Engaging Traditional & Clan Leaders in the VAWG Response

It is an undisputable fact that deep-rooted cultural norms, customs and traditions which are under the custodianship of traditional, cultural and clan leaders in Uganda; continue to constitute serious obstacles to the realization of a violence free environment for women and girls due to their permissiveness towards GBV and as a result, increase among others; the risk of HIV infection among especially women and girls.

Cases such as widow inheritance, wife battering, denial of women and girls’ inheritance and property rights, marital rape, forced and/or early marriages among others; all stem from gaps within the norms, values and beliefs which are inherent in the African tradition and culture. Irrefutable is the fact that the people who treasure it most are primarily traditional, cultural and clan leaders. This has exacerbated untold discrimination and violence against women and girls in Manafwa district where the “Leveraging Strategies of Positive Action towards Reducing Violence against women and girls” project is being implemented in partnership with the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF).

Against the above facts, Better HAG Uganda is on a campaign of engaging cultural and clan leaders in the fight against this vice through community dialogues. Out of the 30 people per dialogue, 15 are clan heads while the rest constitute respective community selected Local Council 1 and religious leaders; teachers, the elderly, women, girls, men and boys. The dialogue guide is designed in such a way that it allows for the clan heads (not limited to) to unearth underlying gaps in the culture which are responsible for fueling violence against women and girls.
Upon establishing such gaps, the Facilitators source for recommendations from participants on how best they can be addressed. Community dialogues are usually interactive, all participants are engaged so as to get their opinions/views and if need be debate upon them.

Better HAG Uganda is proud of this strategy, for it has enhanced commitment by clan heads to integrate issues consistent with fighting all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls in their respective clan meetings. Over 90% of clan leaders (not limited to) involved in community dialogues have committed to being Ambassadors of safer and healthier communities-devoid of violence against women and girls.
During the Makunya dialogue for example , one Kunikina Eridad, Clan leader – Bumulika Clan challenged his counterparts to rise to the occasion and fight this vice; “….whereas some of us were already starting to feel the gaps (evil) in our culture, today this organization (Better HAG Uganda) has opened our eyes….and now that we know the truth, the one thing we should not forget is being at the forefront of fighting this ‘disease’, making sure that we do not take sides when presiding over cases of violence…..and where we have failed or can not handle appropriately, we should make sure to refer the case to others….”

Some clan heads have actually invited Better HAG Uganda to participate in their clan meetings to accentuate on the legislative framework for eliminating VAWG and re-ignite the potential of the clan system in fighting this public health crisis. In some communities, Better HAG Uganda has made follow-ups to ascertain progress of different dialogue participants in contributing to the erasure of violence against women and girls. Here notable successes have been recorded-including referrals, empowering women with knowledge on their rights so as they are in position to demand for them from the rights holders as well as counseling done by clan leaders on violence cases leading to reconciliation of husband and wife.