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.

FEMALE JOURNALISTS WHRDS TRAINED IN ONLINE VIOLENCE AND DIGITAL SECURITY MANAGEMENT.

Female journalists WHRDS were asked to consider digital security crucial as a means to protect themselves from online attacks. This was during a two-day training of 20 female journalists from different media houses, organised by Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) at Eureka hotel in Ntinda, on 21th to 22nd October 2021.

Female journalists working as frontline defenders face a lot of challenges attributed to gender stereotypes. The training, aimed at equipping them with knowledge on how to report and respond to the attacks they face online while executing their work.

Ms. Amwiko Sarah, a journalist at Radio Pacis in Arua district expressed that she wrote a story about her friend who is lesbian but her news editor denied it to be aired. Even when she held a talk show with a topic “Rights of different sex desires”, people on social media accused her of supporting immorality.

Ms. Kalungi Rachael, a journalist at B FM explained that she has faced online threats from her ex-boyfriend who helped her to create a Facebook account. After they broke up, he changed the password and currently, he is controlling it. Of recent, he posted nude pictures on that page.

Ms. Karungi (in a white and black dress), explaining her experience on online gender-based violence.

Ms. Kwikiriza Sandra, a facilitator of digital security management enabled journalists to install the most recommendable Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Signal App saying that they help to promote anonymity of a user and demonstrated how they can create strong passwords. “There is need to use strong passwords with over 15 characters including capital letters and special characteristics and activate two-factor authentication, as this prevents hackers from accessing your accounts because one receives a notification whenever someone else tries to login their accounts from another device”.

Ms. Kwikiriza advised female journalists to prioritize their safety through safety precautions such as;

  • Safer devices,
  • Trusting their instincts
  • Identifying the abuse
  • Documenting incidents to show to the police

Ms. Kwikiriza facilitating on digital security management.

Ms. Amuge Peace, an online gender-based consultant guided the journalists on how to understand the new forms of violence such as cyber stalking, defamation/hate speech, and nonconsensual creation of sexual images and how they have led to psyco social, physical violence and economic loss among women human rights defenders. She encouraged journalists to stay calm and not give up on their duties, but to be conscious of their security while using internet.

Ms. Amuge facilitating during the female journalists training.

Some of the female journalists presenting during the online gender-based violence session.

As a means to end online gender-based violence among WHRDS, female journalists were encouraged to transfer knowledge and skills to colleagues in their respective organizations. In our tweet here Sarah Amviko, a female journalist from Pacis FM in Arua shared the knowledge and skills she acquired with her workmates.

LBQT AND FEMALE SEX WORKERS DEFENDERS TRAINED IN ONLINE VIOLENCE AND DIGITAL SECURITY MANAGMENT.

On 19th and 20th October 2021, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) held a training on online gender-based violence and digital security management for 20 LBQT and female sex workers defenders, at Eureka Hotel, in Ntinda.

The training that was facilitated by Ms. Amuge Peace, the Executive Director for Women of Uganda Network, and Ms. Kwikiriza Sandra, the Executive Director for Her Internet, enabled participants gain skills in analyzing and responding to on online gender threats and attacks.

During her facilitation on online gender-based violence, Ms. Amuge Peace told participants that the misuse of digital tools has facilitated online violence forms such as cyber stalking, sexual harassment, defamation and doxing, and advised participants to avoid using the internet aimlessly. She enabled participants to identify incidents of online gender-based violence among themselves such as;

  • Ms. Kugonza Farida, an HIV/AIDS activist expressed that she has been going through tough times following an insult she got from Facebook that she is spreading HIV/AIDS after posting experiences of women leaving with HIV/AIDS.
  • Ms. Sebabi Kirsteen, a leader of LBQT/Loose network shared that the government has not done enough to protect their rights just like other individuals. Many of LBQT and sex worker have face gender based violence but they cannot seek protection because the policies do not favor them.
  • Ms. Sebabi said that Pastor Martin Ssempa uses his social media to trawl LBQT and sex workers defenders and calls them ‘Laba abasiyazi’ meaning ‘Look at Gays’.

Ms. Kwikiriza Sandra, encouraged participants to consider their safety as key and, the importance of using strong passwords saying that, it helps to secure our information and data from cyber criminals/hackers. “Passwords should be changed after three months. Every WHRD should have a password manager which is a program that allows users to store, generate and manage their passwords for local applications and online. It assists to retrieve complex passwords, storing them in one encrypted database.”

Ms. Kwikiriza guided participants on how to install the most recommendable Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Signal App saying that they help to promote anonymity.

Ms. Kwikiriza facilitating on digital security management during LBQT and female sex workers training

Participants conducting skit to demonstrate how online gender-based manifests to physical violence to develop action plans to mitigate online gender-based violence. 

As a means to end online gender-based violence among WHRD, LBQT and female sex workers were encouraged to transfer knowledge and skills to colleagues in their respective organizations. On 5th November 2021, Ms. Taaka Irene, and Ms. Sebabi Kirsteen, a team leader of LBQT and Loose network conducted an online gender-based violence and digital security management training with colleagues in their Organizations.

Taaka Irene training her colleagues from Friends Uganda on online gender-based violence and digital security management.

Kirsteen training her colleagues from LBQT and Loose Network on online gender-based violence and digital security management.

DISTRICT FOCAL PERSONS WHRDS TRAINED IN ONLINE GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND DIGITAL SECURITY MANAGEMENT.

20 district focal persons from Karamoja, Albertine, Rwenzori, West Nile, and Acholi regions of Uganda acquired skills on online gender-based violence and digital security management as a mean to protect themselves against online gender threats in their work. This was during a two-day training, organized by Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) at Eureka hotel in Ntinda, on 28th to 29th October 2021.

While leading a session on digital security management, Ms. Kwikiriza Sandra, encouraged participants to prioritize their safety through using practical tips such as;

  • Installing virtual private networks
  • Setting strong passwords
  • Activating two-factor authentication
  • Backing up data
  • Identifying the abusers
  • Reporting cases of violence to authorities.

Ms Kwikiriza demonstrated how the internet operates. “When one sends a message to another person through a device, it passes through internet service provider 1(ISP1) like Airtel or MTN who then connects to the WhatsApp or website then back to Internet Service Provider 2(ISP 2) where the message is being sent.’’

Ms. Kwikiriza Sandra facilitating on digital security management during the district focal persons WHRDS training.

Ms. Amuge Peace, while facilitating on online gender-based violence advised participants to be aware of digital hackers and stay vigilant when using internet. She explained that the misuse of digital tools has opened doors to new forms of abuse such as cyber bullying, defamation, doxing and sexual harassment. This has caused distress, trauma, and depression to victims including WHRDS.

Ms. Asubazuyo Gertrude, a WHRD from Albertine region shared that, “News came from one of my WhatsApp groups of a man who was found beating his wife in the market accusing her of not staying home to cook. When I condemned this act, people abused me in comments saying that this matter does not concern me. Another person commented, ‘no wonder you are not married’’.

Ms. Lopuka Mary, a WHRD from Karamoja region revealed that, she got shocked when together with her colleagues reached at work in the morning and opened their computers only to find a pornography movie.

Gertrude Asubaziyo (third from left), a WHRD from Masindi district in Albertine region sharing her experience on online gender-based violence.
Mary Lopuka, a WHRD from Nakapirit district in Karamoja region explaining her experience on online gender-based during the training.

Participants were encouraged to transfer knowledge on online gender-based violence and digital security skills to colleagues in their respective organizations. In our tweet here, Ms. Sange Jackeline, a WHRD from Kween district, Eastern region trained two of her colleagues in the Benet Community.

 

Ensuring a Safe Working Environment For Female Journalists in Uganda

Every year, on 08th March the world over celebrates Women’s day in the commemoration of the achievements as well as struggles of women. In line with this year’s theme,” Iam generation equality: realizing women’s rights”, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda engaged with the female journalists under the theme The need to allow women journalists to work in a safe environment and speak up about harassment they face in their line of work.

The Women Human Rights Defenders Network-Uganda reflected on the role played by female journalists as human rights defenders with a clear emphasis on the their working conditions of discrimination, impunity and human rights violence that puts their lives at risk.

The training provided a platform for the female journalists to share experiences they go through while doing their work. This created visibility for the human rights violations they are subjected to while in the field.

The training sought to create space for female journalists as frontline defenders for human rights, with a clear focus on the gender specific attacks and share support systems where women human rights defenders at risk can be supported. Much as they are called upon to do their work, it exposes them to numerous risks and intimidations because they use mainstream media and social media to report on contentious issues such as corruption, crimes, human rights violations in elections, sexual violence, human rights violations and so much more.

Brenda Kugonza, the executive Director, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) urged the journalists to be vigilant with the environment they work in because they are always at risk.

“Because of the work they do, in Uganda Women Journalists face specific dangers, vulnerable to sexual harassment. They have had to deal with hateful comments directed to their appearance, gender and sexuality. These attacks and intimidations against them, have in some cases silenced them and blocked them from disseminating news yet their absence in the media has serious implications in the free and democratic media,”. says Kugonza.

On that note, stake holders were called upon to uphold fundamental rights so as to enable journalists to have a safe and secure working environment.

Protection is key

Brenda Kugonza advised the journalists to always seek for help from organisations that offer journalist protection, move with first Aid kits, with contraceptives and PREP for just in case something happened to them while in the field.

For protection the Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda gave the journalists a list of support services that exist for female journalists and advised them to make use of them or even share with their colleagues because they may need it for protection.

Just like Brenda Kugonza, Margret Ssentamu, the director of Uganda Media Women’s Association advised the journalists to protect themselves at all times and she told them to be well informed with the law for instance they should know their rights, entitlement, where to get services and what the law says about their work so that they are not caught off guard.

Margret Ssentamu advised the journalists to follow their work ethics while doing their stories because that is one of the protection measures they can use.

The risks highlighted at the event

The journalists present also raised concerns of facing sexual harassment at their work places, some are being asked for sex in order to retain their jobs, being used as baits to get some information from the male sources, their work mates using gender stereo types to attack them which in most cases has silenced them.

They further shared the experiences they have had while in the field doing work for instance some of them are intimidated when they chose to report on sensitive issues, blackmail from politicians, being raped by their colleagues while at the field being beaten and also having their items confiscated when in line of their duty.

With all that happening to the female journalists, the journalist requested the network to always have such trainings for them so that they can be empowered, they asked the network to do follow ups just to know how they are doing, to pay regional visits so that there can be regular engagements and they also decided to remain in contact with them.

  • The journalists urged each other to create friendship so that they can be united.
  • The journalists said they should get to know each other so that they can interact so well especially when they meet.
  • The journalists said they should share contacts with each other for easy communication.
  • The journalists said they should enhance the visibility of the attacks they face.

Speaker of Parliament of Uganda meets Women Human Rights Defenders

On 14/11/19, a group of Women Human Rights Defenders and activists led by the UN Resident Coordinator Rosa Malango met the Uganda Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga at Parliament. The meeting was set up to discuss the state of Women human rights defenders in the country.

Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga speaks during the meeting

Among the key issues addressed were amendment of women emancipation which impedes women emancipation, a firmer stance against gender based violence and creating a strong linkage with Uganda women parliamentarians. The challenges faced by Women Human Rights defenders in the mining sector were put into plight by the speaker and commended the courageous women rescuing women who are flown abroad and are exploited and tortured.