Violence against women and girls is a fundamental human rights violation, affecting around one in three women and girls around the world, while in some countries the prevalence is as high as one in two. Women and girls face forms of violence and discrimination in every society, including domestic abuse, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, as well as psychological/emotional violence. Globally 81,000 women and girls were killed in 2020, around 47,000 – an average of one death every 11 minutes (WHO, 2020) died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member. An estimated 37% of women and girls living in the poorest countries in the world have experienced physical and/or psychological torture due to sexual and other forms of violence in their lives. The victims’ experiences of violence have serious negative impacts on their well-being and the well-being of their children, which hence has ramifications on their productivity and ability to participate fully in society.
Despite the high level of political commitment to the promotion of women’s rights in Uganda, violence, especially against women and children continues to be a human rights violation and a general development issue. Between 250,000 girls and women were victims of rape and estimates are that up to two-thirds of these victims were also infected with HIV by perpetrators carrying the virus. Gender inequalities are still deep-rooted in every society. Women and girls’ woes are exacerbated by the existence of an exploitative system of patriarchy, especially in rural communities in Uganda, which has ensured that they remain at the periphery as far as access and participation in development are concerned. This marginalization and violence against women and girls is perpetuated by many factors including but not limited to negative cultural practices and attitudes, gender stereotypes and inequalities, and extreme poverty, underscoring the urgency with which it must be addressed.
In this regard, Saint Ann Foundation is implementing interventions that are geared towards empowering women and the girl child to make life choices without hindrance from cultural, gender, age, and other prejudices by equipping them with the tools and resources that they need to break the social, cultural and economic barriers to their emancipation. This is through the implementation of the following interventions;
A). Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights
Our sexual and reproductive interventions are geared towards opening up larger possibilities for women, and girls to make choices in their lives so that they can work towards achieving their full potential, add quality to their lives and contribute economically and in other different ways in society. Cognizant of the fact that their (women and girls) ability to make decisions on reproductive health, contraceptive use, and sexual relations is pivotal to gender equality, we have established platforms where they are able to exercise their autonomy without hindrance from harmful and discriminatory social norms and practices, as well as judgment, stigma, and condemnation from sections of society.
B). Sports and Recreation.
Sports is a key pillar to building individual self-esteem, and confidence, and keeping people physically and psychologically fit and it also has a strong convening power. Our Sports and recreation program takes an integrated approach using sports as a social development tool and as a platform to equip women, and girls with skills in different sports, for self-confidence, tolerance, and realization of their power to challenge the traditional attitudes on limitation of what they are capable and not capable of doing.
The program also utilizes sport as a platform for mobilizing communities to engage in activities that seek to reduce violence and torture against girls and women. This is hinged on our belief that sports and play activities can enhance resilience, facilitate emotional and social stabilization, as well as facilitate the acquisition of new skills and abilities. It is our belief that sport and play programs will enable us to restore social well-being and psychological health, especially to the victims of violence (forced marriage, rape, marginalization) and torture through group-focused practices tailored to fit the contexts of local culture, traditions, needs, and resources.
C) Skilling/Enterprise Development
SAF provides beneficiaries with skills, hands-on opportunities, and the tools required to operate successful income-generating enterprises. Our interventions are geared towards the beneficiaries’ economic empowerment through business training, financial education/literacy, entrepreneurship, bookkeeping, and enterprise planning to ensure they are in a position to plan and run their business ventures efficiently, independently, and sustainably.
D) Performing Arts and Craft Work
Saint Ann Foundation implements activities that have the capacity to transform suffering, negative experiences, and collective wounds into artistic and cultural productions that give new meaning to what has been lived by target beneficiaries. This is through stories and other innovations that allow people to connect with peers who identify with a given situation. The essence of our art therapy and craftwork is to not only accord beneficiaries the platform to express themselves in a way that feels right to them, manage stress, as well as serve as an outlet to release challenging emotions in a personal and expressive manner but to also encourage the sharing of ideas and perspectives, so as to cushion the mental health and well-being of the beneficiaries.