WHRDS IN LAND, ENVIRONMENTAL, OIL AND EXTRACTIVES CONCERNED ABOUT RISKS IN THEIR WORK.

On 19th/01/2022, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) held a workshop at Arch Apartments for 15 land, environmental, oil and extractives WHRDS who despite of their significant role in defending land rights and resources have continued to face violations and attacks from the society because of their work.

The workshop aimed at raising the visibility on the threats faced by land, environmental, oil and extractives WHRDS, share best practices for the protection and encouraging solidarity in their work.

Ms. Asigwire Bonita from WHRDN-U told participants that human rights defenders work is a journey which she related to that of a river. “There is a point when the river is high, calm or under pressure, it is finds huddles, hitting the walls. You even hear people say “Leero Omugga Gutabusse” but finally the river finds away.” She mentioned these while leading a session on understanding the life of being a defender which she called “the River of Life”.

While reflecting on their work, some of the participants share that; “I started as a defender fighting GBV in Kasese district, Things got intense when the men started threatening me saying that I should leave their families alone. I later started defending the rights of women in the mining sector. The community accused me of seeking for public recognition. In the course of my work, women in mining realized that I was doing right and they supported me.” Halima Nasaka.

“Our house and land was grabbed, we were helpless and had no one to fight for us, when I grew up, I chose to defend the rights of the people whose land has been grabbed. One day, a woman was thrown out of the house with her seven children, I reported their case to police. Her husband, threatened to kill me for interfering in their matters. However, I kept on advocating the the woman’s rights until she got equal share with the husband.” Amina Shahir.

Bonita Asigwire leading a session on river of life.

Ms. Rukanya Beatrice a WHRD from Hoima district facilitated a session on risks and attacks land, environmental, oils and extractives WHRDS face. She shared that, women defending land, environment and resources are often excluded from land ownership, community negotiations and decisions about the future of their lands. When they engage in activism, they are often criticized for neglecting their domestic duties and endangering their families.

In addition she stated that, in some cases, perpetrators deliberately target women in communities as a strategy of intimidation and fear. Some WHRDs of APPA land conflict in Acholi sub regions were killed & arrested criminal charges for her work in defending land and environmental rights. Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) confronting extractive industries in Uganda are regularly harassed and threatened. They face violence, intimidation and threats and also members of their families. She emphasized that although they face these risks, there is a need always to speak out so that people can understand these challenges in order to be protected.

Gladys Oyenboth, one of the participants shared that she was threated to be raped and killed when she defended a mother of 8 children to attain equal shares with from her ex husband in Bullisa. She called journalists who wrote a story about that saga, she is scared of her life and her family members.

Mawa Jackline also expressed that because she defends women to access their property, society has misconceptions that women should not own properties for example land. This has made her human rights work hard.

 

Gladys Oyenboth (on the right) and Mawa Jackeline (on the left) sharing their lived experiences on the risks and attacks they have faced.

Ms. Rukanya Beatrice further encouraged participants that amidst their challenges and threats that come along with their work, WHRDS need to take care of themselves. She said these while leading participants into a 30 days selfcare challenge that involved what they must do to get relief and enjoy their activism work. She emphasized the importance of selfcare saying that, human rights work is challenging and many defenders have continued to work in a trauma-based environment, violent, and fatigue. She encouraged them to take on this challenge in order get relief from stress.

Ms. Asingwire Bonita also called upon participants to seek support when they are attacked by reporting cases to the secretariat. “If we don’t report we won’t be supported”. She encouraged participants to always call WHRDN-U helpline when they face gender-based attacks. She further took participants through how to fill in the incident forms.

By the end of the workshop, female journalists got inspired and recognized risks, attacks, and the need to take care of themselves before others. They also promised to recommend at least two members to the secretariat and reach out to their colleagues in case they are attacked.

Bonita taking participants through how to fill in the incident forms.

 

DISABILTY WHRDS SPEAK OUT AGAINST INCREASING VIOLENCE CASES IN THEIR WORK

On 18/01/2022 Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) organized a workshop for 15 disability Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDS) at Arch Apartments in Kampala, who continue to face stigmatization, discrimination, torture and sexual violence because of their disability and human rights work.

The workshop aimed at raising the visibility of conditions violations faced by disability WHRDS, share best practices for the protection and encouraging solidarity among WHRDs.

The workshop began with a reflection on a journey of being a defender led by Ms. Asingwire Bonita from WHRDN-U, which she termed the “River of life”. Bonita explained different ways how a river flows. “The river flows calmly, and this is when people want to sit by the banks and feel the breeze. Some seasons of a river come with waves, at this point, no one wants to come or sail on it. A river sometimes flows on narrow paths, this causes it to hit the banks. But finally, if find it way and flows. She further asked participants to relate their journey as women human rights defenders to that of a river.

Angella a WHRD from Arua mentioned that she started her journey after she received funding of  one million shillings from NOWUDU. Members in her organization attacked her saying she ate the money. She almost gave up but continued to do the right thing until members understood and elected her as their leader. Chelain Dorcus a WHRD fighting against FGM shared girls and women came to her home during the time of circumcision. Her husband ran way saying he can’t support children that are not his. People in the community told her  that she is a cursed woman went on to contest for counselor position which she won.

Bonita Asingwire leading a session on river of life.

While leading a session on the risks and attacks, Ms. Kabagenyi Peluce, shared some of the threats disability WHRDS face. We Women with Disability human rights defenders, we face double oppression, disability-based discrimination, and gender-based discrimination. We face stigma associated with being disabled, a woman and WHRDS. This has significant impact upon our lives as Women with Disability human rights defenders. Because of our human rights work, some perpetrators use aids to physically hurt us and use our aids to sexually assault us. This is intended to silence us. “I was following up a case of a girl who was raped by a soldier at Bwera boarder, when I showed up at the police, one police man said ‘now you with one hand what can you do”. Peluce explained.

She emphasized that although they face these risks, there is a need always to speak out so that people can understand challenges disability WHRDS face because safety is crucial for WHRDS.

Joy Rufunda one of the participants share that disability WHRDs who are visually impaired are bullied when they go to report cases to the police. Policemen tell us, ‘How will you recognize a person? How can we catch the person’. We do not get justice in most cases.

Peluce Kabagenyi facilitating on the risks and attacks disability WHRDS face.

The workshop also involved a session on selfcare and wellness where Bonita Asingwire led participants into the 30 days selfcare challenge that involved what they must do to get relief and enjoy their activism work. She emphasized the importance of selfcare saying that, human rights work is challenging and many defenders have continued to work in a trauma-based environment, violent, and fatigue. She encouraged them to take on this challenge in order get relief from stress that is likely to come along with their work.

Bonita Asingwire taking participants through selfcare session during the workshop

The workshop ended with female youth defenders sharing their lessons learnt with the secretariat as most of them learnt how to document and report cases, the types on violence they face and the importance of selfcare in their work. Youths also committed to recommend at least two members to the secretariat and reach out to fellow youth defenders in case they are attacked.

Participants sharing their lessons learnt

 

FEMALE JOURNALISTS CONCERNED ABOUT THE INCREASING THREATS AGANST THEIR WORK.

15 female journalists from across Uganda were trained on the protection measures at a workshop organized by Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) on 15th/01/2022 at Arch Apartments in Kampala.

The workshop aimed at raising the visibility on violations faced by female youth defenders, share best practices for the protection and encouraging solidarity among female journalists.

The workshop was facilitated by Ms. Amviko Sarah, a journalist at Radio Pacis in Arua district and Ms. Kyomukama Edwig from WHRDN-U kicked off with an energizing session called “The river of life”. Edwig told participants that being a female journalist working as frontline defenders is a journey which she related to that of a river. “There is a point when the river is high, calm or under pressure, it is finds huddles, hitting the walls. You even hear people say “Leero Omugga Gutabusse” but finally the river finds a way.” She explained.

Reflecting on her work, Christine Kyampaire, one of the participants shared her journey that she started her career well until when she begun to face challenges from duty bearers and politicians but with the solidarity from fellow journalists, she sustained. Kasigwa Rose also shared her journey of journalism started with a lot of vigor and energy, however along the way she encountered challenges like less pay. Because of her efforts, she got recognized and put on payroll.

Edwig Kyomukama leading a session on the river of life.

 

Rose Kasigwa (on the right, in a yellow T-shirt) and Christine Kyampaire (on the left) sharing their journey as defenders.

While facilitating on the violations faced by WHRDS, Sarah Amviko explained to the participants that female journalists face risks and attacks similar to those of their male counterparts, but encounter additional risks and attacks such as sexual harassment, non-recognition, marginalization, body shaming, and sexuality baiting among others. These threats and attacks are imposed to them based on their sexuality, gender stereotypes and cultural norms.

Sarah added that, in some societies, women are often reduced to their roles as mothers, daughters and caregivers rather than seen as legitimate political and economic actors in all spheres of society. Female journalists are regarded as ‘bad mothers, difficult women, loud/rumor mongers, or prostitutes.’ She emphasized that although they face these risks, there is a need always to speak out so that people can understand these challenges in order to be protected. Participants also revealed that they faced some of these risks.

Female journalists face censorship and restricted to reporting some information. In Luweero, journalists were burned to reporting and publishing issues related to land grabbing. Said Brenda Kugonza from WHRDN-U.

I was threatened by the community after reporting a story about mismanagement of hospital ambulances in Arua district. They sent threatening messages like; ‘We know you, we know where you stay, We are coming for you’. Said Sangi Mara from Next media.

When I got a husband, he told me to leave journalism work and he starts a business for me. Said Kajumba Goretti.

During COVID 19, I was the only journalist permitted to move freely, So I could leave work late, one day I was about to be raped. I called my bosses and informed them but they did not care, I couldn’t quit my job because I needed it. Said Masika Joy.

My fellow female journalist lost her job after she had taken her maternity leave. As soon as she left, a male journalist was recruited. Said Ajok Flavia.

 

Ms. Amviko Sarah taking lead in the understanding risks and attacks WHRDS face.

The workshop also involved a session on selfcare and wellness where Edwig Kyomukama led participants into the 30 days selfcare challenge that involved what they must do to get relief and enjoy their activism work. She emphasized the importance of selfcare saying that, human rights work is challenging and many defenders have continued to work in a trauma-based environment, violent, and fatigue. She encouraged them to take on this challenge in order get relief from stress that is likely to come along with journalism work.

Ms. Kyomukama Edwig facilitates a selfcare session.

Ms. Asingwire Bonitah from WHRDN-U also encouraged female journalists to seek support by reporting cases of violence to the secretariat. “If we don’t report we won’t be supported”. She encouraged participants to always call WHRDN-U helpline when they face gender-based attacks. She further took participants through how to fill in the incident forms.

By the end of the workshop, female journalists got inspired and recognized risks, attacks, and the need to take care of themselves before others. They also promised to recommend at least two members to the secretariat and reach out to their colleagues in case they are attacked.

LBQ AND FEMALE SEX WORKERS EXPRESS CONCERNS OVER VIOLATIONS OF THEIR RIGHTS.

LBQ and sex workers defenders expressed concerns of arrests, sexual assaults, stigmatization, defamation, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation, gender and expression. This was revealed in a workshop of 15 LBQ and female sex workers defenders organized by Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) on 14th/01/2022 at Arch Apartments in Kampala.

The aim of the workshop was to raise the visibility on violations faced by LBQ and female sex worker Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDS), share best practices for the protection and encouraging solidarity among WHRDS.

The workshop was facilitated by Wanyeze Carol from Queer Women Leaders supported by Bonita Asinwire from WHRDN-U. Bonita began with a session on a reflection on being a defender which she called the “River Of Life” where WHRDS shared their journeys of being defenders.

Bonita taking participants through river of life session.

Grace Kabayaga from Empowered at Dusk Women Association shared that she started her activism work in 2006 when she received funds from different donors. After two years, donors stopped funding the organization and it collapsed. Women in her organization were raped, arrested and accused of promoting prostitution by the police. They later teamed up with Akina Mama Wa Africa which supported them to receive new funds from a new donor in 2018.

Kirsteen Sebbabi from Queer women leaders started her journey of being a LBQ activist excitingly. In the course of her journey, she started clashing with people who did not believe in defending the rights of the LBQ. She thought of giving up, but later she learnt how to fight her battles and stand for their rights.

Grace Kabagaya (on the right) and Kirsteen Sebabi (on the left, resting on mat) sharing their live experiences during the workshop.

Carol Wanyeze led participants through risks and attacks they face as WHRDS and clarified that, the risks are based on their identities as lesbian, bisexual women, queer or transgender men, and also their work as persons defending the rights of LBQ’s. Many sex workers defenders are arrested, sexually assaulted, accused of human trafficking, criminalized and not allowed to register their organizations among others. She emphasized that although they face these risks, there is a need always to speak out so that people can understand these challenges in order to be protected. Participants also revealed that they faced some of these risks.

Mimuna Keko, a sex worker from Werain in Arua district mentioned that she requested to register her organization but it is now a year since she received any feedback.

Grace Kabayaga also expressed that she mobilized health workers to provide medical services to sex workers in one of the hot spots in Kawempe. They were unfortunately attacked, threatened and accused of promoting prostitution and homosexuality by the police.

Shankx from Rella Women’s Foundation mentioned that, in their shelter, unknown people wrote pieces of paper with threatening messages and threw them at their gate. One day the police raided them and tried to undress them saying that they want to check whether they are women. They called their lawyer who negotiated with the police and they relocated.

Carol Wanyeze facilitating on risks, attacks and challenges LBQ and female sex workers face.

Carol further encouraged participants to report cases to the secretariat so that they can be supported. She also emphasized the importance of self-care. “As WHRDS who work on issues of human rights, we spend most of our time taking care of others and forget to take care of ourselves. When we don’t take care of ourselves well, and continue to work with in a trauma-based environment, violent, and fatigue, we will start to feel so tired, and give up.” Carol mentioned these while leading participants into a 30-day selfcare challenge that involved what WHRDS must do to get relief and enjoy their work.

Towards the closure of this workshop, WHRDS got inspired and recognized risks, attacks, and the need to take care of themselves before others. LBQ and female sex worker defenders also committed to recommend at least two members to the secretariat and reach out to their colleagues in case they are attacked.

Participants commit a 30 days self-care challenge.

 

 

YOUTH HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS SPEAK OUT ON THE EMERGING THREATS IN THEIR WORK.

Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) held a workshop on 13th/01/2022 at Arch Apartments in Kampala for 15 female youth defenders from across four regions of Uganda to discuss the threats and attacks against their work.

The workshop aimed at raising the visibility on violations faced by female youth defenders, share best practices for the protection and encouraging solidarity among female youth HRDs.

The workshop kicked off with a session titled “the River Of  Life” by Bonita Asingwire from WHRDN-U who enabled female youth defenders to understand the life of being a defender, While facilitating, she explained different ways how a river flows. “The river flows smoothly, at times it is so bubbly and passionate with a lot energy, sometimes it lacks away through hitting huddles, but it finally finds a way.” She further asked participants to relate their journey as women human rights defenders to that of a river.

Bonita Asingwire leads a session on the River Of Life.

Ms. Asubazuyo Gertrude led a session on the risks and attacks faced by female youth defenders. She mentioned the unique challenges female youth defenders face such as age-based discrimination, intimidation, torture, arbitrary arrest, beatings, restrictions on freedom of expression and association, accused of planning to disrupt public order and posing a threat to national security. She added that female youths are always told that they lack maturity, seen as trouble makers, and limited to engage in debates.

Gertrude added that besides age and gender discrimination, female youth defenders face additional risks such as non-recognition, marginalization and systematic exclusion, public shaming, sexuality baiting, online harassment, private spheres against by family members and loved ones among others. Brenda emphasized that although they face these risks, there is a need always to speak out so that people can understand challenges they face in order to be protected.

Asubazuyo Gertrude facilitating on risks and attacks face by female youth defenders during the workshop.

Biira also shared that youth defenders are not given the same access to resources, knowledge and technologies as older human rights defenders. Funding is often inaccessible, as most female youths do not have the track records and organizational structures required by funders.

Rosemary Kyemba, a female defender from Jinja was threatened to be killed by the perpetrator when she followed up a case of a girl who was raped in Jinja.

Ms. Nakku Mariam (on the left) and Ms. Kyemba Rosemary (on the right) sharing how they have faced risks against their work.

Selfcare and wellness  were not left out during the workshop. Gertrude led participants into the 30 days selfcare challenge that involved what female youth defenders must do to get relief and enjoy their activism work. She emphasized the importance of selfcare saying that, human rights work is challenging and many defenders have continued to work in a trauma-based environment, facing violence, and fatigue. She encouraged them to take on this challenge in order get relief for stress that is likely to come along with activism work.

Gertrude Asubazuyo taking participants through a 30 days selfcare challenge

Bonita Asingwire showed participants how to document and report violence cases so are able to report and seek support in case of attacks. She called upon female youths to report violence cases and encouraged them to take the incident form at home and use their fellow female youth defenders under attacks to fill it in the form.

The workshop ended with female youth defenders sharing their lessons learnt with the secretariat as most of them learnt how to document and report cases, the types on violence they face and the importance of selfcare in their work. Youths also committed to recommend at least two members to the secretariat and reach out to fellow youth defenders in case they are attacked.

Participants sharing the lessons learned from the workshop.

 

 

ETHNIC MINORITY WHRDS TRAINED ON VIOLATIONS AND THREATS IN THEIR WORK

On 12/01/2022, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) organized a workshop for 15 indigenous women defenders from the Batwa, IK and Bennet communities at Arch apartments in Kampala, who continue to face prejudice, discrimination, torture and sexual violence because of their struggle to defend their rights, and ancestral land.

The workshop aimed at raising the visibility on the risks and attacks faced by Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDS), share best practices for the protection and encouraging solidarity among WHRDS.

The workshop began with a reflection on a journey of being a defender led by Ms. Asingwire Bonita from WHRDN-U, which she termed as the “River of life” where WHRDS shared challenges and achievements they have faced. Viola, a WHRD from Kaboong shared how the Bennet lived in peace until the government started evicting them from their land, which prompted her to become a defender. “The work of being a defender came with pressure from the government but that didn’t stop me from fighting. Through lobbying and advocacy, the government recognized our work and gave us another land for settlement and from then things stated moving on smoothly.”-She added.

Bonitah Asingwire from WHRDN-U taking participants through river of life a

While leading a session on the risks and attacks, Ms. Sange Jackline, shared some of the threats minority WHRDS face. “We the Batwa, IK, Bennet and the pastoralists have lived in territories rich in natural resources for example our forests. So, we have all the time refused people to grabbing our resources and to endanger our traditional livelihoods. We are defending our rights, lands, culture and our children.”– She explained. Sange emphasized that although they face these risks, there is a need  always to speak out so that people can understand challenges minority WHRDS face because safety is crucial for them.

Sange Jackline facilitating during the ethnic minority group workshop

The session enabled participants  also to share some of the experiences they faced. Ms. Edreda Digolo shared that, while fighting for their ancestral land, they face stigma from community members calling them “the landless.” Ms. Mbatina Grace added that Batwa women do not get medical attention from health workers when they go to hospitals for treatment and as a result, many pregnant mothers have died while giving birth. Gloria from the IK shared that IK students have been nicknamed “Ndorobos” literally meaning the minority by the Sabiny’s students at university.

Viola explaining her journey as a defender for the Bennet.
Ms. Edreda Digolo sharing her experience during the workshop
Ms. Mbatina Grace (seated on the mat) telling participants how the Batwa are being marginalized

 

Gloria a student at Makerere University expressing how IK students are undermined in institutions.

Through group discussion, participants were tasked to identify the advocacy opportunities in their community and the best practices to protect. The IK women defenders presented that, being in space of fellow WHRDS, documenting and reporting cases to WHRDN-U, networking and coordinating with top securities would be their best practices to ensure their protection. For the Batwa, coordination with Uganda Wildlife Authority Park reserves officials and solidarity with WHRDS under attacks would be their best protection measures while the Bennet presented that, networking with CBOS and local councilors’ and registering their organization was their best practice for protection.

Group discussions among the ethnic women defenders

The workshop ended with a selfcare session where Sange Jackline told participants why selfcare is important saying that, human rights work is challenging in a way that many WHRDS spend so much time working on complex issues and forget to take care of themselves. She further told participants that when they don’t take care of themselves well, they will start to feel so tired, and give up. She mentioned these while leading them into a 30-day selfcare challenges that involved what WHRDS must do to get relief and enjoy their work.

The IK, Bennet and Batwa women defenders interacting after a selfcare session.

By the end of this session, WHRDS got inspired and recognized risks, attacks, and threats as serious to their lives and activism work. The Batwa committed to creating  bonfire areas that they named as “matidya mbakaswa” where they would come together to protect and take care of their community. They stated that they will use these meetings to talk about problems, and exchange ideas about solving them. IK revealed that they will, identify activities for cohesion, women empowerment and local advocacy. The Benet WHRDS committed  to create a safe space for protection in case a defender is intimidated. WHRDN-U gave them a flower as a symbol for safe space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONLINE AND OFFLINE SAFETY AND SECURITY GUIDELINES FOR WHRDS IN UGANDA

On 29th November 2021, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) in partnership with the UN Women Uganda, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), launched the safety and security guidelines as a strategy to strengthen the capacity of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDS) to mitigate the impact of gender-based violence against their work.

WHRDS and their networks continue to face specific risks and are often targets of serious abuses due to the nature of human rights work they do. They therefore require enhanced protection from attacks at all levels. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Uganda as there are no clear policies to protect WHRDS.

It is from this context that WHRDN-U together with UN Women and OHCHR developed safety and security guidelines to enhance the protection of WHRDS by providing practical safety measures.

The guidelines for WHRDS presents the best practices both online and offline, highlighted in sections 3, 4 and 5, recommendations and key considerations also highlighted in section 6. The best practices are discussed below;

  • Individual WHRDS are encouraged to join the networks for solidarity, enhance their accountability and understand how to operate online, be conscious of their security all times, safeguard all evidence and report cases.
  • WHRDS organizations are encouraged to develop and implement a security plan, nurture space to speak up, use collective care, wellness approach, and adopt to technology for online activism and rapid response.
  • Social movements are advised to develop a database for referral of services, create support spaces at district and regional levels, and alliance building with like-minded actors.
  • The guidelines also provide digital and social media mechanisms to help WHRDS and their organizations prevent online violence such as use of Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware protection, managing social media and phone settings, blocking abusers by using social media features such as unfollowing/unfriending, reporting and muting among others.

Furthermore, the guidelines offer recommendations for the key actors in the protection of WHRDS such as;

  1. WHRDN-U: To establish a clear referral pathway for WHRDS, foster safe networking space for WHRDS, expand online activism, and equip WHRDS with knowledge and skills on human rights work including knowledge on ICT and put in place an emergency fund to address issues of WHRDS.
  2. UN Women, OHCHR and other partners: To support recommended actions to push the implementation and effective utilization of these guidelines, set up an emergency fund that addresses the unique gender attacks and violations that WHRDS face and prioritize support for self-care, wellness and healing justice for WHRDS
  3. WHRD Networks, organizations, and CSOs: To institute internal institutional WHRDS programs and interventions aimed at enhancing institutional safety mechanisms, safety protocols and staff capacities.
  4. State Actors, Non-State Actor and Communities: To enact enabling laws that curb violence targeted at WHRDS such as POMA, Computer Misuse Act, Penal Code and Sexual Offences Bill that are often used to violate WHRDS and address impunity at institutional and community levels.

To access a copy of the Safety and Security Guidelines for WHRDS click here.

THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2021

 

On 29th November 2021, WHRDN-U held their 2nd Annual General Meeting at Protea Hotel in Kampala, under the theme: Leaving No One Behind: For Protection, Recognition and Wellness of WHRDS. The meeting was graced with presence of sixty five network members and attracted a discussion on what the network has achieved in the year 2021. 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 2021

The presentation of the Annual Report 2021
The presentations on the annual report 2021
Brenda Kugonza, the Executive Director for WHRDN-U gives her remarks during the AGM
Brenda Kugonza, the Executive Director WHRDN-U and Margaret Kyemba, the Board Chairperson during the Annual General Meeting 2021
Network members support a mention passed during the meeting
Members participating during the discussion

WHRDS TRAINED IN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS FOR PROTECTION.

Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) in partnership with International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) held a three days workshop that engaged 23 WHRDS with relevant human rights protection mechanisms at Esella Hotel in Kampala, from 5th to 7th October, 2021.

The workshop aimed at equipping WHRDS with skills on relevant human rights protection mechanisms and mapping out opportunities for advocacy. It was also an opportunity to foster coordination and networking among members.

Brenda Kugonza, the Executive Director for WHRDN-U began the workshop with highlights on the role of the network as an umbrella that was formed to protect women who defend the rights of others. She emphasized that the network came together to respond to specific individual or collective cases of violation of rights of WHRDs at risk.

Brenda facilitating during the training

Hannah Sobocinski, the training and advocacy manager for ISHR briefed participants on human rights mechanisms at international and regional level which defenders can collaborate with. These included the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, the Special Procedures and independent experts, and the treaty bodies.

Hannah further explained the role of regional human rights instruments (treaties, conventions, and declarations) that it helps to localize international human rights norms and standards, and the regional human rights mechanisms (commissions, special rapporteurs, courts) that implements these instruments. She added that African Charter on Human Rights, an institution was formed in 1986,  has been a significant in promoting human rights through declaring 21 October every year celebrated as an International Human Rights Day.

Pooja Patel, the programs director of ISHR also led a session on the human rights mechanism. She described The United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as the international bill of rights for women in civil, political, economic, social, and cultural fields whose role is to set up an agenda for national action to end discrimination against women.

With the support from the discussions, WHRDS recognized I need to advocate for the implementation of advocacy objectives to engage with international mechanisms.  They recommended the following objectives;

  1. Parliament of Uganda to enact gender-responsive laws
  2. Expand WHRDS network for international solidarity
  3. Advance WHRDS agenda at the international community

 

Participants discussing the advocacy objectives to engage with key stakeholders.

They also mapped out key stakeholders to influence and a time frame. Facilitators advised that it was vital for them to look beyond the human rights defenders’ bill, and that they should not be limited by time as issues of WHRDS are worrying and therefore requires urgent action.

 

Screenshot showing advocacy objectives which participants designed.

WHRDS TRAINED TO USE VISIBILITY FOR PROTECTION AGAINST VIOLENCE.

From 21st to 25th September 2021, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U), in partnership with Frontline defenders, conducted a workshop on visibility for protection of 21 WHRDS at Sky’s Hotel in Kampala. The specific objectives were to reflect on the multi-layered aspects of visibility and the protection methodologies for WHRDS.

During those five days, WHRDS discussed how visibility has affected their work, the gender specific threats, strategies to respond to those threats, and shared their experiences on the visibility for protection.

The first session of the workshop marked interventions from Marie San Martin, advocacy manager for Frontline Defenders. Marie explained what visibility means and its impact on the work of WHRDS noting that visibility is fundamental feature for WHRDS as it promotes their work. One participant shared that visibility has helped her take back her power as a woman defending rights of sex workers. She has set the pace for other sex workers to also speak out and defend their rights. Another participant noted that visibility is important for resource mobilization since donors are interested in seeing progress of their work.

Marie San Martin leading a session during the visibility for protection workshop.

The second day led by Brenda Kugonza focused on identifying gender specific threats against WHRDS. She mentioned that threats such as, defamation, smear campaign, stigmatization and online violence are being used to harm their reputation. One of the participants mentioned that she has been named ‘a prostitute’ by the community. “Look at you, do you also have children? you don’t deserve them, you are only a prostitute’’- she expressed.

Brenda Kugonza facilitating on gender-specific threats during the workshop.

The third day of the workshop involved participants brain storming on protection strategies they can use to respond to risks and attacks they face. They also drafted action plans that analyzed risks they face. The action plans elaborated measures they can use for their visibility such as;

  • Sensitization and information
  • Temporary relocation
  • Disclosing to their families the work they do
  • Increase legal capacity
  • Self-care and seeking counseling.

Participants drawing action plans on how they will protect their visibility. 

The fourth day focused on digital security management and the intervention of internet.  Sandra Kwikiriza, the Executive Director at Her Internet, told participants that there is a need for them to tighten their digital and physical security. She encouraged WHRDS to use the following digital safety tips

  • Data backup
  • Strong passwords
  • 2 factor authentication
  • The Onion Rouser browser. 

The fifth day marked the end of the workshop with a session on online violence by Hellen. She highlighted the new forms of violence including sexual harassment, cyber stalking and hate speech, mentioning that they are frequently terrifying and have manifested to physical violence. She enabled group discussions where participants identified the following digital security tips;

  • Installing cameras in their workplace,
  • Keeping information confidential
  • Monitoring their movements.
  • Change of office locks

During the workshop, participants hard a self-care and wellbeing session.