Women’s Global and VacNet partnered to host a Youth Advocacy Forum for the first time at the Gulu Women’s Resource Center (GWRC) to address chronically high rates of youth unemployment – estimated at 70% in the Gulu District. Youth in the region have limited participation in the planning and governance, and lack leadership and advocacy skills, making youth involvement and participation in governance and development agendas unrealistic. The forum had a theme of “Get Inspired, Get Informed, Get Organized.”
The goal of the event was to inspire, educate and call on youth leaders in northern Uganda to become more vocal, well-informed, better-organized advocates and change-makers.
Mr. Okello Geoffrey, a seasoned human rights activist and Executive Director of Gulu District NGO Forum, facilitated the youth forum to share practical tips and tools. Fifty parish youth leaders gathered to learn about advocacy skills, tools and platforms to caucus and discuss issues that affect youth in their community, as well as suggest recommendations.
Today a team of 25 Peer counsellors our access to justice volunteers gathered at Gulu Women Resource Center (GWRC) to receive further training on community engagement skills, paralegal services, human rights, and conflict resolution. They were trained to share best practices and improve upon their work with a deeper understanding of the types and causes of human rights abuses/violations, monitor, document, and report cases in the community.
WGEF’s Peer Counsellors (PCs) are positioned at parish level and serve as mediators and a link between victims and service providers for fellow community members facing human rights abuses and violations. The issues they encounter range from land and property conflicts between family members to rape and defilement of adolescent girls. The Access to Justice program incorporates community dialogues aimed at sensitizing the community on their rights to access fair and timely justice and provide referrals to other service providers.
Recently, our access to justice team have been working with the probation office and police to process 35 more cases which have been a backlogged. Many of these cases involved women and children who are finally able to get justice.
“I believe that injustice can only be eradicated when women are able to take charge of their lives and claim their rights”.
— Betty WGEF peer Counsellor
Every year, the international community observes the World Population Day on July 11th This year’s World Population Day theme is: “Leaving nobody behind: Improving service delivery and accountability”. Uganda over time has put our population issues at the Centre of its development plans and programs.
As part of Gulu Women’s Resource Centre’s goal of providing women and community with current and critical information. GWRC hosted an information exhibition that attracted civil society, NGO, and Gulu University and Government departments all gathered at GWRC to commemorate the International Populations Day, while teaching and disseminating relevant information. This was an opportunity for 392 community members and school going children to access first hand information regarding health and sensitization about Teenage pregnancy which stands at 28 % in Northern Uganda.
According to statistics Infant mortality dropped from 122 deaths per 1,000 live births recorded in 1991 to 43 deaths in 2016, representing a 63 per cent drop. Maternal mortality also declined from 506 in 1991 to 336 in 2016, a decline of 34 per cent. Fertility has declined from the 7.4 children per woman recorded in 1988 to 5.4 in 2016, a decline of 24 per cent. At a population growth rate of 3.0 per cent, Uganda’s population has grown from 16.7 million people in 1990 to 34.6 million in 2014 and is expected to reach 40 million by the end of this year.
In spite of this progress and prospects children still die from immunisable diseases as well as those diseases that can be prevent through better hygiene like the promotion of hand washing using soap after visiting the toilet. The teenage pregnancy rate in Uganda remains high at 25 per cent and this has stagnated at that level for the last 10 years. This means that in Uganda, one out of every four teenage girls has had a baby before they reach 19 years old.
Teenage pregnancy rate in Northern Uganda is higher than the national average and stands at 28 per cent. According to the 2014 Census, crop production is the major economic activity in the districts. And 48 per cent of youth is neither in school nor working. Illiteracy among 10-30 years olds stands at 56 per cent. In addition, latrine coverage is low at 39 per cent and access to safe water is at only 53 per cent. The poor health conditions are mainly due to high poverty levels in the district and the high disease burden in the district is due to malaria, which is rampant and stands at 41 per cent.
“I commend the work of WGEF and VacNet for the initiative to open a community resource center in Gulu and for organizing this exhibition to sensitize the community but also helping the Government to disseminate information.”
Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi
Vice President, Uganda
GWRC provided a space through which all the above information was made available for the community to access LEAVING NOBODY BEHIND FOR IMPROVED SERVICE DELIVERY AND ACCOUNTABILITY.
The Exhibitions was officially attended by the Vice President of Uganda together with Members of Parliament who commended the work of WGEF in supporting the social transformation in Northern Uganda.
“I feel I have the right skills and I clearly understand my personal qualities, I will be able to take actions to lead women in my community to protest against domestic violence against any body in my Community”
WGEF Client and Leader
WGEF conducted a 1 day Breaking Silence about Domestic Violence training for 22 peer counsellors, to equip them with skills to support themselves and their group members. It is critical for peer counselors to learn about the root causes and effects of domestic violence in the communities they serve in. Due to increased cases reported to our Access to Justice office WGEF offered to equip peer counsellors with the skills necessary to respond to cases of domestic violence especially against women and children. These include rape and kidnap and in worst cases murder. A lot of time these cases go un reported because of fear and the lack of effective support system to respond and provide justice to the victims. As a result, many suffer in silence.
The training focused on developing skills and personal qualities so that peer counselors can develop and strengthen their ability to take action against domestic violence in their communities.
“I feel I have the right skills and I clearly understand my personal qualities. I will be able to take actions to lead women in my community to protest against domestic violence against any body in my Community”
Margret WGEF Peer counsellor, Gulu
The training was hosted at Gulu Women’s Resource Centre. Attended by 22 peer counselors and 6 WGEF staff who interacts with WGEF beneficiaries on a daily basis. An external facilitator together with the program Director conducted the training support by staff at Gulu Women’s Resource Center. Most of the trainee’s expectations were achieved and they requested for more follow up training in the near future. Action point were developed to form a basis for follow up, peer counsellors were advised to utilize the tall free line managed by the Access to Justice team to report any cases in their community for support and referrals.