The United Nations Assembly, together with the rest of the world, proclaimed November 18, 2022, as the International Day to End Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents. At Buyiga Island in Mpigi District, Saint Ann Foundation collaborated with Totya Platform, Raising Teenagers Uganda, Mutera Global Movement, Brave Movement, Kaleke Kasome, and other organizations to commemorate this day..
Among the activities of the day was a community engagement with religious, cultural, and political leaders of the Island to exchange experiences on how sexual violence against children and adolescents at the Island can be minimized through advocacy initiatives, and this was an opportunity for us to interact with the residents to understand their predicaments. The OC of Buyiga Island Mr. Barigye Ambrose gave the opening remarks where he disclosed that “child defilement cases keep raising daily at the Island due to the negative mindset towards women and the girl child in the community.” According to him, they (Police) have partnered with CSOs to provide medical and mental support, and ensuring justice to survivors. He as well informed the congregation that police posts on this Island receive a large volume of child sex abuse cases almost on a daily basis, and due to the limited resources allocated to them, they lose critical cases that involve delivery of justice to survivors. According to the Officer, owing to the geography of the area (there is only one path to and from the Island) perpetrators escape from the Island and find safe haven at the mainland.
Leaders also pointed out that boys and men still hold the belief that gender equality must conform to masculine ideals and that “girls are meant to stay in homes and get married since they were born for the kitchen.” Due to these restrictive cultural and social norms, there has been a considerable rise in teen pregnancies, child marriages, and sexual and gender-based violence. To mitigate this crisis, the area local leaders seconded implementation and close monitoring of programs employing a gender transformational perspective, so as to ensure continuous engagement of men and boys.
According to the leaders, restricting girls’ frequent travel to risky areas should be of the utmost importance, as doing so will stop abusers from attacking them. Protecting girls will entail increasing water sources in public places owing to the fact that the burden of looking for water in a household majorly rests on women and girls.
It is also high time government and implementing partners added more schools that provide informal education as well as vocational skills to empower adolescent girls and young women to challenge gender, cultural and social norms, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, child marriages and Female Genital Mutilation in island communities.