Amuru District is located in Northern Uganda, approximately 377 kilometres from the capital city, Kampala. The region has been heavily impacted by protracted conflict between Government forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), with communities suffering many deaths, internal displacement, landlessness, and high levels of sexual violence for two decades. In the wake of the conflict, the community in Amuru continues to experience high levels of trauma, which is compounded by more extreme poverty than in other parts of Uganda. An estimated 65% of people in Amuru live on just a dollar a day.
For women in Amuru, the burden of poverty, food insecurity and trauma is intensified by entrenched gender inequality and low levels of awareness of women’s rights in the community. Women have no land inheritance rights, which blocks women from ownership or decision-making over food production and from the right to a secure income. As a result, women in Amuru have no voice over the management of household income and food, or even their own bodies when it comes to family planning.
This has contributed to the rise of a particularly severe culture of gender-based violence in Amuru. ActionAid estimates that approximately 65% of women have experienced violence at least once in their life. The forms of violence range from intimate partner violence, rape, and dispossession of inherited land, and this violence is widely accepted as normal by both women and men. Women and girls are frequently blamed for causing or provoking violence directed at them and, therefore, they often do not report it to authorities or seek other kinds of treatment and support. Where women do have the courage to report, they often have no access to justice and support services due to a lack of government funding.
This project supported women, and their families and communities, to collectively respond to and prevent gender-based violence, and to secure women’s livelihoods. The project included women’s rights awareness-raising activities, including mobile legal aid clinics, segments on radio talk shows, and hosting regular community meetings. Women were supported to access local justice mechanisms and to report incidents of gender-based violence. Women were also trained in small business skills and enterprise management, which enabled women to generate an independent income and reclaim vital decision-making powers in their lives, households and communities.
This project reached 1,075 member of the community with awareness-raising activities covering gender-based violence and women’s land ownership. 625 of those community members were women learning about their own rights. During the period of the project, the number of women reporting their experiences of gender-based violence increased, and 90 cases were resolved by local officials.
The project also provided business training and equipment for 90 women, most of whom reported that the ability to independently generate and control income proved critical to preventing gender-based violence, and freed them to make decisions about savings and how income was spent.