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In News

A Look at a Female Activist at Work in Northern Uganda

Editor’s note:

Raising awareness about Gender Based Violence (GBV) is one of the most important ways we empower women and aid communities in Northern Uganda. At Rose of Sharon Foundation we train select community members to become activists, to act as role models, and to support other women. November 24 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a good occasion to share the challenging yet inspiring life of one such remarkable woman activist, Amito Margaret.

Amito Margaret and her husband Gabriel were subsistence farmers in Northern Uganda when rebellion struck over two decades ago. When insurgents took over their crops were destroyed, their livestock was killed, and they were forced to move into camps at Anaka Town Council.

Difficult times for Amito Margaret’s family

For nearly 20 years, Amito Margaret’s family stayed in the camp, with never enough food or aid. Losing their land, livelihood, and stability had traumatized them. For Gabriel, their situation had become unbearable. As he and his wife struggled to make ends meet and keep their children in school, he began to drink heavily, and eventually became abusive towards his wife and children.

“While living in the camps, tensions rose between Amito Margaret and me. […] our children were hungry and my wife looked to me to take care of the family as the husband, yet there was nothing I could do. I turned to drinking every day and night because I wanted to forget about everything.”

– Gabriel, Amito Margaret’s husband, Northern Uganda

Creating a more peaceful future for families

In 2011, our teams arrived at the camp and began working with Amito Margaret and other survivors of gender-based violence. Proactive and determined, Amito Margaret attended all of our community meetings, and shortly thereafter was selected as the chairperson of a women’s group.

She would often host trainings and community meetings at her home. Gabriel grudgingly agreed—at first, he was disinterested in the program because he saw it as a “women’s program” that was irrelevant to him. However, he unexpectedly developed an interest in the meetings’ discussion topics.

“The GBV trainer would talk about the negative effects of alcohol on a family, about the importance of living in peace, helping my wife with work, and why we should plan together as a husband and wife. Only this way can we develop our household together, and ensure our children stay in school because they will be the ones to help us when we grow old.”

– Gabriel, Amito Margaret’s husband, Northern Uganda

Gabriel soon realized how relevant the trainings were for his family’s well-being and joined the support group. Through a cash transfer and livelihoods training, he and Amito Margaret were able to reclaim their land, cultivate crops, raise livestock, and pay for their children to go to school. And thanks to the training they received through the support group, they now work together without conflict to plan their finances, household chores, and work responsibilities.

Now Gabriel rarely drinks, and is focusing more on work and household chores so that his wife can continue her responsibilities as the chairperson of the support group. He values her role as an advocate for gender equality and peaceful conflict resolution within their community. He tells us, “I know that my wife and other women leaders can make a positive difference in the community and reduce issues related to gender-based violence.”

Since its establishment, the support group has helped nearly 80 families. Our goal with these types of support groups is to give women like Amito Margaret a voice in their community, and we will continue to empower women in Uganda and around the world.