1 On August 11, 2022, UN Women Uganda, Action Aid and the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGLSD) convened the National Symposium on the Impact and Sustainability of Gender-Based Violence Shelters in Uganda.
2 Shelters are a critical part of a holistic approach to violence against women and girls, providing shelter, medical, legal, economic and psychosocial services to victims.
3 There are 20 shelters in total in Uganda, supported in partnership with the Government of Uganda and MGLSD.
5 Speaking at the opening session of the Symposium, UN Women Country Representative in Uganda, Paulina Chiwangu, shared: “UN Women is aware of the ongoing efforts supported by the Government of Uganda and Development Partners such as Sweden and Norway, but the reality is that some of the shelters are not operational due to lack of funding and others are about to close.”
6 Her Excellency the Ambassador of Sweden Maria Hakansson stressed that violence generates significant economic costs for society, and gender violence is the most evident expression of this inequality.
7 Gender-based violence is often used to silence women who speak out.
8 HE Hakannson made a call to action that now is the time to lead by example.
9 She challenged women and men in all spheres of society to step up to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
12 MGLSD’s strategic direction is to incorporate GBV Shelter programming, but due to the economic downturn this has not been easy.
13 There is a need for additional financial support for GBV shelters to ensure continuity of critical services for GBV survivors.
14 Much has been done in terms of legal policy framework, changing social norms, coordination and a multisectoral approach, but all of this requires financial support.
15 During the COVID-19 pandemic, when shelters faced closure, UN Women Uganda stepped in to provide emergency funds to maintain shelters.
16 Sustainability was at the heart of the discussions with presentations and discussions on financing options for shelters.
17 A presentation on “The Financing Ecosystem” presented by Jean Kemitare (Program Director at Urgent Action Fund), who highlighted the fact that the system is co-dependent as all the actors and factors constitute a whole and that system is made up of governments local and national, private sector, bilateral agencies such as FCDO and SIDA, women’s funds among others.
18 This presentation sparked a conversation about being strategic, innovative, and partnering with sustainable institutions as well as other partners, such as high net worth individuals.
19 District Local Government (DLG) officials, District Community Development Officers (DCDO), civil society organizations, UN agencies and other stakeholders participated in a plenary discussion in which participants shared concerns about inadequate funding in this area, the influx of survivors, the functionality of the referral system, as well as a call to the Ministry of Gender to support GBV shelters.
20 Participants representing the UN spoke about their commitments and saw this funding challenge as a good opportunity to expand our thinking on funding and tap into other donors in the areas of refugee response, for example.
21 Dr. Katja Kerschbaumer, representing the Austrian Development Cooperation, spoke about the support that Austria is providing to end the violence by developing the investigative capacity of the police, the prosecution service and having more staff in these agencies, as well as in the courts in districts where gender violence is higher.
23 The overall conclusion of the Symposium was the need to take seriously the needs of women and girls as a global and national emergency.
24 The participants shared conclusions during the interactive sessions.
25 Angella Akoth, National Coordinator of the GBV Shelters Project, Action Aid, spoke about the shadow of the pandemic of violence against women and called for support and commitment, and the need to prioritize these services.
26 “We have had an increase in cases of violence against women in Uganda due to economic constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises.
27 Right now, facing the threat of closure leaves us with many questions: what How do women get How can women be reached with these services when they face the threat of closure?
28 Women are the backbone of Uganda, we must prioritize them.
29 If we allocate funds for water, hygiene, environment, why don’t we allocate funds for the safety of women?
31 Commissioner Angella Nakafeero, Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, emphasized the importance of women’s economic empowerment and the interrelationships with violence prevention: “When women have a source of income they can access justice, satisfy their own needs and decide to leave abusive relationships behind.
32 [Through the support of UN Women] These shelters have helped 665 women in 5 districts to benefit from entrepreneurial skills in agricultural and non-agricultural businesses.”