Involving men in tackling gender-based violence in Uganda
NNN: As a community educator on child abuse and gender-based violence, Amos Ojandu often responds to incidents of domestic violence in his local Yumbe district in northern Uganda.
“My neighbor used to fight with his wife every day because he suspected her of cheating on him. When she refused to have sex with him, he beat her in front of the children and kicked her out of the house,” she recalls, describing how she begged her husband to let her come home.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection problem. It refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender, and is rooted in gender inequality, abuse of power, and harmful norms. This can take various forms, including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation.
In Uganda, a four-year program known as 2gether 4 SRHR that began in 2018 aims to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights in the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are supporting the government in its efforts to address gender-based violence and provide greater access to health services and assistance to survivors of abuse or violence.
Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the 2gether 4 SRHR program is being implemented in eight districts in Uganda, to help the government create an enabling legal and policy environment that empowers people to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. and access quality integrated services. to address sexual and reproductive health, HIV and gender-based violence.
With the support of WHO and other partners, the program has developed a variety of tools. These contain the training manual for male action groups, including service standards for Male Friendly services; the training manual for health workers on managing rape survivors, the quality support monitoring tool for GBV services, the GBV registry for health facilities, and IEC materials for health and community workers.
In addition to the tools developed, the program has trained more than 240 health workers and 75 district officers, police officers, and primary and secondary school teachers on their roles and responsibilities in preventing and responding to gender-based violence and supporting survivors. Training topics include clinical management, responding appropriately to GBV survivors, networks, and multisectoral responses to GBV for both men and women.
At the regional level, WHO has advocated for the inclusion of men’s participation in the regional agenda for reproductive and child health, and to address GBV issues.
Juliet Cheptoris, Focal Point for Gender-Based Violence at the Ugandan Ministry of Health, points out that in Uganda’s largely patriarchal society, male dominance is culturally accepted and supported by strong community norms and values that can negatively affect health outcomes. for men, women and teens. , and kids.
“The 2gether 4 SRHR program uses evidence-based interventions guided by the male engagement strategy, which will strategically improve population health outcomes in the country,” she says.
Male Engagement Groups established in each of the program’s eight target districts aim to increase the engagement of men and boys in activities related to reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition; gender violence and violence against women; and sexual and reproductive health and rights, including HIV and tuberculosis.
“We train participants on the roles and responsibilities of men in sexual and reproductive health and rights,” says Patrick Ozimuke, a nurse and trainer in the Yumbe district.
“We educate all participants about their right to enjoy their sexuality to the fullest and to achieve their reproductive health goals and rights, but we stress that this must be done responsibly,” she adds, stressing the need for men to participate responsibly. effective in their health and well-being, respecting the rights of their partners and children.
Health workers have received adequate information and have been advised to provide integrated services, including the identification of cases of gender-based violence through the reproductive health services they provide. They can now manage or refer patients for assistance.
Communities are also more willing to discuss and disclose issues related to gender-based violence, says Dr. Olive Sentumbwe, National Family and Reproductive Health Professional Officer at the WHO Uganda office, also noting that men are becoming involving more.
“Potential benefits of men’s involvement include better family health, better communication between partners, joint and informed decision-making within the household, and better sexual and reproductive health,” she says.
Community Educator Ojandu agrees, having participated in his local Male Engagement Group.
“Men and women have the same rights and we must always agree on that before acting. Sometimes kids don’t need to know that their parents disagree, because it also affects their psychosocial health,” she says.
Today, Ojandu organizes a community dialogue in which members discuss and advise each other on domestic problems. He and other service providers at the community level note that reports of gender-based violence have increased.
“People are no longer ashamed to report their cases. They know they have the law on their side and we always make sure they get the proper treatment.”
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