the same footing in society. In fact the major challenge was that most of these local leaders who were undergoing training had undesirable superiority over their women and barely had functional homes.
Milton Mutagomoka is a community activist in Bubukwanga sub county. “I had a challenge in my marriage. I married four women, the first one stayed for a year, the second for six months, the third one stayed for eight months, and the fourth could only bear with me for a month before she left.” He said “I never realized why my wives were leaving me all that while.”
Nearly every man we talked to had a dysfunctional home, and the problem stemmed from the way they undermined the importance of women.
“When my wife gave birth to our daughter, I was very disappointed. I didn’t like the child because of her sex. What influenced me was our Kikonzo culture where a girl child is not valuable.” Says Israel Friday, a community Activist in Bundibugyo.
Kaba Jennipher was denied a chance by her parents to go to school because of her sex. Her brothers did not suffer the same fate. This is quite common among families here, especially when a family does not have enough funds to educate all the children. In extreme cases, even when the funds are available, some parents are very entrenched in the culture that they won’t educate their girl child.
Kugonza Valley is a 25 year old girl whose husband picked from school after impregnating her. Kugonza explains that once she moved to her now husband’s house, he started undermining and mistreating her. Through lies and trickery he made her believe he was unmarried. She later found out she was a second wife. “I hated my husband and disrespected him because of the way he treated me. Whenever I denied him sex, he simply forced it and caused me even more pain. Our home was always a battle ground. But when I joined the Sasa program, I would return and share with him the knowledge I acquired. He has since changed a lot. We now sit together and plan for the family. We have bought two plots of land together and he took me back to school.”
Through Sasa together trainings, perceptions are changing, starting with community leaders and activists, to the rest of the community members.
Mutagomoka has since discovered his mistakes. “From the training, I decide I must change my behavior. With my fifth wife, we sit and plan together for every coin we make. I have never quarreled or fought with her. We are now building our home together and I started a business at the Bundibugyo Main market for her. I have discovered that I was the problem. Had I attended SASA! Together training earlier, I believe I would have stayed with my first wife.” He said.
Israel on the other hand is cultivating an amazing relationship with his wife who is a teacher. Together they pull funds together and are soon entering their family house. “From Sasa training, I learnt to love my daughter. She is the only child I have and we are bonding very well. I also used to be very hot tempered but this training has transformed me.” He noted.
These are but just a handful of the testimonies of transformation in Bundibugyo region.
“We are equipping Community Leaders and Community activists in order for them to start facilitating activities to engage communities in these conversations. Majority of the trainees are very excited and we already see change from among the trainees themselves. It has not come easy but we now can see where we are going.” Said Rhonah Babweetera the head of UGANET’ End violence against women prevention, and team leader of the Sasa Together trainings.
Bundibugyo district has only completed two of the four phases. Babweetera explains that by the end of the program, community members must be able to question the way things are done in their community, and most importantly facilitate the desirable change.