West Nile Women Human Rights Defenders receive training in online and offline security guidelines
The training workshop for WHRDs from West Nile region on off-line and online safety guidelines was conducted on the 16th and 17th February 2023 at the Satellite hotel Nebbi district in West Nile. The workshop was supported by the French Embassy- in Uganda in partnership with Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U). The 2 day workshop consisted of 22 participants from across the West Nile region, involved in the defense of human rights and were trained by a team from the WHRDN-U secretariat.
To this end, the training focused on physical security, personal security, information security, office & home security and digital security. Participants discussed some practical measures some of which they already take to minimize security risks and learned about others that they might not have been aware of yet. Participants committed to use the following measures and deal with specific threats in the future for their security and safety:
- Create and maintain secure passwords to protect sensitive files on your computer, protect computers from malware and hackers, backing information
- Introduce a security registration book for visitors at office
- The different physical and digital strategies for personal and organizational protection of WHRDs.
The workshop used interactive activities to help people understand the information, and take part in discussions. For instance; in role plays participants acted out a situation, in small group discussions. Similarly, participants composed a song to help them focus their attention and to make it easy for them to remember the things they learned.
This training workshop was implemented on the basis of the off-line and on-line safety guidelines of WHRDs launched by the UNWOMEN, UNOHCR and WHRDN-U in 2021. The aim of the workshop was to strengthen the capacity of WHRDs and mitigate the impact of online and offline attacks against WHRDs, provide knowledge on mitigating gender-based attacks, criminalization of their work, as well as physical and personal security management, offer practical strategies for enhancing WHRD’s safety online & offline as well as provide WHRDS with basic safety tools for WHRDs in preventing and responding to attacks against them.
Women Human Rights Defenders undergo capacity building training in online and offline security guidelines
In November 2021, UN-WOMEN, UNOHCR (United Human Rights Office of The High Commissioner) and the WHRDN-U (Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda), published and launched safety guidelines for WHRDs titled “Our Voices, Our Power: Online and Offline Safety and Security guidelines for Women Human Rights Defenders in Uganda”. The report also called for urgent measures to deal with challenges facing WHRDs including equipping WHRDs with capacities and skills to mitigate the impact of online and offline attacks.
Upon this background, WHRDNU with support from the French Embassy of Uganda, conducted workshop to 20 WHRDs from Karamoja region. The training was conducted on 3rd and 4th November,2022, at Seven ranges hotel, in Moroto district. The two day activity was organized to strengthen the capacity of WHRDs and mitigate the impact of online and offline attacks against WHRDs, provide knowledge on preventing and mitigating gender-based attacks, criminalization of their work, as well as physical and personal security management, offer practical strategies for enhancing WHRD’s safety online & offline as well as provide WHRDS with basic safety tools for WHRDs in preventing and responding to attacks against them.
Remarks from WHRDN-U Secretariat
Ms. Brenda Kugonza of the WHRDN-U started by appreciating the French Embassy in Uganda noting that without their financial support, the training would not have happened. She thanked WHRDs for the good work they do to defend rights in Karamoja region and welcomed them to the training. Brenda then gave details on the objectives of training. She said that training workshop is to increase the knowledge and skills of the participants and their organizations the in relation to off-line and on-line safety guidelines. It would facilitate the spread of information, skills, and culture to prevent and respond to attacks, threats and risks both on-line and off-line by WHRDs. Training workshop was an opportunity to strengthen the capacity of Karamoja WHRDs because they had participated in developing the guidelines during a workshop that was conducted by UNWOMEN, UNOHCHR and WHRDN-U .
Remarks from the district representative
Ms. Betty Nakiru, a female police officer working with Moroto District Child and Family Protection Unit, in her remarks appreciated the WHRDN-U for supporting the work of WHRDS in Karamoja region. She urged participants to report to police when attacked for supporting girls and women the community. If also us the police women are attacked for supporting survivors of domestic violence and what about you. she noted that if women defenders are attacked, then the marginalized people suffer. She ended her remarks by urging them to get her contacts.
Role plays. Types of violence against WHRDs
Joan Namulondo of WHRDN-U, employed the role play methodology f in this session to further help participants understand the concepts. Four (4) scenarios (See below) were role played by participants to identify the online and offline, attacks, and gender-based attacks faced by WHRDs in their region. Reflections and learnings scenarios included:
- Human rights work is risky and the need to prepare to deal with un expected risks, threats, and security incidents.
- Human Rights activities cannot be successful without security measures.
- WHRDs in Karamoja, have suffered the same risks such as those roles played
Digital and social media security management
The purpose of the session was to learn about Digital and Online Security Management. The learnings were imparted when participants mentioned that digital security in relation to smart phones, mobile phones, internet café, phones, cameras, modems, flash discs, emails, watsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok etc. Through a brain storming session, participants learnt some basic computer security measures such as to install antivirus to protect their computers from malware and hackers, to create and maintain secure passwords, have strong different passwords for different services and phone security measures such as the safest mobile phone is a cheap, unregistered, don’t save sensitive information on your phone, make sure all your information is deleted on your mobile before selling it or having it repaired, destroy unusable phones and old sim cards before discarding them.
WHRDNU commemorates International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders 2022
29th November of every year is a momentous commemoration of the diligent work of Women Human Rights Defenders. This year’s commemoration was no exception to the previous years with Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) appreciating the diligent and selfless contribution of WHRDs to ensure rights of all are respected.
WHRDNU Executive Director, Brenda Kugonza shares message in commemoration of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day 2022.
In an interview with Civil Rights Defenders, Brenda Kugonza shares the discrimination, harassment, and gender-based violence WHRDs in Uganda still face.
TODAY WE ACKNOWLEDGE THE BRAVE WOMEN FIGHTING FOR (Y)OUR HUMAN RIGHTS ✊ ♀️
They face discrimination, harassment, and gender-based violence. Still – or maybe because of that – they continue to fight.#InternationalWHRDsDay @WHRDNU pic.twitter.com/QXaHejAubo
— Civil Rights Defenders (@crdefenders) November 29, 2022
In a sit down with International Service For Human Rights, Brenda Kugonza speaks on how International advocacy is a tool to advance our human rights work, but it is also a tool that will support us in consolidating our protection as women human rights defenders.
Watch full video below.
Happy International Women Human Rights Defenders Day 2022!
The Annual General Meeting 2022
On 18th November 2022, WHRDN-U held their 3nd Annual General Meeting at Eureka Hotel, Kampala. The meeting was graced with presence of forty three network members and attracted a discussion on what the network has achieved in the year 2022. During the meeting, the Board members presented the following reports to the network members.
- The Annual Progress Report 2021
- The Audited Reports
- The Previous Minutes
It was also an opportunity for interaction and networking among the staff WHRDN-U, the board members and the WHRDS.
Photos of the Annual General Meeting 2022
WHRDNU launches Lango Regional Network
Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) conducted a two days training to launch the Lango Regional Network for Women Human Rights Defenders from October 10th-11th2022 at Hotel Tasha in Lira district.
Session one: understanding each other as an activist River of Life
Participants discussed their journeys as human rights defenders explaining how they have not been straight with ups and downs, some calm moments but also moments to cherish/opportunities
- Akiria Patricia shared that networking through relationships like friends enabled her raise funds to fulfill her passion to fight for the rights of sex workers and child abuse, but the community has constantly discriminated against her due to ignorance.
- Abalo Grace said, she identified a child who as denied the right to food, then she reported a case to police, that she has also faced some challenges like some security officers not supporting cases she reports.
- Barbra Apio shared on it is not easy to carry out activism work in Apac especially defending LBQT rights, she has often been referred to as one promoting immorality and has been arrested but managed to continue because of the passion for the work.
Understanding the nature of threats/challenges facing WHRDs
Different experiences on the threats/challenges were presented based on the different Thematic Action Groups
Four role-plays were acted to emphasize on who a defender is and the nature of threats received by the WHRDs in order to request for protection support
WHRDNU launches Busoga Regional Network
Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) conducted a two days training at Hotel Paradise, Jinja from October 4th-5th 2022 to increase awareness among WHRDs on their rights and safety. The twenty WHRDs were from different TAGs which included; nine GBV activists, two from Disability rights, one LBQT, four female journalists, three from Land, Environment, Oil and Extractives and one of social justice.
River of Life
Participants discussed their human rights defending journeys explaining how they have not been straight in terms of the challenges received but also some calm moments with achievements. Below shows some of the WHRDs’ journeys of defending human rights.
Brenda Kugonza continued to emphasize on how the WHRDN-U works to promote the safety and security of the WHRDs.
Participants had a discussion on the importance of networking, some of the key issues from group 1 and 2 were;
Mariam Namusabi a GBV activist from Jinja presented for group 1 said, that it promotes sisterhood of taking care of one another, supporting one another in case of attack, sharing information and knowledge.
Ms. Sarah Namaggo from Kaliro district working on disability rights from group 2 presented on some of the following; in order to enjoy activism work through learning tips like, eat good, look good and be happy, carry out exchange visits.
WHRDNU launches Bukedi Regional Network
Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) conducted a two days training to launch the Bukedi Regional Network for Women Human Rights Defenders. The training comprised of twenty one WHRDS and five staff from the secretariat was held from 7th- 8th October at Hotel Pretoria in Mbale district.
Session one: Understanding each other as an activist River of Life
Participants discussed their human rights defending journeys explaining how they have not been straight, with ups and downs, some calm moments.
- “Ayo Juliet a GBV activist from Tororo human rights rehabilitation center shared on how she started activism work after 22 acres of land were grabbed away from her by the husband who later divorced with her, her work has attracted the media, which has displayed it and thus attracting funding sources to continue fighting against GBV”.
- “Ms. Okello Justin a GBV activist from Tororo says, she begun by reporting defilement cases of children to police perpetrated by head teachers and the teachers in various around Tororo. MIFUMI and Plan International begun facilitating her with money to continue with the work and later different politicians continued to support her with the work up to date”
Session 2: Understanding the WHRDN-U illustration
Participants carried out a demonstration on how the WHRDN-U works to protect WHRDs from violations, threats, attacks.
Session 3: Understanding the nature of threats/challenges facing WHRDs
Different experiences on the threats/challenges were presented based on the different Thematic Action Groups where each participant belonged.
WHRDS from Amudat undergo a 3 day self-care and wellness workshop
The Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) conducted a three days protection and rapid response self care and wellness workshop for eight women human rights defenders from Amudat district, Karamoja region. This was organized for them to relax and have time to enjoy and forget their risky human rights work like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), supporting victims of torture and child protection.
Dr. Birungi Lynda’s medical counselling session
Dr Birungi Lynda, a medical councilor encouraged the WHRDs to always love themselves fast before loving others citing that “If you don’t love yourself you cannot love others, we must be selfish to ourselves, if you do feel like you want to look smart go ahead and put on your nice dress”. She also emphasized to the WHRDS to create social groups where they can save their money. She further encouraged the WHRDS to always do things that make them happy “Some of us have intimate partners who are difficult in our marriages, friends that don’t treat us well and neighbors who are difficult, but let us look at those things that make us happy and start taking care of our selves’’.
She advised the WHRDS to care of their bodies by going for medical check-ups and also have a balanced diet ,”For example when you wake up in the morning ,do your millet and take millet porridge because it has a lot of nutrients like iron .Go for medical check-up if a group of health workers have come in your community please go for breast examination or cervical cancer screening because sometimes if you don’t go for medical check-ups and you wait for the pain to come then that indicates that it is too late to save yourself’’. Furthermore, Dr Birungi emphasized that as women human rights defenders they have a right to decide the number of children they want and also to choose to have children or not because some women are not giving birth to children.
Counsellor Ruth Matoya Kemunto session
Counsellor Ruth stated that women human rights defenders should learn to appreciate themselves for the human rights work they do in their communities because if they don’t know one will appreciate the work that you as women human rights defenders. And encouraged the words to always surround themselves with positive people with positive ideas.
The counsellor encouraged the WHRDS to take care of bodies, mind heart and soul by doing activities that bring joy and happiness, “When you feel good it is the medicine of the heart because no one will give you happiness’’ because as WHRDS they do a lot of work that always brings them stress, anxiety and sadness.
She advised the WHRDS to;
- Buy for yourself sweets
- Have fun go for parties and dance
- Align yourself with positive people in your communities and eliminate negative people in your life.
- Go for a walk and do exercise to keep your bodies strong and health.
- Drink at least two glasses of water in the morning and before sleeping often because it is helps on ulcers and pressure.
- Eat well balanced deity like vegetables, fruits and water.
Women Human Rights Defenders speak out after the self care and wellness workshop.
Women human rights defenders implement self care and wellness in Amudat.
As result of the self-care activity the women human rights defenders from Amudat implemented their own a self-care and wellness activity in Amudat.
Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda participates in the ACHPR 73rd Ordinary Session
From 17th – 20th October2022, The International Service for Human Rights Defenders, supported the Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda to participate in the NGO Forum of the 73rd session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the opening of the ACHPR 73 ordinary session. The two important events took place in the Gambia, West –Africa.
We thank the ISHR for responding to calls by women human rights defenders to engage with the ACHPR special procedures mechanisms to raise awareness about the gendered impact of restrictive environments on WHRDs.
On 18th October, the second day of the NGO Forum ahead of the 73 session the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Civil society discussed issues around limiting press freedoms, stifling citizen efforts to hold their governments to account and gender-based violence.
The Special Rapporteur mechanism on human rights defenders, Hon. Remy Ngoy Lumbu in Africa commended states parties of Cote d’lvoire, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for having adopted laws for protection of human rights defenders and called upon other state parties to emulate the state parties with laws to protect human rights defenders. He added that states should establish protection mechanisms for human rights defenders.
#ForumAchpr73 @PorokwaE calls out the solidarity of civil society in Africa to talk more about the critical situation of indigenous people in #Tanzania. He also emphasizes the need for the @achpr_cadhp to take cases of torture and eviction of these communities more seriously pic.twitter.com/C3sCaGMvpr
— Adélaïde ETONG (@Adelaide_ISHR) October 18, 2022
Engagement with the Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women In Africa
WHRDN-U had the privilege to engage with the Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women In Africa, Ms.Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie, who we called upon to work with the Special Rapporteur for human rights to develop a stronger gender perspective to protect WHRDs and to offer technical assistance in the development of the HRD protection bill.