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Violence knows no education; sexual violence in Northern Uganda

She was no ordinary woman. In fact she was a headmistress at a primary school in northern Uganda. Akello (not her real name) had been married for many years to a man he never stayed with.He was an LCV councilor, one who supposed to go to the district and speak about people’s struggles and try to ensure funding goes to the priorities of the population. He was also polygamous, reason for not staying with Akello for many years. He had four wives, something uncommon in many parts of rural Uganda. After many years without him around, Akello started a relationship with another man though the marriage was not dissolved. Her husband who had been away for two years came rushing back on learning the news of a new man.

He came back to Akello’s home found the other man had just left. “He asked for sex and Akello being still marriage to him she couldn’t say no,” a friend told me. “The sex was violent and she tried to resist in vain. The husband got a pair of scissors, inserted it into her vagina, as far as it could go and started cutting.” She was unconscious and when she woke up there was a lot of blood. “She didn’t seek medical attention because she was afraid and even her reputation was at stake so she kept this to herself.”

It wasn’t long, she started passing pus and then she realized she had to a hospital. “It was in hospital that we learnt of the story and the extent of injuries the husband inflicted on, a few minutes before she died,” the friend said, “you know violence knows no education.” The husband was arrested and jailed, the women of Pader walked through the streets to protest this kind of treatment of women. In fact they wanted to lynch him.

I listened to this story while on the road around Agago about a week ago. I just kept telling myself no, this didn’t happen here. Look the war is over, only rebels or ruthless soldiers or the distraught would do that or this  I read from many Africa’s sexual abuse-characterized wars. This was a puzzle, yes the war has been here, for over 20 years and it’s only a few years since this area saw some sort of peace. I kept wondering why this man would go to this extent. And yes I went ahead and asked, many in the car pointed to war trauma. But still i can’t find much answers. This happened in December; it never got much media coverage and partly is because since the war ended this area rarely makes it to the page one in Ugandan news. Not much has been done in rehabilitation and we only have briefs from the north despite the challenges faced by communities in post conflict Uganda.

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Health worker crisis; can there be an ethical recruitment of international health workers

On the eve of the Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, Save the Children has launched a new report, No Child Born to Die, highlighting critical gaps in children’s access to health, and the need to address the huge global shortage of health workers.

The report notes the critical gap of over 3.5 million health workers in the poorest countries, without whom millions of children will face illness and early death. Doctors, midwives, nurses and community health workers are the backbone of health services. Without them, life-saving measures cannot be put in place. In addition, millions of existing health workers also lack the training and support they need- Save the Children.

The Global Forum on Human Resources for Health should commit to close the health worker gap, encourage the equitable distribution of health workers, deliver on commitments, recommit to the principles and structures of the Kampala Declaration and Agenda for Global Action; Publicly commit to a global Human Resources for Health and supported financial target that includes the training, retaining, and equitably distributing of at least 3.5 million additional health workers by 2015, with time-bound benching marks leading up to the 2015 MDG deadline.

More than 1000 leaders and experts – including Ministers of Health, public health experts and health workers –will meet in Bangkok, Thailand this week to highlight progress and challenges and agree future urgent action to strengthen the health workforce measures.

Issues include the ethical recruitment of international health workers, increasing the number of workers trained by developed countries and the use of incentives –including better pay, working conditions and career development – to encourage health workers to remain in their own countries and communities.

Is migration I high on agenda, and there is what is called ethical recruitment of international health workers. Do you think the recruitment of health workers can be more ethical when all countries are in need and in the developing countries there’s little investment in retention and good working environment for these workers?

 

 

 

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Access to Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Nepal report

From Isis-WICCE:

 

For centuries, Nepalese women have been discriminated. The inherent patriarchal and feudal structures have been operating through norms, values, and social practices, aimed at controlling and exploiting women’s bodies. In today’s Nepal, Women continue to be marginalized, abused, exploited and subjugated – they are denied dignity and access to basic human rights.

On 21st November 2006, Nepal signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) and thus entered the peace process, ending more than a decade long political conflict. All the parties involved committed themselves to uphold the human rights situation in the country. Subsequently, progressive steps have been taken by the government[1]. However, there are worrying indicators that these steps aimed at ending Violence Against Women (VAW) are not sufficient and scanty attention has been given to their enforcement.

Whereas many women joined the movement as female combatants to create spaces where women could operate freely as agents of change, there are indicators that female combatants equally faced various forms of violence and have been denied access to justice by their political party. On the contrary, female ex combatants have been confronted with a big dilemma, and denied the opportunity to join the Nepali army as part of the re-integration process. They have instead been relegated and forced to go back to the confines of the traditional roles of a woman.

 

The increased impunity in the transitional phase in Nepal, has hiked the level of statelessness, politicization of crimes, and amnesty for the perpetrators granted by the political parties. This presents a major challenge to peace, democracy and stability. Women and marginalized groups pay the highest price. Violence Against Women is under reported or unreported due to fear of reprisals, lack of witness protection and victim protection, and lack of reliance in the judiciary system. Despite the present redress mechanisms, crimes against women such as sexual violence are still resolved through mediation or alternative dispute resolution.

 

From the national research conducted by WOREC Nepal and Isis-WICCE (2010) with support of other women’s rights organizations on “Access to Justice for survivors of sexual violence in Nepal, from 2007 – 2010”, sexual violence cuts across all age groups (62.8% minors and 37.2% adults), ethnic groups and professions. From the media sources 241 cases were reported on an annual basis compared to 443 registered cases at the police. It also indicates that whereas, there have been efforts to report this atrocity, majority of survivors are unwilling to speak out due to the strong socio-cultural barriers, fear of retaliation, stigmatization and isolation, poverty and the hostile enforcement mechanisms and legal system. The continued impunity is further exemplified by the fact that even high profile women (e.g. a member of the Constituent Assembly) have fallen victim of sexual violence by security forces and the legal system remains adamant.

This is further affirmed by WOREC Nepal (2010) report[1] which clearly illustrates that out of the 1594 cases collected, 60% of the women were subjected to domestic violence, 21% faced social violence and 9% rape. Amongst the perpetrators, husbands accounted for 43.2%, followed by neighbors (27.4%), and family members (22.6%). The report further elaborated that rape accounted for the next highest category of VAW where a total of 150 cases were reported and indicated that rape against women comes from men they know.

 

All these have hampered the full utilization of the potentials of women and thus further lowered the development indices of Nepal. This confirms that the agenda of women is still not a priority on the Nepal government agenda and makes it hard for women to access justice and fully exercise and enjoy their fundamental rights.

The Government of Nepal is scheduled to present its report on human rights observance as required by the Human Rights Council during the Universal Peer Review Process on 25th January 2011 in Geneva.  As key actors in the advancement of women globally and in the reconstruction of Nepal, this is an opportune moment to further profile the situation of women in Nepal, as evidenced from the efforts of NGO’s and UN institutions responding to violence against women and human rights in general.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), WOREC Nepal and Isis WICCE, have organized a workshop on 26th January 2011, to provide the alternative perspective of the situation of women’s rights in Nepal to the attention of Government, Rights holders, the civil society, Missions in Geneva, and development partners, together with Experts working on issues related to sexual violence in different parts of the world.

At the workshop will raise awareness on the scope and the gravity of violence against women in Nepal and lobby the government to fulfill its state obligations. Specifically, the organizations will highlight the challenges of accessing justice and launch a national report on Access to Justice for Survivors of Rape.

Experts will include Ms. Bindu Gautam, Nepali, Lead Researcher, Dr. Trilochan Upreti, Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister of Nepal, responsible for the Human Rights Unit; Dr. Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Harriet Musoke, Programme Coordinator, Isis WICCE, Uganda to present her experiences on documentation in different post conflict countries;

 

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Warid Telecom must pull down Double delight sexist advert

I have for the last one month listened to the Warid advert on radios announcing giving a bonus wife to a husband designed for the holiday season and I have been meaning to write about this sexist advert. The company has also billboards up

It was male journalist colleague who first brought my attention to this advert which he found way out of line and later I heard while on a bus ride from Bushenyi my home to Kampala from the Christmas break. But a friend and journalist at The Observer did a comprehensive job about sexist advertisement in Uganda which covers this Warid ad that I wouldn’t add much to this her work.

So I write with strong belief in the words of Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995), a Nigerian activist and writer  that “a writer cannot be a mere storyteller; he cannot be a mere teacher; he cannot merely x-ray society’s weaknesses, its ills, its perils. He or she must be actively involved shaping its present and its future.

I am writing this protest note and have put up a facebook group where this  can continue. I am informed Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) has sent out a petition against the ad but am yet to see it.


To Warid telecom Uganda

Stop Sexist Advertisement

We, the women of Uganda and other concerned citizens are writing to you to protest your Double Delight advertisement. Your advert suggests that women are possessions, just there to be given away to men without any consent. This advert reinforces certain cultural attitudes that women of Uganda have been fighting for many decades.

As a respectable company which has won several awards including the 2010 Innovation of the Year Award from the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), we expect that your innovation can continue without resorting to negative portrayal of women and robbing us of our dignity.

Women of Uganda have come a long way dating to pre-independence struggles. Many Ugandan women continue to be tied down by many cultural limitations and millions face violence because of inequality. As you may know married couples in Uganda have the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS and many women have been victims because of unequal power relations. Your advert of a bonus wife as a reward to a man without considerations of feelings of many women can only support continued silencing of women.

The advert is a violation of the basic tenet of equality as laid down in the Constitution of Uganda 1995 and international human rights instruments of which Uganda is party to.

We expect that Warid would be mindful not to fuel stereotypes in the society that have damaging effects on women. We expect this to be ingrained in your social responsibility policies and that you respect the dignity of women of this country.

We therefore demand that you take the mentioned adverts off the airwaves and the billboards be brought down. Women constitute more than half of this country and therefore form an important customer base for any service. Your company must come out and apologize for offending women for more than a month since you launched the adverts.

Thank you



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Museveni’s presidential campaign lies about healthcare woes; attacks health workers

“‘How can any patient value a doctor, value a nurse when they say such things about us?” – a medical worker in Uganda.

This is part of a new report done by HEPSUganda a Health Consumers’ Organisation advocating for health rights and responsibilities on the plight of Uganda’s health workers.

President Museveni has for the last one year, and this has intensified with election campaign, put the blame of Uganda’s dysfunctional health system on medical workers. That they steal drugs and that’s why we have no proper access to good health services. Daily Monitor on December 2010 had a story where the president told a rally in Tororo that the health workers steal drugs and that they will “pay with their backs”

A nurse I met at a HCIII in Serere. There are only 2 professionals manning the center that has no electricity. She uses a lamp during deliveries. She uses her own charcoal stove to boil water to sterilize the little equipment. At the time of the visit the center had not hand gloves for months and when I asked her about the risk of getting HIV she said she can't do anything. "you can't walk away from a woman in labour because you have no gloves." And I am supposed to hear my President blame such a woman for no health services?

I say they have already paid with their backs almost 60 percent of the positions in Uganda’s health center IIIs are vacant.

One health rights activist Patricia Mutambi told me that “we have demonised health workers in Uganda that they have almost ceased to be human in our eyes and people don’t even have an understanding of the difficult conditions they work in.”

The whole blaming of health workers will not solve problems. One of the quotes I found online.

“The army used to be indisciplined, but now it is very disciplined. If we can tame the army, who are these medical workers? We are going to tame them. It will not be long before we sort this problem out once and for all,”–President Museveni while on campaign in Bugweri

I think it’s time for President Museveni to tell Ugandans how he will fix the endless problems facing the health system and not mount an almost hate campaign against health workers who are poorly paid.

 

 

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South Sudanese women expect expanded rights from new state

John Garang, the revered late leader of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, once said that women are the “the poorest of the poor and the marginalised of the marginalised”. As the reality of an independent South Sudan approaches, the region’s women have vowed they will not remain second class citizens.

Margaret Michael Modi, the head of women’s affairs in Central Equatoria State, cast her vote on the first day.

“The first day (of the vote) we did not sleep. I went to the polling station and women were crying as they cast their vote,” she told IPS over the phone from the southern capital, Juba.

“For us the separation will be liberation. For so long, we were subjected to Islamic laws which limited our freedom in most ways, and coupled with the traditional values of the south, [women] remained at the bottom of society.”

South Sudanese women living in Uganda approach a polling station in Kampala on Sunday 9 January. Photo by Jimmy Siya.

Like many others, Modi expects that in an independent South Sudan, women will be in a better position to challenge limits on their freedom rights.

Mary Nawai Martin, a member of south Sudan’s Legislative Assembly from Ibba County, in Western Equatoria State, is optimistic that separation will bring in a new era of respect for women’s rights.

“Women are eager for separation. There’s no woman I have met who didn’t say they voted for the separation. During the rule by the north, women had the least rights, they were the worst victims of the war,” she said.

For more go to IPSAfrica

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