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In a firm endeavor to combat the accelerating cases of sexual violence in Luwero district, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) in partnership with the other CDC partners, including Mild-may Uganda, Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), and Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB), held a training for the Religious and Cultural Leaders on the provision of post-rape care service through Every Hour Matters Campaign

The training held on August 23 and 24, 2023, at the Diocesan health office in Luweero District, attracted 28 participants, including 12 females and 16 males. aimed at equipping Cultural and religious Leaders with the essential knowledge to provide invaluable support to survivors of rape through the utilization of the EHM youth engagement toolkit.

Recognizing the power of cultural and religious leaders as influential voices within the community, this training showed the urgency of addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and amplifying awareness about vital post-rape care services. The EHM campaign serves as a beacon of hope, advocating for prompt Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), emergency contraceptives, and psychosocial support for survivors of rape. This campaign, rooted in the Every Hour Matters notion, champions rapid access to post-rape care and calls upon leaders at global, national, and community levels to disseminate comprehensive information and facilitate access to critical services thus creating an enabling and friendly environment for victims to easily access the information and services needed.

Joanne Lunkuse, from UYAHF, presented a comprehensive overview of Every Hour Matters after Rape /Campaign. The discussion emphasized the urgency of swift action through access to PEP, emergency contraceptives, and psychosocial support to address the traumatic aftermath of rape (any form of sexual violence). This campaign transcends conventional boundaries, advocating for life-saving measures such as PEP to prevent HIV transmission within 72 hours, emergency contraception to counter unwanted pregnancy within 120 hours, and essential psychosocial and mental health support.

Participants openly shared some of the existing attitudes and misconceptions that perpetuate SGBV in the communities. Mpiima John Baptist, a cultural leader from Kiwogozi, emphasized the preservation of harmful attitudes by both men and women, asserting that these attitudes hinder progress against SGBV.

While Nasanga Florence, a female cultural leader from Bulemezi, applauded the training for bridging knowledge gaps and equipping leaders with the tools to assist survivors effectively.

The training revealed challenges such as negative attitudes, law enforcement hurdles, and the need to differentiate harmful practices from cultural norms. Addressing these issues demands continuous comprehensive education, community awareness, and collaboration between sectors.

It further bore witness to powerful commitments from leaders like Nabitaka Ruth and Nankabirwa Hadijah pledged to raise awareness about post-rape care services and challenge harmful cultural norms that contribute to the prevalence of sexual abuse. Such commitments highlight the potential for cultural and religious leaders to be catalysts of change, addressing deeply rooted societal issues.

The active engagement of CDC partners on the ground offers promises for sustained implementation of commitments made by these leaders. This collaboration enhances the integration of crucial support mechanisms for survivors of sexual violence. Mild-may Uganda reaffirmed its commitment to facilitating the dissemination of vital departmental information about accessing PEP services within healthcare facilities.

The training identified accessible cultural platforms, such as the Masaza Cup, Saaza dialogues, and local village cultural planning meetings, as strategic channels for disseminating the EHM campaign message. These platforms hold the potential to foster discussions, raise awareness, and integrate the campaign’s objectives into the cultural fabric.

The involvement and commitment of subcounty chiefs and chairpersons emerged as a vital resource for disseminating campaign information. Their influence within the community enables them to effectively reach diverse segments of the population, magnifying the campaign’s impact.

In conclusion, the EHM training reaffirms the potential of cultural and religious leaders as instruments of transformation given the trust that society attaches to them. Armed with accurate information, empathy, and commitment, these leaders are poised to challenge norms, support survivors, and propagate awareness. The EHM campaign stands as a beacon of change, illuminating a path toward a society free from sexual violence, where every hour truly matters in the lives of survivors. Through partnership and shared determination, Luweero District is poised to foster lasting change, one empowered leader at a time.