WGEF is known for the development of unique initiatives relevant to challenges facing women and families in Gulu district, northern Uganda. Today, we had the opportunity to learn how one program is addressing the needs of the community. It was one year ago when WGEF hosted the Access to Justice training at the TAKS center in Gulu. Twenty five women attended the training focused on providing vital information and support services to women and families seeking redress from the justice system. Because women have unique challenges when accessing justice, WGEF and it’s peer counselors are working to provide referrals, support and a hotline to the community.
Today, Karen spoke with Peer Counselor Chairperson Prisca and Secretary Sylvia (pictured above) who have been leading the initiative along with other Peer Counselors; they have created an effective system that addresses violence, and other issues within their families and community. Cases have included the rape and death of a 3-year old girl, as well as the sexual violence towards a 12-year old girl. In addition, cases around land rights, domestic violence and discrimination have also been addressed. Prisca, Sylvia and the WGEF Peer Counseling force have become advocates for these girls, their families and others facing inequity or indifference from the legal system.
In the near future, the Access of Justice Initiative will become an independent, community-level organization available to women who experienced a breakage in the justice chain, including sexual violence. WGEF will continue to provide a portion of funding and office space, but it is part of our commitment to empowering women, communities and ‘working ourselves out of a job.’
Prisca explained the hotline and how it works. The hotline or mobile phone is now answered 24/7; Peer Counselors take turns taking care of the phone and any calls that may come in. As Prisca was leaving the office, she grabbed the phone and off she went. WGEF fosters sisterhood amongst women, but the Access of Justice Initiative has developed a community of activists focused on addressing the inequalities within the justice system, while providing collective love and stability.
However, Prisca and Sylvia expressed to us specific needs to increase the outreach of their community-level justice program. The wish list includes:
(3) bikes for transportation
Camera used to document evidence
Computer to efficiently record files, cases, work plans, referral listings, etc
Annual budget for food and miscellaneous costs for affected women and girls, $200
Being in the office today reaffirmed my belief that our program is unique, relevant and creating empowerment, enabling women to rebuild and move their communities forward, determining their own futures thru sisterhood and peace.
While positive news is hard to find, we hope you are inspired by this report and support this important project. Please contact WGEF if you’d like to help or have questions.
Karen, Bukenya, Erin and WGEF!