The training workshop for WHRDs from West Nile region on off-line and online safety guidelines was conducted on the 16th and 17th February 2023 at the Satellite hotel Nebbi district in West Nile. The workshop was supported by the French Embassy- in Uganda in partnership with Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U). The 2 day workshop consisted of 22 participants from across the West Nile region, involved in the defense of human rights and were trained by a team from the WHRDN-U secretariat.
To this end, the training focused on physical security, personal security, information security, office & home security and digital security. Participants discussed some practical measures some of which they already take to minimize security risks and learned about others that they might not have been aware of yet. Participants committed to use the following measures and deal with specific threats in the future for their security and safety:
Create and maintain secure passwords to protect sensitive files on your computer, protect computers from malware and hackers, backing information
Introduce a security registration book for visitors at office
The different physical and digital strategies for personal and organizational protection of WHRDs.
The workshop used interactive activities to help people understand the information, and take part in discussions. For instance; in role plays participants acted out a situation, in small group discussions. Similarly, participants composed a song to help them focus their attention and to make it easy for them to remember the things they learned.
This training workshop was implemented on the basis of the off-line and on-line safety guidelines of WHRDs launched by the UNWOMEN, UNOHCR and WHRDN-U in 2021. The aim of the workshop was to strengthen the capacity of WHRDs and mitigate the impact of online and offline attacks against WHRDs, provide knowledge on mitigating gender-based attacks, criminalization of their work, as well as physical and personal security management, offer practical strategies for enhancing WHRD’s safety online & offline as well as provide WHRDS with basic safety tools for WHRDs in preventing and responding to attacks against them.
Upon this background, WHRDNU with support from the French Embassy of Uganda, conducted workshop to 20 WHRDs from Karamoja region. The training was conducted on 3rd and 4th November,2022, at Seven ranges hotel, in Moroto district. The two day activity was organized to strengthen the capacity of WHRDs and mitigate the impact of online and offline attacks against WHRDs, provide knowledge on preventing and mitigating gender-based attacks, criminalization of their work, as well as physical and personal security management, offer practical strategies for enhancing WHRD’s safety online & offline as well as provide WHRDS with basic safety tools for WHRDs in preventing and responding to attacks against them.
Remarks from WHRDN-U Secretariat
Ms. Brenda Kugonza of the WHRDN-U started by appreciating the French Embassy in Uganda noting that without their financial support, the training would not have happened. She thanked WHRDs for the good work they do to defend rights in Karamoja region and welcomed them to the training. Brenda then gave details on the objectives of training. She said that training workshop is to increase the knowledge and skills of the participants and their organizations the in relation to off-line and on-line safety guidelines. It would facilitate the spread of information, skills, and culture to prevent and respond to attacks, threats and risks both on-line and off-line by WHRDs. Training workshop was an opportunity to strengthen the capacity of Karamoja WHRDs because they had participated in developing the guidelines during a workshop that was conducted by UNWOMEN, UNOHCHR and WHRDN-U .
Remarks from the district representative
Ms. Betty Nakiru, a female police officer working with Moroto District Child and Family Protection Unit, in her remarks appreciated the WHRDN-U for supporting the work of WHRDS in Karamoja region. She urged participants to report to police when attacked for supporting girls and women the community. If also us the police women are attacked for supporting survivors of domestic violence and what about you. she noted that if women defenders are attacked, then the marginalized people suffer. She ended her remarks by urging them to get her contacts.
Role plays. Types of violence against WHRDs
Joan Namulondo of WHRDN-U, employed the role play methodology f in this session to further help participants understand the concepts. Four (4) scenarios (See below) were role played by participants to identify the online and offline, attacks, and gender-based attacks faced by WHRDs in their region. Reflections and learnings scenarios included:
Human rights work is risky and the need to prepare to deal with un expected risks, threats, and security incidents.
Human Rights activities cannot be successful without security measures.
WHRDs in Karamoja, have suffered the same risks such as those roles played
Digital and social media security management
The purpose of the session was to learn about Digital and Online Security Management. The learnings were imparted when participants mentioned that digital security in relation to smart phones, mobile phones, internet café, phones, cameras, modems, flash discs, emails, watsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok etc. Through a brain storming session, participants learnt some basic computer security measures such as to install antivirus to protect their computers from malware and hackers, to create and maintain secure passwords, have strong different passwords for different services and phone security measures such as the safest mobile phone is a cheap, unregistered, don’t save sensitive information on your phone, make sure all your information is deleted on your mobile before selling it or having it repaired, destroy unusable phones and old sim cards before discarding them.
29th November of every year is a momentous commemoration of the diligent work of Women Human Rights Defenders. This year’s commemoration was no exception to the previous years with Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) appreciating the diligent and selfless contribution of WHRDs to ensure rights of all are respected.
WHRDNU Executive Director, Brenda Kugonza shares message in commemoration of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day 2022.
In a sit down with International Service For Human Rights, Brenda Kugonza speaks on how International advocacy is a tool to advance our human rights work, but it is also a tool that will support us in consolidating our protection as women human rights defenders.
Watch full video below.
Happy International Women Human Rights Defenders Day 2022!
Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) conducted a two days training to launch the Lango Regional Network for Women Human Rights Defenders from October 10th-11th2022 at Hotel Tasha in Lira district.
Session one: understanding each other as an activist River of Life
Participants discussed their journeys as human rights defenders explaining how they have not been straight with ups and downs, some calm moments but also moments to cherish/opportunities
Akiria Patricia shared that networking through relationships like friends enabled her raise funds to fulfill her passion to fight for the rights of sex workers and child abuse, but the community has constantly discriminated against her due to ignorance.
Abalo Grace said, she identified a child who as denied the right to food, then she reported a case to police, that she has also faced some challenges like some security officers not supporting cases she reports.
Barbra Apio shared on it is not easy to carry out activism work in Apac especially defending LBQT rights, she has often been referred to as one promoting immorality and has been arrested but managed to continue because of the passion for the work.
Understanding the nature of threats/challenges facing WHRDs
Different experiences on the threats/challenges were presented based on the different Thematic Action Groups
Four role-plays were acted to emphasize on who a defender is and the nature of threats received by the WHRDs in order to request for protection support
Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) conducted a two days training at Hotel Paradise, Jinja from October 4th-5th 2022 to increase awareness among WHRDs on their rights and safety. The twenty WHRDs were from different TAGs which included; nine GBV activists, two from Disability rights, one LBQT, four female journalists, three from Land, Environment, Oil and Extractives and one of social justice.
River of Life
Participants discussed their human rights defending journeys explaining how they have not been straight in terms of the challenges received but also some calm moments with achievements. Below shows some of the WHRDs’ journeys of defending human rights.
Brenda Kugonza continued to emphasize on how the WHRDN-U works to promote the safety and security of the WHRDs.
Participants had a discussion on the importance of networking, some of the key issues from group 1 and 2 were;
Mariam Namusabi a GBV activist from Jinja presented for group 1 said, that it promotes sisterhood of taking care of one another, supporting one another in case of attack, sharing information and knowledge.
Ms. Sarah Namaggo from Kaliro district working on disability rights from group 2 presented on some of the following; in order to enjoy activism work through learning tips like, eat good, look good and be happy, carry out exchange visits.
Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) conducted a two days training to launch the Bukedi Regional Network for Women Human Rights Defenders. The training comprised of twenty one WHRDS and five staff from the secretariat was held from 7th- 8th October at Hotel Pretoria in Mbale district.
Session one: Understanding each other as an activist River of Life
Participants discussed their human rights defending journeys explaining how they have not been straight, with ups and downs, some calm moments.
“Ayo Juliet a GBV activist from Tororo human rights rehabilitation center shared on how she started activism work after 22 acres of land were grabbed away from her by the husband who later divorced with her, her work has attracted the media, which has displayed it and thus attracting funding sources to continue fighting against GBV”.
“Ms. Okello Justin a GBV activist from Tororo says, she begun by reporting defilement cases of children to police perpetrated by head teachers and the teachers in various around Tororo. MIFUMI and Plan International begun facilitating her with money to continue with the work and later different politicians continued to support her with the work up to date”
Session 2: Understanding the WHRDN-U illustration
Participants carried out a demonstration on how the WHRDN-U works to protect WHRDs from violations, threats, attacks.
Session 3: Understanding the nature of threats/challenges facing WHRDs
Different experiences on the threats/challenges were presented based on the different Thematic Action Groups where each participant belonged.
We thank the ISHR for responding to calls by women human rights defenders to engage with the ACHPR special procedures mechanisms to raise awareness about the gendered impact of restrictive environments on WHRDs.
On 18th October, the second day of the NGO Forum ahead of the 73 session the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Civil society discussed issues around limiting press freedoms, stifling citizen efforts to hold their governments to account and gender-based violence.
The Special Rapporteur mechanism on human rights defenders, Hon. Remy Ngoy Lumbu in Africa commended states parties of Cote d’lvoire, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for having adopted laws for protection of human rights defenders and called upon other state parties to emulate the state parties with laws to protect human rights defenders. He added that states should establish protection mechanisms for human rights defenders.
Engagement with the Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women In Africa
WHRDN-U had the privilege to engage with the Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women In Africa, Ms.Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie, who we called upon to work with the Special Rapporteur for human rights to develop a stronger gender perspective to protect WHRDs and to offer technical assistance in the development of the HRD protection bill.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
“The enactment of a single law on the protection of Women Human rights defenders is an important step forward but insufficient without a holistic view of the legislative environment in which WHRDs operate. pic.twitter.com/OKk3PxHTIl
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.
As the world commemorated the International day for women human rights defenders on 29th November 2021, Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) jointly with UN Women, oriented this year’s campaign and launched the safety guidelines as move to strengthen the protection women human rights defenders against violence.
Speaking at the launch at Protea Hotel, Ms. Anna Marrifield, the Deputy Ambassador European Union Delegation to Uganda and the chief guest, appreciated all women human rights defenders for not giving up amidst the challenges they face while executing their work. She urged women human rights defenders to take note of these guidelines and use them for self-protection against violence. She appealed to the policymakers of Uganda to consider these guidelines in the 11th Parliament
While presenting the safety guidelines, Ms. Nakaweesi Solome, a Pan-African feminist, who took a lead role in developing these safety guidelines, thanked WHRDN-U, UN Women, and other partners for the great work in the protection of women human rights defender. “We took time to consult women human rights defenders from four regions of Uganda, that is North, South, East and West. Some of these women are here with us, thank you for providing us with the information which led to the compilation of these safety guidelines”. Ms. Nakaweesi revealed.
The Executive Director of WHRDN-U, Ms. Kugonza Brenda, in her remarks, called for an urgent need to end gender-based violence among women human rights defenders, revealing that most of them have been arrested, beaten, discriminated, sexually assaulted, and cyber harassed, which has made their work difficult. She called upon women human rights defenders to pay attention to self-protection and committed herself to leading the network in the implementation the safety guidelines.
During the inspirational experience session, Ms. Edreda Dingolo, a defender for the Batwa tribe in Bundibudyo district, called for the protection of ancestral land and unique violence against Batwa women and girls. “There is a stereotype in our community that you can cure yourself of HIV by sleeping with a woman from Batwa, so we are often raped. She added. Ms. Halima Nalongo a defender for land, environmental, oil and extractives, also expressed her concerns on the rising threats and arrests among women working in salt industry related to land grabbing and access to justice in her region.
Mr. Thomas, a representative from EU Delegation to Uganda, who officially launched the safety guidelines, in his remarks, thanked WHRDN-U, UN Women, and other partners for initiating these guidelines and encouraged women human rights defenders to use of them.
ABOUT THE SAFETY AND SECURITY GUIDELINES FOR WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
The guidelines offer practical tips for online and offline safety measures that will enable women human rights defenders at different levels to mitigate risks and attacks of violence in their work. These include; creating support spaces at district and regional levels, alliance building with like-minded actors, reporting and exposing perpetrators, creating legal frameworks, group movements, self-care and wellness, confidentiality and responsible use of internet among others. Key implementers of these guidelines including UN Women, WHRDN-U, and OHCHR will make them accessible on their websites, workshops, briefings and webinar to support the effective utilisation of these guidelines.