Timothy Mbene Masereka recently spoke with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Uganda as part of a two-part series. This conversation took place before the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which is observed every year from November 25 to December 10, also known as Human Rights Day.
Mr. Masereka, a village health worker, visits homes in the most distant areas of Kasese district in western Uganda.
He takes pleasure in assisting individuals and is skilled at handling diseases like malaria and pneumonia. However, there was a particular health crisis that he was unfamiliar with: abuse towards women and girls.
He stated that while conducting sessions in individuals’ homes, he noticed the presence of gender-based violence. He attempted to address it on his own using his own judgement, but he lacked the necessary abilities to effectively resolve the problem.
Mr. Masereka witnessed something that is unfortunately not uncommon – the widespread issue of violence against women and girls, which is considered the most prevalent human rights violation in the world. This issue affects one out of every three women globally. In Uganda specifically, almost 30% of women and girls have reported experiencing intimate partner violence within the last year.
Despite its widespread occurrence, Mr. Masereka noted that violence against women and girls is often regarded as a personal matter.
He described a community where men held power and gender-based violence was not openly addressed.
The process of transformation begins within one’s own home.
Mr. Masereka eagerly accepted the chance to participate in gender-based violence training, which was sponsored by the Spotlight Initiative and conducted by the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA.
The community development officer discussed the Spotlight Initiative with me and its efforts to prevent violence against women and girls. She emphasized the importance of men in stopping violence and inquired if I was interested in becoming a male action group mentor.
He participated in a training conducted by ACORD, a non-governmental organization focused on promoting social justice. Through the program, he gained skills in addressing gender-based violence with men and boys, providing counseling for couples to resolve conflicts through communication, and recognizing and directing women and girls who have experienced violence to the proper resources and authorities.
The training also broadened his awareness to more subtle types of violence, such as economic abuse and unequal power dynamics based on gender.
He clarified that although the women were responsible for planting crops, they had no say in how the crops were utilized. The men were the ones making all the decisions.
Improving power dynamics
The class required him to analyze the division of authority and work within his own family.
He stated that household chores can be shared by both males and females. Tasks such as food preparation, washing, and caring for children can be done by either parent.
At the start of his domestic duties, he recalls being ridiculed by others. They would comment, “He’s been emasculated by his wife,” among other things. However, once they witnessed the significant improvement in his household efficiency, their opinions shifted.
“He mentioned that things are completed more quickly. For instance, while my wife prepares food, I can wash the dishes. And when she gathers firewood, I can fetch water. This ultimately results in us all eating earlier.”
According to Mr. Masereka, this change has positively impacted his bond with his wife and children.
He expressed his joy in being able to have open communication with his children and his wife, stating that she is honest and open with him, just as he is with her.
SDG 5 aims to empower women and girls.
Stop all acts of discrimination and violence towards females, regardless of their age.
Eradicate harmful customs like child marriage and female genital cutting.
Revise and fortify laws to advance gender equality and empower females of all ages
Promote women’s complete and active involvement and fair chances for leadership in politics, economics, and public affairs.
Guarantee that everyone has equal and complete access to healthcare services related to sexual and reproductive health.
Globally, nearly 50% of married women do not have the authority to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Changing attitudes and providing support to those who have experienced trauma.
Adjusting perspectives and assisting individuals who have gone through a traumatic experience.
The primary goal of the Spotlight Initiative is to eradicate violence against females and young women by implementing comprehensive programs that target all main causes of violence. It advocates for legislation and policies that prevent violence, strengthens institutions, promotes gender equality in societal norms, supports women’s movements, and offers necessary resources for those who have experienced violence.
Since the year 2019, over 1,500 males in Uganda have received training to become positive male role models with the help of the Spotlight Initiative and UNFPA. Every one of these individuals plays a crucial part in shifting harmful norms and attitudes that contribute to violence, as well as aiding survivors in obtaining necessary services.
Mr. Masereka spreads awareness about the problem by distributing information at religious and community events, visits homes to assist couples in resolving conflicts, and facilitates discussions about violence among men and boys at the male action groups he attends.
He is dedicated to monitoring girls who leave school and addressing cases of child marriage. He also assists survivors of violence in obtaining necessary healthcare and legal assistance. This may involve accompanying women and girls to file reports with the police and local government offices.
He believes that involving males is an important measure in eradicating violence.
The speaker stated directly that the majority of those who commit gender-based violence are males. However, he also noted that men and boys have the potential to be part of the solution by utilizing their influence to make positive changes within their community.
The United Nations, European Union, and other partners are collaborating on the Spotlight Initiative, a global campaign dedicated to ending violence against women and girls.
The Government of Uganda, the European Union, UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, OHCHR, IOM, and the UN Pulse Lab in Uganda, along with civil society, work together to implement this initiative in Uganda.
Since 2019, the Spotlight Initiative has aided nearly one million females in Uganda in obtaining crucial services.