As part of the commemoration of 16 days of activism in 2022, the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF), with support from the other consortium partners (Reproductive Health Uganda and EASSI), carried out two days of interactive community and school learning sessions for adolescent girls and young women in Kalangala district.

The “16 Days of Activism” campaign to end violence against women and girls is commemorated each year from November 25 to December 10. During this time, which concludes with World Human Rights Day, people from all over the world come together to raise awareness about gender-based violence, confront prejudice, and demand stronger legal frameworks and services to permanently end violence against women. This year’s theme was UNiTE; Activism to End Violence Against Girls and Women.

The activities, which took place on November 29 and 30, 2022, in Bufumira and Kachanga islands in the district, drew 107 participants (F54 and M53), including district leaders, adolescent girls and boys, young women, and youth champions, among others, who took part in activities such as sports tournaments between young people, the community, and the district aimed at raising awareness about SGBV prevention and sharing key information. This was followed by a roundtable discussion on how SGBV affects young people and the larger community, as well as quizzes and experience sharing sessions at the sub-county level.

In her remarks, Norah Nakyegera, the advocacy and campaign officer at UYAHF, explained that one of the major areas of intervention of the PTY program is SGBV.

“The PTY program seeks to position young people at the forefront while working with other key actors to address several SRHR challenges, including teenage pregnancy, child marriages, FGM, and SGBV. “We consider such a day to be so important because we are able to bring together so many actors to re-emphasize commitments, add voices, and raise awareness about SGBV because we believe the solutions are with us and it begins with us in the community,” Norah explained.

While opening the roundtable discussions, Aloysius Segawa, a PTY change champion, lauded the program for continuously amplifying the voices of adolescents and young people from underserved communities and giving them safe spaces.

“On such days, district stakeholders are given priority to open such events, but here I am as a young person given the opportunity. This shows that each one of us has a unique strength that we bring to the community. Let us work together to ensure that Kachanga Island and the entire Kalangala district are SGBV-free communities” Aloysius stated

He notes that with the continuous involvement of different stakeholders, especially religious and cultural leaders, the restrictive cultural norms that instigate violence against women and girls brought about by negative masculinity will slowly change and the community will become safe and peaceful for women and girls.

“As young people, we should continue to highlight and bring forward the negative impacts of SGBV to our cultural and religious leaders and also champion or lead the reporting process in case of a situation. We could hold individual sessions with these leaders at a friendly level to bring about a positive mindset towards the role and rights of women and girls in the community,” Alosium encouraged.

Mr. Munaaba Robert, chairperson of local council III (L.C. III) in the Bufumira sub-county, while giving his remarks during the round table discussion, expressed gratitude for being part of such an important community event that seeks to address SGBV, one of the persistent practices that he acknowledges is on the increase and that the district and specifically the sub-county are struggling to mitigate.

“When I see a young person passionately and aggressively making public calls to end such harmful practices, I feel excited and convinced that the fight will not stop with us who are aging.” It demonstrates how serious the efforts are to address and combat the challenges that adolescents and young people face.

Additionally, Mr. Munaba explains that although there are many cases of violence on the island, the people in the community are slowly picking up on the fight and have started reporting such cases to the authorities. He does, however, note that their efforts are hampered by transportation difficulties from the island to the mainland, where cases are handled.

On the sidelines of the sports tournaments, the young people displayed key messages about SGBV and held brief sessions where they willingly shared their experiences with SGBV encounters and highlighted the need for everyone to take responsibility in the fight against the practice.