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Violence against Women and Girls Prevention and Support (VAWPS)

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) remains the most widespread human rights violation worldwide, with 1 in 3 women experiencing physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.  Harmful social norms, inequality, and intersecting forms of discrimination make progress on ending VAWG incredibly challenging. Evidence shows that marginalized women and girls, including women living with disabilities, refugees, and indigenous women, amongst others, are at disproportionate risk from violence and face greater barriers in accessing services and justice.  

In September 2015, the Government of Uganda committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, one of whose targets (Target 5.2.1) aims at eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls by instituting a raft of measures in a quest to end VAWG, including Policies, Strategies and inclusion in successive National Development Plans. However, the major obstacle often lies in their implementation. Also, significant gaps exist in government service provision to meet the specific needs of girls and young women at risk and survivors of VAWG especially in South western Uganda where young girls and women experience daily acts of violence at an alarming rate in homes, schools, and communities.

Also, traditional attitudes and behaviours around gender perpetuate the cycle of VAWG and the social stigma attached to VAWG and HIV and prevent women and girls, as well as other community members, from disclosing abuse and accessing response services. Domestic beatings, physical and sexual abuse, and rape or defilement are daily realities that are robbing young girls and women of their rights and putting their lives at risk. Many girls and young women are school dropouts due to low incomes from parents, guardians and due to the HIV prevalence making some widows and orphans. The lack of responsible parental care and economic empowerment opportunities are some of the factors that render girls and young women susceptible to Commercial Sexual Exploitation, forced and early marriages in addition to lack of sustainable opportunities for education as most victims have not gone beyond primary level due to their inability to meet the high tuition expenses and other related costs. The lack of options for a girl living in a household means she becomes a burden, a factor contributing to forced early marriage and commercial sexual exploitation. A woman who is poor and has little options for attaining financial security, or has no access to natural resources, including ownership of land, can be stuck in a life of dependence and at increased risk of gender-based violence

Our Theory of Change towards VAWPS

GWEFODE’s position on Violence against Women and girls including domestic violence and abuse is guided by our theory of change and key pathways which addresses VAWG from a global perspective while addressing the local context and applying local solutions. We recognise that for a sustainable impact to occur, action against violence is required simultaneously at all levels of key pathways to change including individual support, supporting and protecting women through women-centred services, lobbying district leaders and bringing about legislative change. Through this process women and girls have to remain at the centre of all action. At GWEFODE we believe that these local efforts have to be linked to national, regional and international action to address the global problem of violence against women.                                                 

The Theory of Change recognises the broader societal context in Uganda within which efforts to tackle violence against women take place. This includes high poverty levels; strong adherence to traditional cultural practices; dependence; negative and positive attitudes to women and girls; and an acknowledgement that disrupting gender power has both intended and unintended consequences and can create a backlash from those resistant to change.

In Uganda, as in other contexts, gendered norms and values about women and men uphold Violence against Women which is commonly viewed as a normal aspect of relations between women and men. Whilst physical forms of violence can often remain hidden, economic abuse is especially prevalent and men have authority over women’s income. Cultural customs and traditional practices, such as bride price, polygamy and female genital cutting, are strongly embedded in society and within rural communities and hinder equality. Such cultural practices also underpin entrenched myths/beliefs about the role and behaviour of women whereby women are expected to be submissive and unquestioning of male authority. Sayings such as ‘women cannot own property as they are themselves property’ and ‘children do not belong to the woman’ are common and serve to keep women oppressed. Women in power often reinforce male authority and the negation of women’s rights as well as religious and cultural beliefs about the ‘ideal woman’ and ideals of womanhood.

Individual Protection

The first level of change we tackle operates on an individual and intimate level through individual protection. GWEFODE protects women by holding and escorting survivors to the Police, local councillors, and to courts including local council courts and courts of law. Women are also handheld during referrals to hospitals and clinics and other local authorities. The personalised advocacy ensures women are not intimidated by law enforcement officers and receive a positive experience and outcome of the case. 

Hand Holding also serves to empower women to exercise the right to be free of violence. When survivors are held by hand to seek justice, their rights emerge from the supportive encounters with police, magistrates and other judiciaries. Domestic violence survivors come to take on rights consciousness. Survivors begin to define themselves as rights holders and to see their experience as a human rights abuse and their stories as narratives of human rights abuse.

Setting up User-Friendly Women Centred Services to offer Support and Protection

The second level of change we tackle operates on an individual and intimate level through setting up user-friendly survivor focused services to offer support and protection. Supporting women and girls through women-centred interventions is crucial to addressing violence against women, enabling women and girls to be safe and to rebuild their lives in places of safety. Ensuring positive responses from societal institutions, where women and girls are informed about their rights, is key to their long term empowerment. Raising awareness within communities and families to challenge violence and to change attitudes to women and girls is an important dimension of tackling violence against women. The development of legislative and policy frameworks is a crucial underpinning of addressing violence against women and girls and demonstrates government and policy commitment to the issue.

At GWEFODE our survivor cantered services are run by women for women and prioritise women’s safety and empowerment, helping them to rebuild their lives after violence and abuse which is crucial to supporting survivors. The provision of safe spaces and the creation of support networks, accompanied by skills training and economic empowerment, are key in the long term to ensure that survivors not only survive but also thrive.

Lobbying District Leaders

Local political, community and religious leaders are all key stakeholders with a potential role in dealing with violence against women and girls. They are often the first point of call for survivors. That such leaders are sensitised to the issue of violence against women and girls is a necessary prerequisite to positive responses to survivors.

Positive agency and professional responses are a crucial dimension of ensuring survivors get an appropriate and effective response. Given the complex nature of violence against women and girls, co-ordinated and integrated responses require effective collaboration and partnership across all key sectors, including the police, social work, probation, justice and health this is why it is important to involve all institutions to contribute to the movement of change.

Advocating for Legislative Change

The Theory of Change recognises that the state has a critical role to play in tackling violence against women and girls through the development and implementation of legislation and policy. Developing a positive legal and policy framework is a necessary first step but this also must be accompanied by well-resourced support structures to ensure effective implementation.

Commitment to Quality

GWEFODE has worked for over 14 years to support women and children experiencing domestic violence. Over the years we have learnt to comprehend the depth and complexity in the needs of both women and their children, and so our team have built in-depth knowledge regarding the dynamics of domestic violence and women’s broader experiences of gender based violence.

As a women’s organisation, we are committed to taking the needs of Women and children at the centre of our programs, and it is from these needs that we base our every decision. At GWEFODE, we:

  1. Believe in Women and Children’s experience of Abuse, Prioritise Women and Children’s Safety and Confidentiality, Support empowerment and self-help so women can regain control of their lives, Challenge Discrimination and Promote Equal Opportunities, Encourage and Promote Staff Team Spirit and Personal Growth in order to meet the needs of women.
  2. Adopt a woman centred approach which makes it essential that staff understand women’s rights and also ensures the activities are well targeted with primary accountability to women and girls. It also means that the best interest of women and girls are safeguarded, their participation assured, and their confidence built throughout the process of accessing justice. In line with this, GWEFODE works to create community “champions” or “Role Models” from among the women supported together with supportive individuals in the community to build “safety nets” around survivors.
  3. Apply the community based approach which involves community wide engagement to make the work “home grown”, thereby building local ownership and making the community members the “best friends” and “critiques” of the initiative.
  1. Build strategic partnerships and alliances to increase access to services and counter impunity. This involves working more closely with individuals and duty bearers with a good conscience and with key protection agencies which include justice delivery agencies such as the police and courts, as well as the local government agencies both technical and political, as well as Civil Society groups. Strategic partnerships will be strengthened through joint meetings, cross referrals, and joint monitoring, case reviews and protection committee meetings, sharing information and budgets and also through conducting joint outreaches.
  1. Believe that justice to one person is as important as justice to the general community and that’s why GWEFODE has adopted the holding of survivors going through support services, as the best way to build confidence and empower the individual woman, and the best way to spot and promote talented community volunteers turning them into “champions”.
  2. Bring about Innovative changes by scaling the multimedia communication and advocacy on bride price and polygamy to effect change of attitude on a wider scale. To this end, information stored in the electronic M&E system will be channelled to influence public opinion through a multimedia approach. Stakeholders for this innovation will include the media houses that will air VAWG including Domestic Violence programs and messages for public education and IT companies who will support the integration of the electronic system.

GWEFODE believes that there is a link between violence against women and financial dependence since violence results from the interaction of related social and contextual factors such as inequitable gender norms, economic conditions, and weak implementation of legislation; as well as personal factors such as power issues and behavioural norms. Poverty and dependence are factors that aggravate violence by limiting both access to help, and choices for survivors who may not afford to pay for required services or will have to return to and depend on the abuser after receiving assistance.  

To this end, GWEFODE

  • Empowers communities to challenge the social and cultural attitudes, perceptions, beliefs and behaviours that perpetuate Violence against Women (VAWG) including Adolescent girls and young women.                                                                                   

  • Works with communities and schools to address violence against marginalized women and girls and those experiencing intersecting forms of discrimination and strengthen response against sexual and gender based violence;                                                       

  • Mobilizes resources to support survivors of violence access free medical treatment and psychosocial support;                                 

  • Empowers domestic and sexual violence survivors with sustainable livelihood options and legal support mechanisms for them to respond appropriately to human rights violations exposed to them

  • Implements interventions to achieve personal and economic empowerment at the individual level such as structured training of girls and young women on life-skills, rights, Village Savings and Lending Association, economic and vocational skills and provision of business incubation support; Economic empowerment of Community level gender transformative social behavioural change through use of intensive community engagement and sensitization activities; Advocacy and training of stakeholders and service providers AGYW who experience or at risk of VAWG. Through offering women with the financial opportunity to start businesses through the Village Savings and Lending Association Allowance, we ultimately set them up for a future of success and freedom to escape abusive relationships