Caption:WHRD Mariam Nakku(right) is facing isolation for the work she does
In the context of strengthening synergies among the WHRDs and ensuring this safety of women defenders during the pandemic and election period, a mission of field solidarity visits took place in March 2021 with Women Human Rights Defenders in Uganda. The WHRDN-U is proud to that through this intervention we kept WHRDs together and safe from various sources of violence that surround them and foster energy of sisters and connect to each other.
The field solidarity visits with women human rights defenders based in rural parts of Uganda aimed to extend sisterhood and feminist solidarity to women defenders in Uganda as way to help strengthen their activism, enhance visibility of their struggles and threats as well as promote regional solidarity. The WHRDN-U jointly with regional focal persons through solidarity visits reached out to more than 25 WHRDs.
Documented or not, we found out through solidarity visits that women defenders go through similar risks and attacks as a result of their work. A few examples below:
WHRDN-U , reached out to Mariam Nakku a WHRD fighting against Gender Based violence and defending children rights to shelter, she’s facing isolation and lack of support from her family because of the work she does as an WHRD.
On Friday 19th February, 2021, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda conducted a half day planning meeting with the heads of thematic working action groups held at the Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda offices. The objective of the meeting was to provide a platform of sharing experiences on the impact of COVID-19 and election period on the work of WHRDs, reflecting on the responsibilities of thematic heads and discuss strategies of mobilizing WHRDs of thematic action working groups.
Ms. Brenda Kugonza appreciated WHRDs for continuing denouncing human rights violations in the face of the difficult times of COVID-19 and concluded elections ‘‘during these times we continued to denounce human rights violations“ she said. She emphasized that WHRDs are advocates of justice and equality.
The WHRDN-U received cases of human rights violation from all thematic action working groups of different regions, WHRDN-U managed to offer support and protection for the safety of the WHRDs whose lives were in danger, one of the serious cases received at the secretariat was acid attack in Gomba, WHRD was a Vitim of Acid attacks her face was disfiguring due to her work of defending rights.
“We face challenges with our male counterparts, the LBQ women are attacked for their identity and how they want to dress” Jay Abang said.
WHRD-U is gradually building its capacity to provide different kinds of support that help to guarantee protection of WHRDs by sharing support offered by WHRD-U to WHRDs, WHRDN-U supported the HOIMA coordinator of Women Living with HIV with legal support –when RDC, summoned her for distributing food to sex workers and thus spreading COVID-19.
Ms. Jenifer Baitwamasa said that referrals that WHRDN-U make are very helpful because the network follows up to ensure that people are supported”.
“When the case is not ours, we refer it and still follow up until the person has been helped” Jay Abang added.
WHRD-U emphasized that thematic focal persons to invite WHRDN-U staff to participate in their activities both in Kampala and upcountry-for networking, sharing best practices thematic focal persons and learning purposes.
Brenda Kugonza asked each thematic working group to identify 2 focal persons per thematic field of work during jointly meeting with thematic focal persons between April and May 2021 and to involve thematic focal persons in WHRDN-U activity implementation or interventions (up- country field trips, policy & advocacy).
Heads of thematic groups shared concerns and problems in supporting WHRDs at risk, this resulted in to general recommendations for members of WHRDN-U which encouraged a safer and a more supportive environment for WHRDs and for effective response to needs of WHRDs.
On the 27th November 2020, a group of Women Human Rights Defenders convened at the Alliance Of Women Advocating for Change offices to commemorate the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders that is celebrated on 29th November every year. The theme for this years commemoration was “In the uncertain times of COVID-19: WHRDN-U calls for the recognition of the essential work of Women Human Rights Defenders.”
Some of the key messages shared by Women Human Rights Defenders as they commemorated the International Women Human Rights Day
💬I am Mary Asili a WHRD supporting survivors of gender based violence from Tororo Mifumi. COVID-19 changed the way we did our work. Access to services by GBV survivors was a challenge, survivors were told not to report cases to police until the lock down was lifted. pic.twitter.com/mWlmA18HSU
Betty from Mbale, working for the rights of LBQTI and sex workers. 💬As a WHRD I was intimidated and feared to continue doing my work. Efforts to enforce curfews and lockdowns resulted into fear by women and girls to go to hospital to seek sexual reproductive health care. pic.twitter.com/651MsbWen3
On 5th November 2020, Oxfam Uganda and Uganda Women’s Network launched the “Enough” campaign at Mestil Hotel aiming to put at an end to the violence against women and girls in Uganda. Rita Aciro, the Executive Director of UWONET during her opening remarks, emphasized the importance of having a society that respects women and girls.
Today 5th Nov 2020, the Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda is humbled to withess the launch of the Enough campaign in Uganda with an aim of ending violence against women and girls that is embedded in cultural social norms. #FlipTheScriptUGpic.twitter.com/hOnEcNh9ij