WHRDN-U pays solidarity visit to Rella Foundation

Following a report and request from Rella Foundation, on 5th/May 2022, a delegation of WHRDN-U  participated in the solidarity visit   to RELLA foundation

The delegation consisted of 7 WHRDs, 3WHRDs working on Sex workers rights from Arua, Kabarole and Kampala, 1 on GBV from Jinja and 3 on LBQT Rights from Kampala.

RELLA Foundation offers response to LBQTs at risk by providing different services like shelter where they receive psychology needs and expressed challenges they face.

  • security threats with the local council since the law does not protect them thus leading to criminalizing them all the time in the community.
  • Burnout and exhaustion leading to stress from work they do
  • issues of confidentiality is a big challenge to the people at the shelter
Solidarity visit at RELLA Foundation
Solidarity visit at RELLA Foundation

WHRDN-U pledged to provide support inform of protection, grant to buy the bedsheets, mattresses, blankets, towels and buckets

Acholi WHRDNU Network members present MP Betty Aol a position paper

Acholi Women Human Rights Defenders Regional Network meet with Gulu City Woman MP

On 2nd May 2022, 22 Women Human Rights Defenders from the Acholi Women Human Rights Defenders Regional Network met with Gulu City Woman MP, Hon Aol Betty Achan at her community office in Gulu City. The WHRDs who came from Gulu, Kitgum, Omoro, Pader, Nwoya, Lamwo and Amuru districts.

Adubo Diana, one of the WHRDs in the region took lead in this session outlined the various Gender based threats and intimidation they face that in their work of of GBV, land rights, promotion of rights for persons with disabilities, journalists, children, LBQT, sex work. She outlined these Gender specific attacks that include;

  • Instead of producing children, you are busy loitering, stop messing up your life as a woman
  • Gender discrimination. People don’t want to associate with you in the community.
  • No wonder you are single, which man can stay with a loud woman like you. Women are supposed to soft spoken always.
  • I cannot marry a woman like you. You are like a fellow man. Women like you are not marriage material.
  • Baby hater(If advocating for family planning and safe abortion)
  • Exclusion from clan land ownership committees.

The meeting offered a great opportunity in establishing a working relationship with the MP and the Acholi WHRDs requested the MP to create a platform to engage the Human Rights Parliamentary Committee and her office act as a referral point to WHRDS to report violations they encounter.

In her speech, MP Aol Betty appreciated the WHRDs for their activism and support they offer in upholding human rights especially of all people regardless of  gender, age and occupation. She also committed to create a platform to discuss their issues with the Human Rights Parliamentary Committee, the Gender Parliamentary Committee and the Speaker of Parliament.
The Acholi WHRDs also handed over a position paper and Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill to the MP.
Acholi WHRDNU Network members present MP Betty Aol a position paper
Acholi WHRDNU Network members present MP Betty Aol a position paper

 

Rosemary Kyemba speaks during the meeting

West Nile Women Human Rights Defenders Regional Network pay courtesy visit to Uganda Human Rights Commission

On 25th March 2022, 25 members of the West Nile Women Human Rights Defenders Network paid a courtesy visit to the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) offices in Arua. The delegation of Women Human Rights Defenders(WHRDs) was received by Kisa Daisy, the Human Rights Officer in charge of Investigations who handles complaint of Human Rights violations in West Nile. In her remarks, she stated

“We are happy that as the West Nile Women Human Rights Defenders Chapter, you recognise the work of the Uganda Human Rights Commission. It is empowered by the constitution to protect and promote rights of all in the country. That’s why in our report of 2018, we dedicated a chapter for women human rights defenders and specifically put in a topic on especially the women because they go through a lot. Generally Human Rights work is risky work.”

Kisa daisy speaks to the Women Human Rights Defenders from the West Nile region
                            Kisa Daisy speaks to the Women Human Rights Defenders from the West Nile region

She further stated that she was glad to have met the WHRDs and this meeting was the beginning of a formation of a mutual relationship and connection between each other. She promised to involve members of the West Nile WHRD regional network in upcoming trainings and meetings that would benefit their participation.

“There is need for us to work together and have active communication amongst ourselves. This forms a bond of solidarity and also a protection layer where WHRDs aren’t isolated and easily attacked. And our impact will be felt in the West Nile region.”

WHRDs discuss ways of keeping in touch and working together with the Human Rights Commission
                      WHRDs discuss ways of keeping in touch and working together with the Human Rights Commission

Rosemary Kyemba, a WHRD who was part of the delegation that visited said the group consisted of Women Human Rights Defenders defending Rights of the LGBQI, land and environmental rights and rights of indigenous people. She stated

“In our communities we are working in, we are working to promote the rights of everyone. In most cases WHRDs are attacked in different ways due to the nature of their work. We call upon you as the UHRC to always support us whenever we report cases and also feel your presence in the communities in the sub regions where we defend people.”

Rosemary Kyemba speaks during the meeting
                                                                      Rosemary Kyemba speaks during the meeting

 

Group photo of the West Nile Regional WHRDs with UHRC members
                                               Group photo of the West Nile Regional WHRDs with UHRC members
Solidarity visit

RWENZORI WHRDS STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH WOMEN DEFENDING LBQTI RIGHTS IN KASESE DISTRICT

In the context of sisterhood and solidarity, 25 members of the  Rwenzori Regional Network of  Women Human Rights Defenders  extended a feminist solidarity visit to WHRDs defending LBQTI rights working with Twilight Support Initiative in Kasese district, that took place on 31st March 2022.

Women defenders  working on land rights, women’s rights & GBV, female journalists, Sex workers rights defenders, women with disability human rights defenders, women defending human rights in the oil and extractive sectors, indigenous rights women defenders and community –based -women defenders , gathered together coming  from the districts from Kabarole, Katwe, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, and Mubende districts of Rwenzori.

The aim of the solidarity to women LBQTI defenders in Kasese district was a way to help their actions, lend visibility to their struggles and promote local and inter-district solidarity.

In Kasese district, Women defending LBQTI rights endure attacks and discrimination directly aimed at their identity as women or as LBQTI people, questioning our mental health and sexuality as well as shaming us  publically,” said Aisha of Twilight Support Initiative. According to Kats of Twilight Support Initiative “The solidarity visit is a source of protection, support and solidarity.

 The WHRDN-U will continue to inspire the Rwenzori Regional –Network of WHRDs to build a safer environment for themselves and each other.

Solidarity visit
                                                                                                            Solidarity visit
Expression of solidarity with Sex workers Women Human Rights Defenders in Kabarole

The Rwenzori Women Human Rights Defenders Network express solidarity with female sex workers from Kabarole district during Moonlight activity.

On the night of 24th March 2022, 22 Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) from the Rwenzori region paid a protection solidarity visit to Female Sex workers defenders in Kabarole district. The solidarity visit took place at a Moonlight activity and comprised of;

Composition of WHRDS that made the protection solidarity visit.

  • 5 WHRDs from Kabarole district (4 defending rights of sex workers and 1 Female Journalist WHRD.
  • 1 WHRD defending rights of Gold miners from Mubende
  • 7 WHRDS defending rights of gold miners in Katwe
  • 1 WHRD from Ntoroko defending rights of victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV)
  •  4 WHRDs from Bundibugyo ( 1 WHRD defending land rights and 3 WHRDs defending rights of the Batwa indigenous community.
  • 3 WHRDs from Kasese district. 1 defending rights of the disabled, 1 defending rights of GBV victims and 1 defending rights of sex workers.
Expression of solidarity with Sex workers Women Human Rights Defenders in Kabarole
Expression of solidarity with Sex workers Women Human Rights Defenders in Kabarole

Challenges faced by Sex Workers Women Human Rights Defenders

During the solidarity visit, the Sex Workers Women Human Rights Defenders (SWHRDs) expressed concerns of challenges they are facing due to the nature of their work that include:

  • Threats from clients
  • Raids on their homes
  • Physical attacks
  • Police surveillance while conducting health outreach work
  • Threats to relocation from the area they sell sex after becoming known HRDs
  • Public defamation campaigns
  • Discriminatory exclusion from policy making
Moonlight activity
Moonlight activity

 

 

 

Karamoja Regional WHRDS Network graoup photo with peace mediators

Karamoja Regional Women Human Rights Defenders Network visit and express solidarity with peace mediators in Kotido district.

Twenty three (23) Women Human Rights defenders from Karamoja region visited and stood in solidarity with peace mediators in Kotido district. The visit that took place on 18th March 2022 began with a meet up with peace mediators  in Rengen sub county and later at Nakere Rural Women’s Activities (NARWOA) head offices.

Karamoja Regional WHRDS meet with peace mediators at Rengen sub-county
                                       Karamoja Regional WHRDS meet with peace mediators at Rengen sub-county

Solidarity visit to Peace Mediators at Rengen sub-county

The peace mediators have played a pivotal role in conflict resolution in the region amidst the disarmament process and cattle rustling grappling the region. The Karamoja regional WHRDS expressed solidarity and sisterhood with them, thanking them for the pacifying role they play in Karamoja. Despite continued personal attacks due to their work, the peace makers vowed to continue brokering peace in the region.

Karamoja Regional WHRDS express solidarity with peace mediators
Karamoja Regional WHRDS express solidarity with peace mediators

Despite the ongoing psychological, social and economic attacks on their personal lives due to the nature of their conflict resolving work, the peace makers vowed to continue mediating peace in their communities and thanked the Karamoja Regional Women Human Rights Defenders for visiting and expressing solidarity with them.

The peace mediators at Rengen sub-county
The peace mediators at Rengen sub-county

Karamoja Regional WHRDS dance with peace mediators after their visit and expression of solidarity

Solidarity visit to Peace Mediators at Nakere Rural Women’s Activities head offices

Following the visit to peace mediators in Rengen sub-county, the Karamoja Regional WHRDs visited the peace mediators at Nakere Rural Women’s Activities head offices in Kotido. The visit, coordinated by the Ms. Aata Jessica, the Regional focal person of WHRDN-U in Karamoja began with her welcome remarks to the WHRDs visiting.

Listen to Ms Aata Jessica welcome WHRDS to NARWOA’s offices.

The peace mediators at NARWOA expressed their gratitude with the visit from fellow WHRDS in the region and called for more sisterhood and collective efforts in peace mediation in the region. They promised to continue supporting each other in their different fields as well as strengthen the network so that they aren’t easily isolated and targeted as peace mediators in Karamoja.

Karamoja Regional WHRDS express solidarity with peace mediators
                                               Karamoja Regional WHRDS express solidarity with peace mediators

Karamoja Regional WHRDS tour NARWOA offices.

WHRDS tour NARWOA offices
                                                                                            WHRDS tour NARWOA offices

 

Group photo
                                                                                                 Group photo

 

 

 

Brenda Kugonza facilitates a session on the legal framework for HRDs

Karamoja Regional Women Human Rights Defenders attend 2 day workshop on safety and rights awareness

Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U), in partnership with Civil Rights Defenders, conducted a two days’ workshop for 23 Women Human Rights Defenders from Kotido, Amudat and Kabongo, Nakapiriprit, Napak, Abim, Moroto districts. The WHRDS who form the Karamoja Regional Women Human Rights Defenders Network converged at Kotido Resort Hotel on 17th and 18th March 2022 for the themed workshop ‘Creating Safe Spaces for WHRDS, their rights and safety.’ 

Women Human Rights Defenders introduce themselves during the 2 day workshop
Women Human Rights Defenders introduce themselves during the 2 day workshop

Workshop Objective

The 2 day workshop meant to strengthen the coordination capacity among the WHRDS in the Karamoja region looked to further;

  • Increase awareness among WHRDs on their rights and their safety.
  • To celebrate the struggles of women and help WHRDs at grass root level feel part of the women’s movement for social justice in Uganda.
  • To improve their understanding and analysis of the violence faced by WHRDs and promote collective and feminist protection strategies based on their knowledge and experiences.
  • Create awareness on creating safer spaces for WHRDs.

Workshop Flow

The 2 day workshop began with opening remarks from the District focal person, Ms. Ataa Jessica Ruth from Nakere district. She informed the participants that she was privileged to have supported the WHRDN-U secretariat with mobilization and coordination of the workshop. She further emphasized the importance of Karamoja WHRDs coming together to support each other and that whereas WHRDs are doing human rights,they are vulnerable to attacks and smear campaigns in the Karamoja region.

Ms. Ataa Jessica Ruth gives opening remarks
Ms. Ataa Jessica Ruth gives opening remarks

Brenda Kugonza, Executive Director of WHRDN-U also welcomed participants to the workshop. She appreciated WHRDs who have resisted oppression, defended rights and kept resilient. She underlined the need for WHRDs to shoulder each other and acknowledge the contributions we are making in our communities even if we are from various social movements. 

Brenda Kugonza welcomes WHRDS to the 2 day workshop
Brenda Kugonza welcomes WHRDS to the 2 day workshop

River of Life: Reflection on stories of activism

Brenda Kugonza asked each participant to draw a river on a sheet of paper which will represent their individual RIVER OF LIFE. Brenda explained that our lives are never straight lines; the river will inevitably have some curves to it, some rapids, rocks and a few quiet spots along the way. Participants were asked to identify some important moments in their history of activism and place them along the course of the river, the moment when they first became concerned about human rights and the most significant moments in their history as activists.

Participants draw their rivers of life
Participants draw their rivers of life

Understanding who we are as human rights defenders

In this session facilitated by Ms. Asingwire Bonitah from WHRDN-U, it was meant to deepen the definition of a Woman Human Rights defender. The session enabled participants give their own understanding of who a human rights defender is.

Bonita Asingwire facilitates a session on Understanding who a HRD is
Bonita Asingwire facilitates a session on Understanding who a HRD is

Participants share their understanding of who a Human Rights Defender is.

Participants further shared alternative terms that a human rights defender can be referred to as in their different local dialects.

WHRDS share their different terms and examples for human rights defenders
WHRDS share their different terms and examples for human rights defenders

The ‘Flowers of our struggles’ We are part of the human rights movement

In this session facilitated by Brenda Kugonza, participants discussed the strengths and value of women’s movement and establishing WHRD regional networks, noting that movements enable women to use their collective power to bring change , speaking not as individuals organizations  but with a powerful voice that cannot be easily isolated and suppressed. Each member was asked to write and name their stories of their struggles that they have contributed to the strengthening of the women’s and human rights movement.

Flowers of our struggles
Flowers of our struggles
Particiapants reflect on powerful images that inspire their human rights work
Participants reflect on powerful images that inspire their human rights work

The reflection on the photographs made participants feel that they are part of a movement beyond their organizations, groups etc and acknowledged the benefits and strengthens of movements as illustrated below:

  • My reflection on the pictures is that Women don’t fear to stand and speak against violence “Chepar Paulina”
  • Cecilia Dengel mentioned that women are fearless to demonstrate
  • Esther Toto mentioned that women HRDs are confident to demonstrate because they know their rights.
  • Rose Namoe mentioned that women’s movements show that they are brave to advocate for other people’s rights.
  • Maria Kiiza said that the pictures show solidarity amongst WHRDs.
Participant shares her reflection from the human rights inspired photographs
                             Participant shares her reflection from the human rights inspired photographs

WHRDS dance and jubilate at the end of Day 1 of the workshop

DAY TWO 

Understanding the legal framework for defense of human rights defense.

This session facilitated by Brenda Kugonza, was meant to review instruments that support HRDs. Brenda stressed that The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in its preamble, fourth paragraph, defines HRDs as individuals , groups and associations contributing to the elimination of all violations of human rights.”

Brenda Kugonza facilitates a session on the legal framework for HRDs
                                                    Brenda Kugonza facilitates a session on the legal framework for HRDs

The Declaration considers HRDs as rights holders and is an important instrument that can be used to lobby and advocate for the rights of defenders.

 

WHRDN-U launches online GBV handbook for Women Human Rights Defenders on Women’s Day 2022

On March 8th 2022, 29 Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDS) converged at Arch Apartment Hotel Ntinda for a breakfast meeting to commemorate International Women’s Day with the special launch of the Online Gender Based Violence handbook for WHRDS.

The emerging trends of online violence against WHRDS prompted Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) to develop a handbook that will be a guide for organizations and individual WHRDS to prevent and respond to online Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Objective of the meeting.

  • Raise awareness on online GBV concerns for WHRDS
  • Validate and launch a hand book for WHRDS on ICT GBV as a guide to strengthen awareness, provide tips on how to identify, document and report online violence

Ms. Janat Namuli the Rapid Response Protection Officer of WHRDN-U welcomed the Women Human Rights Defenders who came from Acholi, Karamoja, WestNile, Rwenzori and Westnile regions and wished them a Happy Women’s Day. She reminded them of the promise WHRDN-U made during online GBV and digital security management trainings held in 2021 to invite them to the validation and the launch and the day had finally arrived.

Janat Namuli speaks at the Validation and launch meeting
Janat Namuli speaks at the Validation and launch meeting of the online GBV handbook for WHRDS

Ms Peace Olivia Amuge the Executive Director of Women Of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) mentioned that the handbook was compiled after the online trainings with the WHRDS in 2021. She further mentioned what consists of the handbook

  • The different forms of Online GBV
  • Types of Online GBV
  • Root causes of Online GBV
  • Impact of Online GBV to the WHRDS
  • Digital Security Management
  • Existing laws and legal frameworks.
Peace Amuge speaks during launch of Online GBV handbook for WHRDS
Peace Amuge speaks during launch of Online GBV handbook for WHRDS

Validation from WHRDS

Ms Bonita Asingwirwe from WHRDN-U led a validation session with the WHRDS where she asked for comments in regards to the Online GBV handbook. Below are some of the comments.

Mercy Okori a WHRD from Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) shares her recommendations about the handbook.

 

WHRDS give feedback during the launch of the online GBV handbook for WHRDS
WHRDS give feedback during the launch of the online GBV handbook for WHRDS
The online GBV handbook being launched
The online GBV handbook being launched

Message from Brenda Kugonza, the Executive Director of WHRDN-U after the launch of the online GBV handbook for Women Human Rights Defenders on Women’s day 2022

Women Human Rights Defenders speak after the successful launch of the online Gender Based Violence handbook for Women Human Rights Defenders.

Women Human Rights Defenders celebrate and dance after launching the handbook.

 

 

Exchange Peer Learning Visit

From February 16th to 17th 2022, Women Human Rights Defenders Network- Uganda (WHRDN-U) Board members convened at the Gulu Women Economic Development and  Globalization (GWED) offices for a 2 day exchange peer learning visit on Cooperate Governance and Financial Management.

The engagement over the two days covered areas on

  • Risk analysis plan
  • Internal audit plan
  • Job descriptions

In addition, practical skills were shared in resource mobilization , cultivating positive stakeholders relationships and human resource management. We extend our gratitude to Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalization for the hospitality throughout the two day visit.

Peer exchange learning visit engagement
Peer exchange learning visit engagement

 

ISHR and WHRDN-U Oral statement at CEDAW NGO meeting for Uganda Review

                                                                                                                                   

In its list of issues, the Committee asked the State Party to “advise on specific legislative measures in place to protect the rights of women human rights defenders… (para 7)”.

Women human rights defenders in Uganda are facing particular challenges on account not only of transgressing gender norms in taking up the work of promoting and protecting human rights, but also often because of the nature of their work. HRDs identifying as or working with the LGBTI community are at particular risk, as are those working to promote and protect the rights of sex workers. Furthermore, land and environment WHRDs working as parts of communities to oppose resource extraction and mining operations have been threatened and intimidated by non-State actors and a number have faced arrests.

The draft bill on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders was tabled in 2020 and sits before the parliament. The adoption of this bill is important for the recognition of the work of all HRDs and would legitimise their rights to defend rights within the national legal frameworks. We call on CEDAW to recommend that the State genuinely engages with WHRDs to ensure that the bill and its implementation plans are fully gender responsive.

Brenda Kugonza presents statement during Zoom meeting on February 7th 2022
                           Brenda Kugonza presents statement during Zoom meeting on February 7th 2022

Meanwhile, the government of Uganda must review and reform other areas of its legislative framework in order to bring them in line with international standards. In particular, we urge the CEDAW Committee to call on the State to engage with civil society for the review and reform of the following:

  1. The Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) of 2015, which contains provisions that may restrict the funding of HRD organisations.
  2. The Computer Misuse Act, 2011 (section 24 and 25 in particular), under which charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication can be
  3. The NGO Act, 2016 restricts the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful Application of section 44 can result in restrictions for WHRDs working for groups regarded as illegal, such as sex workers and LGBTI persons.
  4. Section 145 of the Penal Code Act penalises same-sex relations. Further, an Anti- Homosexuality Act was operative for 5 months in 2014; during this period numerous cases of violations against the LGBTI community were reported, including arrest, physical violence and harassment.
  5. The Anti-Pornography Act is often misused against WHRDs promoting rights related to gender and bodily

Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda Executive Director, Brenda Kugonza present an oral statement at the CEDAW NGO meeting for Uganda Review on 7th February 2022

 

We stress that that the enactment of a single law on the protection of HRDs is an important step forwards, but insufficient without a holistic review of the legislative environment in which human rights defenders operate in order to address the root causes of the violence and discrimination that WHRDs are facing in Uganda. Thank you.