BUKWO – Girl child and studies, a drama based on real-life experiences in Sebei sub-region by Bukwo Youth Actors has become a powerful wake-up call for families to end Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] and Gender-Based Violence [GBV].
From the moment the drama starts, it becomes clear that the two vices have no place in modern society as authenticity is embraced and inhibitions are lost.
Noelia, a student in one of the local schools and from a home where her mother is beaten daily for talking to the father about education of the girl leaves audiences stunned.
Girl child and her studies depict hard times women go through in Sebei sub-region where husbands are emotionally and physically abusive and constantly criticise their wives for trying to better their daughters through education.
The husbands urge that once girls reach the age of 12 years, they are mature enough to face FGM and be married off.
Noelia and the mother appear on stage now turned into a traditional courtyard for their homestead in Amanang secondary school in Bukwo District.
“Mummy I have been sent away from school for tuition, talk to daddy to give you some money for my tuition,” Noelia tells her mother.
But shortly, the father Mr Cherukut Andiema appears from the rare, the mother straight away asks for fees for her daughter who is now at home, a quarrel ensues and Mr Cherukut goes for his wife.
The audience is treated to a drama when Mr Cherukut grabs his wife wrestles her to the ground, starts raining blows on her head until she lies unconsciousness on ground and he abandons her there for dead.
Although Noelia cries out on the scene trying to restrain her father from beating the mother, Mr Cherukut keeps chasing her away telling her not to bother him for an education.
“Why do you ask for fees for this mature girl? She is supposed to undergo FGM and be married off now. I can’t waste my money on this one,” Mr Cherukut tells his wife who could not move and talk.
Touched by this type of treatment for women, Mrs Allen Chemutai appears on the stage with a stick, ready to hit Mr Cherukut for beating up his wife but she is restrained by Mr Dan Kiplangat, the LC1 chairperson of the village who eventually calls the police.
The villagers, who were determined to beat up Mr Cherukut, were dazed when the police arrived and arrested Cherukut for beating up his wife, promoting FGM and denying his daughter tuition fees to go back to school.
The girls in the audience laugh at Cherukut who wears a grey scarf, which he holds together under his chin with one hand, and tries to explain to the police his ignorance about the law on FGM and GBV.
And from the rare a sociologist and lawyer Ms Liz Chebet appears on stage and explains the 2010 Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act
“And part IV of the Act criminalizes female genital mutilation (FGM). The Act also provides that if FGM is carried out and causes death, the perpetrator will be liable to imprisonment for life. The Act further criminalizes individuals who aid or albeit FGM,” said Ms Chebet.
She added that the government of Uganda has also the Domestic Violence Act 2010 which gives various institutions the jurisdiction to handle domestic violence cases and that these institutions range from local council courts, police, and magistrates to health workers.
“And local council courts were mandated to handle matters related to children, economic abuse, physical violence, emotional abuse, and sexual violence are included in the act. The act also provides for protection orders for survivors of domestic violence to leave their respective homes,” said Ms Chebet.
She told the audience that there are far-reaching effects of domestic violence that greatly impact the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of “spectator” children in violent homes is an issue that the Act and stakeholders should address.
She explained further that the two vices [FGM and GBV] show the physical, mental, and psychological impact of domestic violence on spectator children and women in the cycle of violence.
“And anybody found beating up a woman will be arrested, those found denying children their rights will also be arrested and I want to ask police to take Mr Cherukut to court to serve as an example for other people who beat their women, children, force women and girl-child into FGM, we must stop this to give women and our children a better future,” said Ms Chebet.
She said although Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, many of the Sabiny don’t know this.
“And this explains why they force girls into FGM our target now should be to bring these rights down to these people in Kupsabiny. Teach them children’s rights and women emancipation,” she said.
Reports from WHO across the world indicate that Gender-based violence (GBV) is a universal phenomenon where one in three women experiences either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence during their lifetime (WHO).
And reports add that GBV ranges from physical, sexual, emotional and other family violence to FGM, child marriage, early childbearing, trafficking and sexual violence as a weapon of war.
According to Ms Beatrice Chelangat, the Director-General of the REACH programme, GBV has had serious consequences for women’s physical health, as well as their sexual and reproductive health, and mental health and it is a fundamental violation of women’s human rights and has adverse economic and social consequences for men, women, their children, families and communities.
The drama emphasises that girls and women have rights and that it is up to them to decide the right cultures that can help initiate them into adulthood and it was staged in Riwo primary school, Kabei secondary school, Kortek primary school and Amanang secondary school.
The drama highlights the constitutional provisions like the duties of a citizen and women emancipation through education to discard the harmful FGM that is practiced in Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo districts.
This is a scene in the play “Girl-child and her studies” meant to end FGM, restore dignity of the girl-child, rekindle their hope’, that is being staged in every community and school to sensitise people about the dangers of FGM and GBV by The REACH programme.
Under the programme, REACH, has initiated the participation of Sabiny irrespective of sex, educational background and age in a wide range of civic education programmes through face-to-face meetings at their homes, drama, and songs to end FGM.
The REACH is Reproductive Education and Community Health programme, an NGO that is involved in the fight against FGM and GBV is Sebei sub-region under funding from African Development Bank through Uganda National Roads Authority [UNRA].
The REACH is carrying out consulting services by creating awareness on the dangers of FGM and GBV on Kapchorwa-Suam road project area that is under construction with a funding from AfDB and government of Uganda through UNRA.
Ms Chelangat explained that they will visit schools [both secondary and primary] and communities to stage this drama in order to restore the rights of children and women in Sebei sub-region.
She revealed that out of misfortune and this drama, many circumcised women have found a new calling; “they are now vocal advocates through songs and drama for eliminating FGM/C and GBV in this remote, mountainous sub-region.
Mr Sirali Wabuyi, the headteacher Amanang secondary school consented that the young girls in the play will soon be part a growing network of women and men who are working for the complete elimination of FGM/GBV
“This play has spoken to the young girls and boys in my school and you get home, please tell your parents to end FGM and GBV, these are crimes and abuse of rights, I think we need more of these plays,” said Mr Sirali.
Mr Wabuyi said that the engagement of men and boys in the drama is critical and proven effective in GBV prevention and response, as well as securing better health outcomes for men, women, boys and girls.