Executive Women Members of Parliament were called upon by Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDS) to advocate for Gender inclusive bills as a means to strengthen the security of WHRDS in Uganda. This was during the breakfast meeting organized by Women Human Rights Defenders Network (WHRDN-U) in partnership with UWOPA on 28th January, 2022 at Golden Tulip which aimed at raising awareness on gender-based concerns for WHRDS.
Speaking at the meeting, Ms. Mary Harriet Lamunu, Executive Director UWOPA explained that the breakfast meeting was to happen in 2021 but due the absence of their chairperson who had travelled to Arusha, it was extended to January 2022. She thanked the WHRDN-U team for engaging with them and promised to continue engaging with more MPs to handle issues that affect the women human rights defenders.
In her remarks Brenda Kugonza, the Executive Director WHRDN-U mentioned that the shrinking space has impacted on the work of WHRDs. By working with the parliament, will create a safe working environment for WHRDs. She illustrated how WHRDN-U defends the women human rights defenders who defend the rights of land, the disability, LBQT and sexworkers, female journalists, and ethnic indigenous. Brenda further clarified that patriarchal is real, Female MPs are attacked when defending the laws and acts that protect women.
Sandra Kwikiriza from Her Internet told the congregation how online violence has affected many women including WHRDS. She asked members of parliament to ensure their security online by not sharing certain information related to their private life online and hide their passwords with others. “There is no good reason for me to share my email/ social media password. In reality, most of us share our passwords with our partners. I don’t have to share my password because someone can log in my account and misuse my platform”.
Members of Parliament also gave their opinions on online violence and how they have been in their leadership roles. Hon. Betty Naluyima commented that online violence is happens in the real life and she has been a victim when she was attacked online, by her opponents. “Regardless of the violence, “we will not stop” this is a crucial war and we want them to listen. We can’t give up any time no matter what happens”.
“Gender stereotypes affect women more when it comes to violence and threats online. For example, women receive more negative comments than men when it comes to sharing same information online”. Hon. Okia Joanne.
WHRDS shared testimonies on how they had been attacked online because of their human rights work. “During lockdown, teenage pregnancy cases were very high. It so happened that a young girl was defiled by a 40-year-old man and I shared this on Facebook, instead people abused me and this put me down. I regretted why I had put the story there”. Mwanje Caroline, WHRD from Kagadi.
“As a female journalism during lockdown, I posted stories of defilement and called for dealing with men who can’t control their sexual desires. Because I posted what people didn’t like, I was insulted, and humiliated for not having a man. I thought of leaving Facebook”. Sarah Chekwech, WHRD from Kapchorwa.
“When women with disability post pictures of our work, we are harassed. I campaigned on Facebook about a family that planned to steal land of a widow. I almost relocated because of attacks on my body. People said my body is ugly, unattractive, and that I should hide instead of exposing it on Facebook and in public. I am happy that I supported the woman amidst intimidation”. Peluce Kabagenyi, WHRD from Kasese.
“As a female journalist, in 2021 during lockdown, when I posted stories of defilement and called for dealing with men who can’t control their sexual desires and because I posted what people didn’t want, they harassed me, they went below my belt attacking me for not having a man, I sated thinking of leaving Facebook”. Goretti kajumba, WHRD from Kabarole.
“My colleague was attacked online for her activism work in the mining in Moroto. They used photo shop to put her head on a naked woman and it went viral. We later found out that our colleague’s bottom parts had a scar and the photo posted had no scar”. Flavia Aballo, WHRD from Kampala.
“I was hosted on a talk show to discuss GBV in Busoga, men attacked me on social media saying that am not supposed to comment on marriage issues because I am not married. They used messages such as ‘The spoilt girl should not mislead you’ to humiliate me”. Kyemba Rosemary, WHRD from Jinja.
In her speech, Hon. Sarah Opendi the Chairperson UWOPA thanked WHRDN-U for being a back a backbone of women huma rights defenders and encouraged the network to continue carrying on human rights work. She testified how she has been a victim of online violence, which is why she is not on Facebook. Someone created an account in her name, and promised people jobs and stole money from them.
Hon Sarah, further shared she was attached on social media for advocating for the rights to safe abortion. We must continue until we reach where women’s rights are respected and also where women and girls are not looked at or perceived as sex objects. She also mentioned that they will be bringing back the marriage bill to parliament and more amendments will be made like from woman MP. We are also bringing forth the Surrogacy bill. Infertility is not a matter for women alone but also a man’s issue.
The Executive a pledged to support WHRDS through working with WHRDN-U to promote safety and security on WHRDS in Uganda and advocating for gender responsive bills in members through signing a commitment form at the breakfast meeting.
Hon. Members of Parliament signing on a commitment board to advocate for gender responsive bills during the breakfast meeting.