On 30th July 2022, WHRDNU held a consultative meeting with 7 WHRDs groups belonging to Sanay Anti-FGM movement based in Amudat district, Karamoja sub-region namely:
- Maedelo Ya wanawake
- Kamesoi Women’s Group
- Natukuman,Salcco –Safe and Learning Committee
- SinjololChepkarlal, and Sanay women groups
The objective of meeting these groups was aimed at 3 important aspects
- To understand what kind of threats and risks, have WHRDs registered
- To a establish linkages between WHRD’s security incidents to the context and the social, political and economic analysis in Karamoja region
- To understand protection needs of at risk WHRDs
Area activism work done by WHRDS
Despite the difficult environment, WHRDS have continued their activism related to defending women’s rights to a life free of violence particularly fighting rape, Female Genital mutilation, and early marriages, supporting victims of torture, unlawful arrest, HIV, Child protection. They strive to build and sustain community networks for protection. SANAY Movement’s campaigning strategy include educational talks, discussion groups, radio talk shows, use homes as shelter for girls experiencing difficulties in their families, for refusing to undergo FGM.
Ms. Paulina Chepar, is the Chairperson of Sanay Anti-FGM Movement, in Amudat district. This movement is a community based organization made up of women groups that defend rights of women and girls, supporting FGM survivors and Women, and promoting women’s economic empowerment. Due to their work of fighting FGM, GBV, early marriages etc. SANAY members usually suffer attacks, threats of killing, arrests and assaults.
Ms Pauline Chepar speaks on her fight against Female Genital Mutilation.
Paulina told the WHRDN-U team that one of the important achievement is ‘the way we engaged community surgeons (traditional –women-cutters of girls) ,trained them and raised awareness about the dangers of FGM. I am proud of one Rebecca Lotukomoi -a community surgeon in Cheporoi community, who was a very well-known expert and respected for cutting girls, with our activism work , Rebecca stopped the practice of cutting girls, Rebeca mobilized other cutters, together they formed a group known as former surgeons called Sinjolol group of ( 15 defenders) to start the campaign to end FGM”…SANAY movement, has created partnerships with various NGOs, UN and managed to influence communities to fight FGM through her community sensitization efforts “ I feel happy my because my work has managed to influence surgeons to form groups, said Paulina Chepar.
Security threats faced by WHRDs
- WHRDs are finding a harder time voicing out human rights violations and rape cases in Amudat. The 7 WHRDs informed WHRDN-U team that during COVIP- 19 period, “we registered incidents of rape, murder eg in Karita 13 women were raped and 6 of them were killed in 2021. After raping, sticks and pangs were inserted in their private parts,In Amudat Sub count 2 Women were raped and murderd in 2021, Amudat town council 18 raped and 3 died in 2021 and In Rolo subcounty 7 were raped and two killed. Accordining to Alungat Joyce of SALECO group”. “when we saw these rampant rape cases , as WHRDs belonging to :Sanai ,Maedelo Ya wanawake, Kamesoi Women’s Group,Natukuman Womn’s group,Salcco –Safe and Learning Committee, NAWOU,NAWOU, Sinjolol, and Chepkarlal, we gathered , went police to demand for justice met DPC mwesigye and demanded that perpetrators be brought to book and have police patrols in the communities. We buried women raped and murdered.”Said Dorcus Chelain. Mar Kiza stated “Members informed WHRDN-U team that some of the perpetrators of rape where arrested from a drinking place and instead sellers of chnagai (sellers of local brew)- keep threatening and insulting us that we shall bewitch you and see if you will survive because you are arresting our sons and customers”.
- Paulina stated that when I joined Mercy Corps and the Community Development Officer, on July 5th and went to Ngongosowon village for sensitization on dangers of FGM, I heard voices of people shouting my name that Paulina you are the one reporting us to the Police and the Resident District Commissioner and warning me in order to silence me and I leave in fear and panic.”
- Similarly, Lotukomoi Rebecca explained that when i mobilized a group of former surgeons (cutters of girls) and started a campaign to end FGM, this decision and action attracted hostility from her community. I faced resistance, isolation, stigma and i was chased away from her community by elders and SANAI gave her shelter, with income generating skills . I have continued by campaign and I face risks to my safety for example I have been told and accused that I am the one reporting surgeons or cutters to the police since I was a former cutter, I can’t move alone in my community I fear mob justice.”
Impact of the threats and risks to WHRDs
According to Chepar Paulina, Given the hostile context, our children, parents, constantly worry about our work.
Sagal Paulina: We have additional pressure as defenders affecting their mental wellbeing and activism work. It is too much for us in a context of this crisis ,no funds, dealing with rape cases, FGM, working on difficult issues of famine, locust, rape,COVIP-19,. Tell me how you won’t forget about you wellness and risk your mental wellbeing- We care so much for others and who is there to care for us in all these difficulties. In fact we don’t sleep because in night you are thinking of solutions to help people whose rights have been violated.
Culturally rape is seen as courtship process. We face challenges in championing rights of women and girls, fighting rape,we don’t have protection from authorities because some of them do not believe in human rights of women and girls, people think we are bringing cultures that are not for Pockot people said Mary Kiza.
Joyce Alungat explained “ Because of doing my GBV work, family planning awareness, providing shelter to girls resisting FGM, referral GBV survivors to access services at the Police, Health center , NGOs, etc. I have been targeted through body shaming and damaging my reputation. They tell me you woman with big ass you are the one spreading HIV, you are Chepkartayan (meaning you are a prostitute), gathering children for prostitution. I have been told I am a bad mother, very immoral, publically shaming me. Sometimes you lack support and solidarity.