KAMPALA – The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) – Regional Training Facility (RTF) has on Monday embarked on training the Uganda Prison Service – UPS staff on the integrated model for combating sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the great lakes region.
The four-day training held at Hotel Africana is intended at skilling the UPS staff in the rehabilitation of Gender-based violence convicts.
SGBV is widespread in Uganda among the refugee as well as the national population and calls for special attention.
According to a national prevalence study conducted by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in 2008, 39% of women and 11% of men have ever experienced sexual violence and 60% of women and 53% of men have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
Officiating at the opening ceremony, Angela Nakefero, Commissioner for Gender and Women at the Ministry of Gender revealed that the conflicts in the great lakes region are emerging.
This, she says is why forced displacement and the continued influx of refugees from different countries in the region remain to be persistent challenges for Uganda.
She also attributed the gender-based violence to the “flow of small arms” in Uganda “which lead to conflicts”.
“It’s not surprising that there are so many armed groups in Kampala because as other countries are fighting ammunition is coming in,” she said, adding that “In Karamoja, we have a challenge mainly because of the flow of small arms and light weapons.”
Nakafero also blamed Covid-19 which she says deepened SGBV.
“As a country, we have registered a number of teenage mothers. That means we all need to work together to ensure that these girls are taken care of.”
She said the government has always looked at prisons to rehabilitate the perpetrators even when UPS is not effectively facilitated to do so.
“We need to wake up and prioritize UPS as part of our programs for GBV prevention and response.”
She said that if the country is to better fight SGBV, it needs to tackle the question of perpetrators, transform them into people who are going to see peaceful co-existence with women and girls in the future.
Madam Commissioner revealed that much as the country has got enabling legal and policy framework, a lot still needs to be done particularly on law implementation and enforcement.
“If our laws were working, we wouldn’t be crying of child marriage and pregnancy, physical violence and female genital mutilation and many others.”
She commended RTF for the initiative which she says is going to help train all service providers who can provide quality services not only to the survivors but also to the perpetrators. She also urged for the inclusion of the religious and the private sector on board in future.
Commissioner of prisons in charge of rehabilitation and reintegration, Ms. Elizabeth Nanfuka said the UPS has a robust correctional program which is designed to rehabilitate, reform, and reintegrate prisoners.
“This program is comprised of Prison Farms which include Animal Husbandry, Poultry, Agroforestry and Crop Production: Prison Industries which include Carpentry. Metalworks and fabrication, Art and Craft, Printing and Tailoring; Rehabilitation which includes, Sexual offender rehabilitation program, counselling and Guidance, Education, Music, Dance and Drama; Welfare which also includes the Medical Services.”
According to her, currently, they have in custody all over the country a total of 68,261 offenders, 65,148 of whom are males and 3,113 are female prisoners “who require rehabilitation and reformation services.”
The Commissioner revealed that UPS has a total number of 12,633 officers, 8,958 males and 3,675 females, all trained in the fundamentals of providing custodial and rehabilitation services through the Prisons Academy and Training School.
She said that although the training has a module on human rights which equips the staff with knowledge and skills of protecting and respecting the rights of prisoners, there is a need to build the capacity of the officers in understanding Sexual and Gender-Based Violence as a vice and how to mainstream gender in the provision of correctional services.
“In order to implement its mandate, the UPS requires the services of professional Social Workers and Medical Staff whose numbers are not anywhere near the desired staff to inmate ratio in order to effectively rehabilitate the inmates and especially the sexual perpetrators.”
In her part, Dr. Janviere Ndirahisha, Regional Director ICGLR – RTF said over the past few years, the ICGLR has made noteworthy progress in addressing the prevention, criminalization, and punishment of acts of SGBV both in peacetime and time of war.
She said that heads of States signed the ICGLR Protocol on the Prevention and Suppression of Sexual Violence against Women and Children (2006); as well as the Kampala Declaration1 (2011) that set out 19 priority decisions with regards to SGBV prevention, ending impunity for SGBV and providing comprehensive support to SGBV survivors and creates awareness on SGBV.
Dr. Ndirahisha said that training is more timely and the trainees will be trained by able National and Master trainers who have the heart and experience of handling SGBV.
“The thematic areas you will be discussing in these four days will include the medical pillar, Social-economic, legal and psycho-social pillar. They will play a huge role in equipping you with vast knowledge on how to handle an SGBV survivor holistically.”
“You have been hand-selected to participate in this training. As esteemed persons who work in with prisoners, you are most equipped to spearhead this fight. You play a critical role with holding accountable those who commit sexual and gender-based violence. With your actions and influence, you can make a historical difference in the life of an SGBV survivor,” she encouraged the trainees.
Dr. Ndirahisha re-affirmed RTF’S commitment to partnering with the member states to end all forms of violence.
“We all know that, if we work together, and bring together all of our various skills and expertise and influence and advocate, we can have a much greater impact in preventing the terrible scourge; the unacceptable scourge; that is violence against women.”