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Healing Words: Expressing the Inexpressible Pain of Cancer Loss

By Sarah Akampurira

As we commemorate World Cancer Day 2024, my heart is burdened as I reflect on the loss of a dear one to cancer last year. I implore the government, private sector, and individuals to prioritize the creation of a supportive environment that ensures equitable access to treatment, information, and dignified care for all. The days of perceiving cancer as a distant concern are behind us; it now lives with us, impacting the very fabric of families and our social networks.

In recent times, cases of cancer have increasingly become common regardless of age, sex or any other demographics. In November 2015, Uganda rolled out free Human Papilloma Virus (PHV) vaccination for adolescent girls 10–14 years in its’ immunization schedule across all districts as a primary preventive measure for cervical cancer. Unfortunately, the uptake of HPV vaccination has been low across Uganda which may be due to limited knowledge and unverified information that spreads like wildfire on various media platforms causing fear and resentment among the users. As parents, let us embrace the HPV vaccination programme to ensure that our daughters aged 9 to 14 years are fully vaccinated before becoming sexually active to reduce their chances of getting Cervical cancer.

The 2024 World Cancer Day theme “Together, we challenge those in power” is a call to action for everyone stretching from Global leaders to double our efforts and deliberately work towards investment in cancer prevention and care to prevent early avoidable deaths due to loss of hope, and frustration related to cancer treatment. It is our responsibility to live healthy lives, exercise, eat right, and undergo routine medical check-ups to minimize the chances of cancer and once one is diagnosed, they should be facilitated to enroll in care for proper management.

The pain of seeing your loved one who has always been in charge of everything and everyone around her live in a situation of dependency for years, miss church sessions, work and always weak calls for support beyond the medical needs. When a parent is battling with cancer, family roles change, the other partner and children have to pick up those duties. The children start to act like adults and this becomes overwhelming at times balancing school, friends as well as taking on caregiver roles.

Witnessing a loved one, who has always been a pillar of strength, succumb to a prolonged state of dependency due to cancer is a distressing experience. Beyond the obvious medical requirements, there emerges a call for support that extends to the emotional and practical aspects of life. During the cancer battle, family dynamics undergo a profound shift, necessitating the redistribution of responsibilities among the partner and children. The children, forced into premature roles as caregivers, find themselves grappling with the challenge of juggling academic pursuits, social lives, and the weight of newfound responsibilities. The burden becomes overwhelming, highlighting the multifaceted impact of cancer on the intricate balance of family life. Psycho-social support remains a critical component in cancer care and management that should not only be limited to already identified clients but also the family members who in most cases shoulder the burden of care and support, live in a state of despair engulfed with fears of losing a loved one to the deadly cancer.

“Every single person has the ability to make a difference in the fight against cancer. Together, we challenge those in power to prioritise cancer management and neutralisation and ensure equitable access to cancer care for all.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health- Uganda, deliberate efforts should be invested in creating awareness, through various channels not forgetting media platforms right from the local communities to facilitate behavior change. It’s no longer business as usual. Let us normalize talking about cancer in its entirety during health education talks like any other disease this helps to minimize the fears and also helps the patients to open up and embrace help from friends, health professionals, counselors, and family members even though it may not be easy.

The writer is a Programme Coordinator for Community Empowerment at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).

 

A Silent Cry of the Majority

By Clifton Irahuka – Health Service Provider

In Uganda’s heart, where cultures intertwine,

A tale of resilience, against a patriarchal design.

Gender-based violence, a shadow so deep,

Infringing on rights, where women should sleep.

From child marriages at 34%, where innocence fades, 

To teenage pregnancies at 25%, where hope evades.

Female Genital Mutilation at 0.3%, a scar on the soul,

Robbing women of choice, taking away their control.

Physical violence at 56%, a silent, hidden cry,

Shattered dreams, where hope should lie.

Intimidation, threats, and fear’s embrace,

Silence imposed, leaving no trace.

Sexual violence at 27%, a violation so deep,

Leaving scars unseen, where secrets they keep.

Victims stigmatized, their voices unheard,

In a society where silence is preferred.

Yet amidst the darkness, a flicker of light,

Women united, their spirits ignite.

Fighting for justice, their voices so strong,

Demanding safety and choice, where they belong.

Sexual and reproductive health advocacy, a beacon, a guiding star,

Empowering women, reaching afar.

Access to knowledge, their choices to make,

Their bodies, their lives, for their own sake.

 

Education and research, a shield, a weapon so keen,

Dispelling the myths, the harmful traditions unseen.

Empowering girls, their voices to rise,

Challenging norms, beneath open skies.

 

Laws and policies, a framework to stand,

Protecting women, across the Pearl.

Enforcement and justice, a hand in hand,

Eradicating violence, taking a stand.

Community engagement, a bridge to unite,

Breaking the silence, shedding the light.

Changing values and attitudes, transforming the norm,

Creating a society where women are warm.

In Uganda’s journey, a path to unfold,

Where gender-based violence no longer holds.

SRH empowered, where women can thrive,

In a world where equality and equity truly survives.

 

The writer is a Midwife and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Advocate.

Let us join forces to eliminate violence against women and girls in Uganda

By Namakula Ritah

Globally, violence against women and girls specifically intimate partner violence and sexual violence remains a major public and clinical health problem and a violation of women’s human rights which is rooted in and perpetuates gender inequalities. The higher prevalence of violence against women and girls occurs most in low developed  countries such as Uganda. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner or someone close to them. In 2021, nearly 1 in 5 women aged 20-24 years were married before turning 18 years. Also, more than 5 women or girls are killed every hour by someone in their family. All this is a stark reminder of the scale of gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls.

In Uganda, there is a concerning normalization of harmful behaviors within intimate relationships, such as women enduring physical abuse and engaging in non-consensual acts under the guise of expressing love. Worse still, it’s almost a taboo for any woman to come up and say they were raped. This leaves many Ugandan women and girls suffering in silence. The Uganda 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) found that 58.4% of married women reported ever having experienced emotional, physical, or sexual violence from a spouse, and 39.6% had experienced it within the past year. These findings are not any far different from the 2022 UDHS findings about violence against women and girls. 

According to the United Nations, violence against women and girls is defined as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” In-order to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls around the world, there is a UNITE to End Violence against Women initiative which occurs annually. This initiative was created to support the civil society led campaign around the world. The global theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, which runs from 25 November to 10 December 2023, lets “Unite! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”.

In Uganda, various organizations are contributing to this campaign differently through among others engagement of media on issues of violence against women and girls, supporting the GBV survivors, advocating for SRHR movements, community sensitization and more. The question I pause to ask you is “How are you contributing to this year’s global theme of; Unite! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls?” 

I suggest adopting a collaborative multisectoral strategy to effectively eradicate violence against women and girls.

The author is a Registered Midwife and BSc trained midwife working with Mulago Specialised Women and Neonatal Hospital, Kampala

No Woman is a punching bag: Gender Based Violence remains a big threat to Ugandan women and girls

By Lilian Nuwabaine

Recently, while interacting with one of the survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV), she said “Musawo, as woman, it’s okay for my husband to beat me whenever things go wrong at home, even with my swollen eyes after being beaten hard by my husband, I cannot deny him intimacy at any time, whether I am menstruating or not.” She went on to say “In our culture, being subjected to physical discipline by one’s spouse is viewed as a demonstration of care and a form of necessary discipline. Denying my partner intimacy might jeopardize the well-being of my family, I feel compelled to fulfill my marital duties.”

Such statements from a GBV survivor hit me hard as a Midwife and Women’s Health Specialist. I asked myself, “Does she know that as a woman, she has  rights that need to be respected?.”

The above scenario isn’t any different from the recent research findings from one of the studies which showed that GBV ranks at the top of Ugandans’ priorities among women’s-rights issues that need vital government and societal attention. Whereas most Ugandan citizens detest a husband’s use of physical force to discipline his wife, half report that violence against women and girls is a common occurrence in their communities, both urban and rural. In Uganda, while some of us are confident and know that the police takes GBV cases seriously, the majority still think that women and girls reporting violence will be criticised and that domestic violence is a private matter to be handled within the family. In fact, others say, reporting such GBV cases is a taboo and one can instead be disowned by their own communities.

Worse still, according to the Police crime report of 2016-2021, over 272,737 GBV cases of GBV were recorded including 2,278 homicides cases attributed to intimate partners. The report adds that domestic violence cases accounted for 33% of the female homicide caseload. This automatically shows that government initiatives like community policing programmes and public awareness campaigns about violence against women and girls still have huge gaps as they do not appear to have reduced the number of GBV cases over the six-year period. Amidst all this, the Government of Uganda has stated its commitment to ending GBV as part of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 and integrated its targets into its National Development Plan.

The Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) recognizes the importance of addressing violence against women and girls to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Specifically, target 5.2 says “To eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.” This implies we should be moving towards seeing a country like Uganda with zero incidents of violence against women and girls. Honestly, violence against women and girls is preventable.

I therefore recommend that the government of Uganda through its relevant line Ministries and partners intensifies and strengthens the measures put in place to curb down incidents of GBV such as improving the reporting and handling of GBV crimes and training devoted to child and family protection and sexual offences. More efforts should be put in media engagements to promote community sensitization about violence against women and girls, without forgetting to debunk the already existing myths in this area. Everyone needs to know that “No woman is your punching bag.”  

The author is a BSc Nurse and MSN-Midwife and Women’s Health Specialist. She is also a Heroes in Health Award Winner-Midwife of the Year 2021.

 

Call for Expression of Interest to Conduct an Assessment on the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review Recommendation on GBV and Health as Made to Uganda During the Review of Uganda’s Human Rights Record

CEHURD wishes to engage a consultant to conduct an assessment on the implementation of the recommendations that were made to and accepted by Uganda.

CEHURD has been involved in the Universal Periodic Review, through which the country’s human rights record is reviewed by other peers.
During the review process, Uganda accepted a number of recommendations aimed at improving Uganda Human Rights record.

Close to two years down the road it is important to asses the progress made in the implementation of recommendations received by the country.

Download Details here; UPR process review – Call for Expression of Interest