From February 7th to 9th, 2023, the Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum, under the Sexual Reproductive Health Economic Empowerment Supporting Out of School Adolescent Rights and Skills (SheSOARs) project, organized a selection exercise for the Social Analysis and Action (SAA) facilitators in Teregeo district.

The exercise was carried out by selected community and district leaders targeting opinion, cultural, and religious leaders or individuals with influence, and it saw 15 individuals, two from each of the seven sub-counties of Omugo, Leju, Bielafe, Odupa, Katrini, Aii-vu, and Uriama, elected to take charge of mobilizing their respective communities to challenge the harmful gender norms that hinder adolescent girls and women from enjoying their full sexual and reproductive health rights.

It is worth noting that one of the key SRHR challenges that the #SheSOARS project seeks to address in the district is the harmful gender norms that promote sexual and gender-based violence, as well as child marriages, among other SRHR issues affecting Terego’s adolescent girls and young women. Using SAA facilitators is one of the strategies aimed at addressing these.

While opening the session in Katrini sub-county, the L.C. 3 chairperson, Mr. Maandebo Moses, highlighted the urgent need to address negative masculinity in the community that drives practices like sexual gender-based violence, child marriages, and school dropouts.

“I must tell you that sometimes when there is a community disco in Terego, up to 12 girls are gang raped, in addition to several other GBV incidents. Males in West Nile, particularly Terego, have a negative masculine belief that they have authority over women and can do whatever they want to them,” he added.

Diana Gloria Oweka, the SheSOARs project officer, stated that the elected leaders will receive training and capacity building on the SAA tools, which they will use to organize and carry out larger community intergenerational dialogues to identify some of the harmful practices and, together with the community, identify solutions to some of the harmful and restrictive gender norms in order to create an environment and community where both men and women can thrive and freely enjoy their SRH rights.

“The SheSOARs project is gender transformative; we want both men and women to freely and fully enjoy their reproductive health rights.” Some of these harmful gender norms are brought about by restrictive cultural beliefs that are deeply rooted in our communities. “Addressing them needs the local people, and that is why we want to use people of influence in the communities to mobilize and steer positive discussions around addressing the negative gender norms while also appreciating the positive ones that promote rights and women,” she explained.