“If it were not for the COMBATs from WACU counselling me about the dangers of early child marriage, I would have never considered sending my daughter to a technical school after her primary education,” confessed Felix Atine, a member of Patekbar Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Gulu District. “I am glad I was educated on how the decision of marrying off my daughter was exposing her to the viscous cycle of poverty and potentially endangering her reproductive health.”
He and several other members of different Primary Societies in Gulu and Zombo district are beneficiaries on gender equality trainings conducted by NAWOU under the Harnessing Women and Youth Potential (HWYP) project. The project partners with organizations of Okoro Coffee Farmers Association and West Acholi Cooperative Union (WACU) as well as the Zombo and Gulu district networks.
HWYP incorporated community- based participatory change methodology like use of VSLA groups, male champions, model couples and COMBATs to create more awareness on the inclusiveness of women and young people in decision making at household and community level. The results of these approaches were starting to reflect within the community specifically stemming from members of primary societies and District networks trained by the time of the assessment.
“More women are active in SACCOs and VSLA groups because they have realized the need for financial independence,” beamed Alfred Omule from Kuluotit Growers Cooperative Society with pride as he narrated how the women in his group currently own land and run their own businesses. He happily added that the men are now more supportive to women participating in decision making at home, leadership at primary society and group levels and own property because of the trainings they have taken part in.
Leadership trainings conducted to address critical gaps in skills development and mentorship that impact the ability women to realize their full potential as leaders have yielded results as many women within groups embrace leadership responsibilities. Another notable change is the women’s confidence, assertiveness and capacity to solve problems has been enhanced.
“During lockdown, my partner and I created a safe space for women in my community seeking refuge from abusive partners or volatile situations,” said Susan Ajok a member of the NAWOU Gulu District Network. Creation of spaces like these give women a chance to share experiences and the role of peer influence comes into play for sharing knowledge on GBV, importance of joining savings groups, having multiple streams of income and sexual reproductive health education.
For some group members like Bruno Oryergiu, a male champion from Jangokoro sub county, Zombo District, being exemplary people in their homes by practicing positive culture, engaging in house chores, working together in the garden and marketing agricultural produce together with his wife has left most men in his homestead wondering and some starting to follow suite. Bruno and his wife are also a model couple who have grown their cabbage farming business and now own a commercial building in Zombo town that they rent out.
However, there is still need for more community engagements specifically targeting the youth. It is critical to start looking at changing the attitude from the grass root level which is the growing generation. Challenges have been experienced in society to recognize women’s potential in economic participation and that’s why male and youth involvement is essential in fixing the problem from such levels. Cross learning visits and engagements between different groups in different regions like Luweero and Hoima, Gulu should be encouraged to support learning and exposure of the women and young people to adopt good practices from others.
NAWOU, with support from WE EFFECT conducted the bi-annual monitoring of gender equality indicators in Zombo and Gulu to assess the progress attained from of the interventions in the Harnessing Women and Youth Potential Project to contribute to enhanced rights of women, men and youth to access, own and control productive assets like land and adequate housing for improved quality of life by the end of 2022.