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Homes no longer safe with the lockdown’s safe space for GBV
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Homes no longer safe with the lockdown’s safe space for GBV

GBV & COVID-19, a silent ‘pandemic’ within a pandemic

Uganda reported its first case of COVID-19 in the last half of March and a few more cases in the following days, the government drew a series of directives among which was a partial lockdown. Following the lockdown, a ban on public transport was affected and all public and private institutions were given a directive to down. This was followed by restricted mobility, and guidelines compelling people to work from home and stay indoors among others.

Days and weeks have gone by, and it’s definitely not business as usual. One added unusual occurrence is the rise in the numbers of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases in the country.

The burden to prove that one has been subjected to GBV also prevents many from reporting or seeking help.

Reach a Hand recently hosted a webinar themed “Gender-Based Violence. A silent ‘pandemic’ within a pandemic?“ The discussion centered on what could be the possible cause of the vice, while suggesting possible solutions.

There is undoubtedly a great need to create more awareness around the same. The conversation also included creating awareness about the GBV and also linking victims or survivors to clear and available referral pathways for assistance.

One of the panelists, Tina Musuya, the Executive Director of Center for Domestic Violence Prevention pointed out that, “violent partners are abusing their spouses because they know that during such times, you cannot run anywhere for support, you can not leave home.” She added that the problem is people not looking at a domestic violence or intimate partner violence as a gendered problem, power, and control, and not about the misunderstanding.

Elizabeth Mushabe, a Gender, and HIV Specialist UN Women remarked that gender expertise is missing in the COVID-19 response. She called for the response teams to understand the dimensions within which to respond, the facts with which to operate in terms of the needs of men, women, and children. It’s not a one size fits all. She added that Uganda has an overstretched health services system and now, diverting the little attention that we were giving to maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, HIV, diabetes, and injury.

Primah Kwagala the Executive Director of Women’s Pro Bono Initiative was keen to make people aware of Legal remedies for women and girls being affected by GBV and beyond during COVID-19. The need to collaborate with community leadership was highlighted as a key component is the putting up a stand and fighting force against domestic violence while amplifying the voices of the victims. She advised, “If a police post is far, go report to your area local council chairman for redress. Tell members of the community to ensure the LC Court is held to account.”

Moderated by our Strategy and Business Development Manager, Andinda Maureen, the webinar also linked people to the SafePal App and in collaboration with Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), a toll-free number was advertised for survivors and witnesses of GBV to quickly reach out for relief during this period.

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