KAMPALA – Study has revealed that women are more likely to use contraceptives, deliver in health facilities, and less likely to experience gender-based violence today compared to five years ago.
In a joint statement during the Joint Learning Symposium for the United Nations Joint Programme on gender-based violence – GBV integrating Sexual Reproductive Health – SRH, the United Nations Population Fund – UNFPA and UN Women Country Representatives attributed the positive milestones to efforts like the Joint Programme on GBV and existing initiatives to end GBV and promote SRH in the country.
The five-year project (2018 to 2023) funded by the Government of Sweden was aimed at contributing to the elimination of GBV and the Improvement of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of women, men, girls, and boys including in disadvantaged and vulnerable populations in Uganda.
The Uganda Demographic and Health Surveys (UDHS) of 2016 reveals that GBV is widespread and affects all people irrespective of their social, economic and political status. GBV occurs in families, communities, workplaces and institutions but victims suffer in silence due to fear.
The UDHS 2016, shows that the prevalence of GBV is at 51% of women and 52% of men who have ever experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Equally, twenty-two percent (22%) of women and 8% of men have ever experienced sexual violence.
On the other hand, 56% of ever-married women and 44% of ever-married men have experienced spousal violence, whether physical, sexual or emotional.
However, UDHS 2022 key results point to a 2% increase in contraceptive use among women of reproductive age, 19% increase in 4th Antenatal Clinic Visit and 11% increase in health facility deliveries, 1.7% decrease in sexual violence experienced in the last 12 months and 0.2% decline in fertility rate compared to the UDHS 2016 results.
The study indicates that the five-year United Nations Joint Programme On Gender-Based Violence Integrating SRH has had a significant outcome including creating an enabling policy, legislative and accountability environment for the elimination of GBV and improvement of SRHR.
The project has also seen reduced social tolerance for Gender-Based Violence and Improved sexual reproductive health rights but also increased utilization of quality integrated GBV and SRHR services in the target districts, and strengthened coordination, partnerships, learning and innovation for integrated SRHR and GBV multi-sectoral Response and prevention.
UNFPA and UN Women Country Representatives noted that within the five years of implementation, the programme has;
- Improved the legal and policy environment for GBV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) response in Uganda. “In particular, seven laws were revised, out of which two (Succession Amendment Bill 2022 and the Market Bill) were passed in 2022 and five are still pending.”
- Reached over 15 million people with GBV prevention and gender-transformative messages nationally and across the programme districts. “Up to 114 communities publicly denounced GBV and harmful practices and as a result, positive shifts in behaviors and attitudes are being reported at community level.”
- Galvanized support of religious and cultural institutions, which are very influential in the communities to promote positive values and tackle harmful traditional practices such as FGM and early marriages.
- Expanded the capacity to deliver GBV and SRH services. All facilities in the target districts provide integrated GBV and SRH services and all the district police stations in target districts handle, investigate and collect evidence to facilitate prosecution. As such, an increase in service utilization has been reported in the project districts, among other achievements.
They noted that there is a need to double efforts to eliminate gender-based violence and improve sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda – Maria Håkansson noted that gender-based violence is the most extreme expression of unequal gender relations in society. She said that ending it and ensuring women’s security is a key priority for the Swedish government, thus investing over Shs16 billion in this project.
“This means that we systematically integrate a gender perspective in all our work and that we strive to strengthen all women’s and girls’ Rights, Representation and Resources, based on the Reality in which they live. Discrimination and gender inequality in all life’s stages and contexts shall be counteracted. We believe that violence against women and girls negatively impacts not only the individual victims, but also the development of a country.”
Through the UN JP GBV we have seen great progress towards ending GBV and improve SRHR in Uganda over the 5 years of implementation which I am sure we will hear more about during these two days, and the Embassy of Sweden is very pleased with the work that the Government of Uganda, UNFPA, UN Women and implementing partners have done and are doing under the programme. We are also proud that this program does not address these issues on its own but is complementary to other programs addressing GBV and SRHR in Uganda such as the Spotlight initiative and the ANSWER Programme.
“While the UN JP GBV is on track to achieve its goals, I still want to highlight areas of concern that need more focus from us all moving forward, this is especially related to the adolescent and young people of Uganda. Teenage pregnancies and child marriages remain a challenge, the national statistics on teenage pregnancies have stagnated over the last 10+ years, and we need to rethink how we improve and scale up our prevention work. It’s necessary to have a proper analysis of the contextual root causes of teenage pregnancies and child marriages, to understand the complexity of the problem and ensure that all different drivers are addressed in an inclusive manner. Child marriage and teenage pregnancies are acts of GBV and they cannot be excused on the basis of culture or religion,” said Ambassador Maria who was represented by Ms. Annelie Areskär Kaddu, National Program Officer, SRHR at the Embassy of Sweden.
She noted that both child marriage and early childbearing often force girls to drop out of school, and sometime also boys. “Failure to complete education due to discrimination and abuse of young people is a major loss to society. Keeping girls in school is key for gender equality.”
Officiating at the event, Minister of State for Disability Affairs – Hellen Grace Asamo commended all the partners for the great work done in ensuring a possible ending of Gender-based violence.
As the Government, she noted the project has supported them in building the capability of the local government and sub-counties to prioritize locally generated solutions to the challenges of GBV and establishing mechanisms for enhancing sustainability to the fight against GBV.