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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