KAMPALA, Uganda – It is a sad reality that women and girls in several communities continue to face discrimination, violence, and a lack of equal opportunities that threaten their lives and rob them of their potential at a rate greater than men.
A story is told of 14-year-old Mariama who had been forced to flee her home in the Central African Republic because armed groups were threatening her village. When she arrived with her family at a refugee camp, all that was meant to be safe was not.
Mariama would want to bathe, but she’d heard that women have been attacked in the wash houses because there were no locks on the doors. She would want to see a doctor about the sickness she’d had since fleeing her village, but the health center would close before she finished her daily chores. She would want to go to school to follow her dreams of becoming a doctor, but her brother was sent instead while she stayed behind to look after her younger siblings. She would want to choose when and whom she married, but her family instead considered a proposal from an older man who lives in the camp.
The story of Mariama is not different from several stories of women and girls in Uganda, not only in refugee settlements but also in homes where the children’s innocence is robbed at a tender age.
Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/Aids is doing more than just imagining a different future for Mariama and countless others. It is focusing resources and capabilities to help break down each of the barriers faced by women and girls in different communities across the country.
“We know that education is essential to women’s futures, but there is not enough of a focus on keeping girls in school. We also know that cash relief can provide women with choice and dignity, and help ease tensions over money and reduce violence at home,” says Rhonah Babweteera, Head, Violence Against Women Prevention, UGANET.
“There’s overwhelming evidence that when women and girls are empowered to reach their potential, they can be powerful agents of positive change—but they aren’t always listened to or recognized as leaders who can help their families and communities emerge from crisis,” Babweteera adds.
UGANET is working to ensure gender equality is a cornerstone of all programs, so that women see real improvements in their safety, health, education, economic wellbeing, and their ability to influence decisions that affect their lives. In order to empower as many women as possible to create real change in their lives, the organization rigorously measures the impact of their programs and shares what they have learned with partners and other organizations working to empower communities for a better livelihood.