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‘Now there is love and unity in our home’ – tackling domestic violence in Uganda

By Tine Frank

Trócaire is supporting programmes aimed at tackling domestic violence issues in Uganda, where 50% of women have experienced physical violence, mostly by male partners.

Justin and Kevina sit on a straw mat under a mango tree, happily chatting away. It is a picture of harmony, but their relationship was not always characterised this way.

Justin recalls how he would abuse his wife sexually and physically. “I am the man of the house, I saw myself as the sole decision maker, the one in charge,” he says. Kevina recalls what life was like for her. “I just wanted to leave,” she says. “I had ulcers and felt sick all the time from thinking what to do, it was very stressful. But I felt too ashamed to leave, and where would I go? There was no support anywhere.”

Last year, however, support came in the shape of a Trócaire programme aimed at tackling domestic violence issues.

Surveys show that over 50% of women in Uganda have experienced physical violence, mostly by male partners. Violence increases a woman’s vulnerability to HIV infection; it can also damage her physical and mental health, resulting in an inability to earn money, pursue an education, and take part in community activities. Without tackling violence against women, we can never reduce poverty.

Working through the Catholic Church, Trócaire’s five-year programme will increase awareness of domestic violence within the Catholic community and promote positive changes in behaviour. One initiative is the training of ‘community activists’, enabling them to affect positive change within their own communities. Kevina was one of more than forty people trained in two parishes.

“When I was invited for the training, I agreed because I wanted peace to be built in my home and in my community,” she says.

Initially, Justin resisted Kevina’s involvement in the training: “I thought she would confuse the family even more and cause more problems in the home. I only allowed her to go so that she could spy on what they were talking about.”

All the participants were encouraged to involve their spouses in the training and, rather surprisingly, Justin agreed to come along. Attendance at the training changed his perspective.

Justine Kevein
Caption: Justin and Kevina working together after attending the Trócaire programme.

“I could see how bad our situation had been and, after that, there has been no more violence in our home,” he says. “It stopped as soon as I went to the trainings. I see so much good happening now. We work together, we cook together, we sell the crops together. We share everything, the responsibilities and the money. Before everyone would just spend it how they wished, and we would end up poor without enough money for school fees, food and healthcare. Now there is love and unity and understanding in our home.”

The positive change to Justin and Kevina’s relationship is now being replicated throughout their community.  

“Our neighbours now admire and respect us as a family,” says Justin. “They come to us to ask us for advice on how to live together peacefully, because they have seen the change in us. Even the elders come for advice. Our neighbours, who used to have daily fights, have now completely stopped after we shared our experience with them. That makes me feel very proud.”

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