Strategic use of ICTs breaks the silence on violence against women and girls in Busia District.
Like in many communities of Uganda wife battering, marital rape, denial of love, defilement, grabbing of widows properties, early and forced marriage, forced prostitution, defilement, sexual harassment, widow inheritance and other forms of violence against women (VAW) seem to be normal practices in the rural communities of Busia District.
Women and girls suffer quietly because according to the Basamia Bagwe culture the women and girls are supposed to be submissive to men regardless of how the men treat them. Cases of violence against women are not reported since in most of these communities men are said to be more important and powerful than women and that ‘they have a right and responsibility to discipline and control women’.
The VAW and ICT project implemented by Hope Case Foundation in partnership with Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and with Support from the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has restored hope and empowered women and girls in the rural communities of Bulumbi and Masafu sub- counties to break the silence and speak out against violence. Equipped with ICT skills in using cell phones, social networking tools such as face book, blogging and twitter women and girls have been empowered to speak out and report cases in their communities. Beatrice one of the trained project beneficiaries from Kubo parish, remarks, “I do not need to walk or ride my bicycle all the way to Busia Town to report a case to the Probation Office or the Family and Child Protection Unit; all I have to do is pick a cell phone and make a call or send SMS to Hope Case Foundation and my problem will be handled or followed up with”.
Un heard of before many of the trained girls and women are using social networking tools such as face book, blogging and twitter to get and share information on VAW and other issues by ‘a mere click of a Mouse’. Women trained in VAW prevention have since become change agents in their communities besides reporting cases using mobile phones provided by the project.
Through the project Hope Case Foundation has trained 50 women and 20 girls on using ICTs to combat VAW, reached out to 461 people through awareness campaigns; 202 females, 199 males, and 120 girls, and also handled cases of VAW in collaboration with the Probation Office. Examples of cases handled by the project include;
1) Family neglect
4) Child abuse
5) Property grabbing
Five cases of family neglect were reported and referred to the Probation Officer, three cases of defilement, one case of child abuse and one divorce case where the husband was summoned to the probation office and the couple helped to equally share their property and have access to the children. One case of land grabbing was also reported and referred to the probation officer.
Collaboration and community sensitization meetings on VAW have had great impact in the project area of Bulumbi and Masafu sub-counties and women/girls appreciate the help and empowerment given to them. Though not directly targeted, men in these communities have requested that they should be included as direct beneficiaries because their wives violet them too.