June 15, 2010
By Whitney Buchanan with reporting by Stella Atolo
LAMOGI, NORTHERN UGANDA-Many community members have felt massive amounts of social pressure due to extended years of living in displacement. Much of the population has also discovered difficulties concerning gender discrimination, amongst other issues, when returning to original villages and homes. Even informal leaders of these evolving communities, such as Rwot Okoro under Rwot Kweri from Lamogi sub county Amuru district, personally deal with these concerns and are trying to stop any form of violence from occurring within their homesteads.
During a Sexually Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Prevention and Response training session concerning awareness of sexual violence, gender rights and discrimination, and leadership and abuse of power Rwot Okoro reported that many women within villages must work very hard to become chiefs and to be successful. She explained to the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative's (ARLPI) Community Based Facilitators (CBF) and the three interns present that each chief has a symbol that distinguishes them from the other chiefs and leaders within the villages. Rwot Okoro represents the women at certain level in the community. She can easily mobilize members of the village because of her title.
Rwot Okoro noted that her symbol was a strong one that everyone knows because her icon is an object that is used daily to weed and collect millet, ground nuts, and sorghum within the village where she presides. It would be offensive to discriminate against this chief due to her importance in village life. Rwot Okoro admitted that gender based violence happens in her village and that people run to her expressing their concerns about the issue. She holds the power to solve the problem or to refer those affected by the violence to higher chiefs, Rwot Kweri.
During the workshop provides by SGBV, and the efforts offered by Rwot Okoro, the participants of the group recognized that discrimination does exist but it is hard to understand and accept. It is found that gender discrimination is a cultural set up that often requires women to do one thing and men to do another. For many in the society these actions are seen as normal. Thanks to training from SGBV it is easier for village members to understand and combat gender discrimination and the roles that chiefs and other leaders play in the community.
ARLPI's general response to the issue of gender discrimination is a fraction of their role in providing aid to the public regarding Sexually Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Prevention and Response. The two year CARE funded project entitled, ‘Multi-Sectoral Approach to Ending Sexually Gender Based Violence in Northern Uganda,’ seeks to holistically alleviate SGBV through various programs such as Community Based Facilitators who perform at grass root levels. These individuals supply information and connect those in need to multiple safety and treatment services that are accessible.