Kitgum using community systems to challenge harmful social norms and violent practices against women

"We realise that the reporting of violence cases doubled"

By Alex Taremwa
teenage pregnancy, child marriage, early marriage, adolescent girl, girl's education, education
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Taremwa
14 August 2020

“The success of different interventions stems from understanding that violent attitudes, behaviours, norms and practices are shaped at individual, community and societal levels and must therefore be challenged in a mutually reinforcing way,” said Allen Kuteesa, a UNICEF Consultant attached to Danish firm NTU while training Kitgum district staff on Communication for Development (C4D) models needed to combat violence against women and children. 

UNICEF contracted the consortium of NTU – a renowned international consultancy firm and the Ugandan Organisation Slum Aid Project to conduct a needs assessment and training of district staff, local partner Community-Based Organisations and Non-Government Organisations that are implementing the Spotlight Initiative in Uganda  in community engagement for  prevention of violence against women and children. 

According to Enoch Kassenyi, C4D Officer at the UNICEF Gulu Zonal Office, the training was due to a partnership between the UNICEF and the Kitgum District Local Government to implement evidence-based interventions such as media campaigns, community dialogues and other communicative interventions in a bid to combat violence against women and children in the district. 

“While some partners such as UN Women had already started implementing under the EU-supported Spotlight Initiative, we realised that there is a behavioural change gap in the communication messages we are sending out and since UNICEF is implementing prevention activities emphasizing elimination of harmful social norms and practices that perpetuate violence, we have decided to partner with the district to give targeted training to fill these communication gaps,” Kassenyi said. 

The activities geared at strengthening the capacity of district staff to plan, implement, monitor  and evaluate strategic communication interventions against violence were also conducted in sub counties of Mucwini, Lagoro, Omiyanyima, Kitgum Matidi, Namokora, Labongo Akwang, Labongo Layomo, Orom, Kitgum Division and Amida targeting staff directly involved with the Spotlight Initiative such as the Sub County Chief, Community Development Officer, the Social Welfare Officers and Para-Social workers, VHTs and local implementation partners. 

Impact of radio programmes 

Radio is by far the most consumed media in Northern Uganda. In Kitgum, Mighty Fire 91.5 FM that partners with UNICEF on the Spotlight Initiative has hosted three talk shows and runs spot announcements with messages against violence.
 
The Acting Station-in-charge, Francis Watum said that the radio reaches as far as Agago and Lamwo districts and the talk shows have generated “serious debate” among listeners.

“We have been receiving calls-ins from as far as the South Sudan border. Of course most men think that the panellists are on the women’s side but that is because they are guilty of violence and don’t want to be talked about but the women have been empowered to resist the internalised misogyny that men are more superior. They now know how to report violence,” Watum said. 

Watum’s comments corroborate what the District Deputy Community Development Officer, James Okello and Ogweng Michael, the District Probation Officer stated that radio talk shows supported by UNICEF have been an effective medium for messages addressing violence. 

“When we do evaluation, we realise that the reporting of violence cases doubled after we started the talks shows on Mighty Fire Radio. You can crosscheck with Police records but daily, they report about six to seven cases. It is bad that we have all these cases but it is good that they are being reported and resolved,”

Okello said. 

Clan systems

Okello further noted that government interventions targeting violence against women and children were hitting a dead end because their implementation ignored the powerful communal organisation systems such as clans that are more influential than government systems when targeting local communities. 

“Evidence-based models must utilize community transformative approaches to ensure the engagement of all community members. Evidence has shown that stand-alone programming that targets only men is less effective and that is why this UNICEF approach that is community-centred is delivering results,” he added. 

Okello recommended the creation of child protection committees at Local Council (L.C) level and the strengthening of the L.C system through training on core modules of child protection. This, he argued, will require more direct support to align district activities and implementation to build project support in rural communities and target groups such as sex workers, cultural and religious leaders.