Action for Women and Awakening in Rural Environment (AWARE)
Action for Women and Awakening in Rural Environment (AWARE)
AWARE-Uganda aims at advancing the health, social, cultural and economic status of women in Karamoja through utilizing a holistic approach to empower women and advocate for their rights in the community.
Maternal and Child health, HIV/AIDS and Female empowerment.
Service Delivery, Training, Education and Community
Service delivery and health workforce
Karamoja region is nationally known for being the least developed area in Uganda, with the poorest access to social services. The disastrous consequences of this are highly evident among the female population. Karamoja society is also entrenched in the social norms and patriarchal attitudes that promote discrimination against women. Women in Karamoja disproportionately suffer from high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) with 81% of the victims being females (UGANDA POLICE, 2011, UNFPA, 2016), poor access to education with 79.6% of the girls in Karamoja unable to attain at least a primary leaving education certificate (Datzberger, 2017), unemployment/poor financial services, limited access to health care, and they have a lower voice in decision-making compared to men (Action Against Hunger, 2017). The combination of factors including GBV, unemployment, limited rights to property ownership and decision-making contributes to the existence of other challenges such as the poor maternal and child health in the region. Increasing opportunities for women and girls to access quality education, health care, economic opportunities, property ownership, and engagement in political and economic decision-making can contribute to the achievement of sustainable development (UNDP, 2015).
“So when I came here I found women were really being mistreated …. women were adding nothing, they owned nothing at all…. I said ‘no, women what do we do?’ I said we can’t sit like this because we were just there; the women were just there… waiting for what the husband can bring. And the husbands were not bringing anything.”
– Ms. Grace Luomo, Executive Director AWARE
AWARE is utilising a holistic approach to improve the health, wellbeing and livelihood of women and girls in Karamoja through social, cultural, and economic empowerment. Women are equipped with agricultural and business skills, they are also sensitized on their rights to make decisions in the community. Additionally men are being engaged in advocating for end of GBV and promotion of women’s socio-economic rights. AWARE also established a multi-purpose women’s centre which has a maternity waiting house where expectant mothers are hosted for 2 weeks before the time of delivery in order to minimize the challenges that come with walking long distances to the health centre. While at the maternity waiting house, women receive health care services and in addition they are equipped with life skills to improve their livelihood. The women’s centre also caters for women experiencing GBV. The community was notified about the existence of the GBV program at AWARE and upon realization of any cases of GBV, the community immediately reports to AWARE through a phone call or brings the victim directly to AWARE women’s centre. The survivors of violence, (rape, defilement and forced marriage) are also hosted at the women’s centre for some time as they receive counselling such that they recover from the incidence and gain strength to go back to the community.
“I always advocate for the protection for [vulnerable] people, promotion of rights and the fulfilment of human rights obligations … so my work is to help the community, especially women, to have what they call the land and their property rights.”
– Mr. Martin Lomilo, GBV Project Counsellor
About 5000 women have been engaged in agricultural production, which improves their livelihoods. Over 50 girls have been rescued from GBV. AWARE has conducted awareness creation and capacity building on Gender Based Violence/Domestic Violence ACT with 20 police officers, 15 health workers, 20 elders, 10 district councillors and in schools where 4 child rights clubs have been established in Kaabong district. These were sensitized on all the forms of discrimination against women and human rights, case handling, and reporting procedures.
The 20-bed maternity waiting house at AWARE centre is the only one of its kind in the Karamoja region. Over 500 women receive services at this facility a year. Since its establishment, 2 years ago, 322 mothers and 483 babies have been saved from likely death; over 550 mothers have been reached with maternal and child health care information; and about 1000 people have utilized family planning services provided at AWARE.
The beneficiaries’ perceptions about AWARE’s services is positive. They are pleased and thankful for the economic empowerment skills and support that they receive from the organization. Women also acknowledge AWARE’s role in fighting for their rights; safety from abuses; and their right to property is being promoted.
This case illustrates that to create effective social change, a holistic approach that focuses on solving the needs of the community and ensures their full participation would be more suitable as opposed to ad-hoc interventions. The health of a community can be improved through more integration in the provision of social services; economic empowerment; and human rights protection. Past programme beneficiaries become active providers of services to new beneficiaries and they address issues around gender-based violence. Working with all community members including men and children is imperative in the success of the work.
“Because we already have our shelter, we were using that place as a hall, but then we said aah, we can now change it because [the mother’s waiting house] is more needed than a hall.”
– Ms.Grace Luomo, Executive Director AWARE