Jimmy Carter: Violence Against Women Is The Most Pervasive Human Rights Violation In The World



Former president Jimmy Carter    CREDIT: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Former President Jimmy Carter is issuing a call to action to end the abuse and subjugation of women, which he refers to as the “worst and most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on Earth.”

Carter issued his strong statements about gender equality in a recent interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. The former president is currently doing media appearances to promote a new book, A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, which discusses the issue of women’s victimization around the world.

There’s significant data to back up his claims. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in three women around the world is subject to sexual violence at some point in her life. In many parts of the world, women still aren’t receiving adequate health care and education. Every year, about 14 million girls under the age of 18 are given away as child brides, and an additional 4 million women and girls are bought and sold into slavery. And according to the United Nations, at least 125 million girls in Africa and the Middle East have undergone female genital mutilation.

In his book, set to be released on Tuesday, Carter argues that conservative faith leaders have indirectly contributed to the ongoing violence against women by furthering a society that allows inequality to flourish.

“Religious leaders say women are inferior in the eyes of God, which is a false interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. When [people] see the Pope, the Southern Baptist Convention, and others say that women can’t serve as priests equally with men, they say well, I’ll treat my wife the way I want to because she’s inferior to me,” Carter told NBC News.

Carter and his wife Rosalynn decided to leave their conservative Southern Baptist church because the denomination refuses to ordain women as pastors and believes that wives should remain submissive to their husbands. “I understand that the carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place — and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence — than eternal truths. Similar Biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers,” Carter wrote at the time, arguing that the Bible can also be interpreted to support gender equality. The couple now attends a more moderate Baptist church that has a female pastor.

In an interview with NPR, Carter explained that he’s written to Pope Francis to challenge him on the Catholic Church’s official policy on women in leadership roles. He’s not optimistic that anything will change anytime soon. “But at least the pope, the new pope, is aware of it and is much more amenable, I think, to some changes than maybe some of — or most of — his predecessors,” he said.

Carter’s book makes the case that the United States is at least partly responsible for perpetrating the ongoing violence against women around the globe, since the U.S. wields such great international influence. The former president also sees issues of violence and abuse occurring within America’s borders, particularly as the issue of properly handling sexual assault causes on college campuses and military bases has recently come to a head.

“Exactly the same thing happens in universities in America that happens in the military. Presidents of universities and colleges and commanding officers don’t want to admit that, under their leadership, sexual abuse is taking place,” Carter noted. “Rapists prevail because they know they’re not going to be reported



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FGM: first suspects to be charged appear in court

Doctor Dhanuson DharmasenaTwo men have appeared in court for the first female genital mutilation (FGM) prosecution in the UK. Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, 31, from Whittington hospital, north London, and Hasan Mohamed, 40, who is not a medical professional, face the first charges brought under the Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003) in the landmark case.

Dharmasena is accused of carrying out the procedure on a woman after she had given birth in November 2012. It is alleged that he repaired the FGM that had previously been carried out on the patient, after being encouraged and helped by Mohamed.

Lawyers defending both men told Westminster magistrates court that the pair would plead not guilty. Dharmasena, wearing a grey suit, spoke only to confirm his name and address. Mohamed, wearing a grey hooded top and a scarf around his neck, gave his name. His address was not read out in court. Both men were granted unconditional bail and are next due to appear at Southwark crown court on 2 May.

Carrying out FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, but there has yet to be a prosecution. In a pre-trial statement, the director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “It was alleged that following a patient giving birth in November 2012, a doctor at the Whittington hospital in London, repaired FGM that had previously been performed on the patient, allegedly carrying out FGM himself.”

FGM has come under the spotlight in recent months after activists stepped up their campaign against it. Earlier this month education secretary Michael Gove wrote to all headteachers after a Guardian-backed petition, which called for education to be put at the heart of tackling the practice, attracted more than 230,000 signatures. Gove sent a letter to all headteachers in England alerting them to guidelines designed to keep children safe, which includes guidance on FGM.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said Gove would keep up pressure on schools by flagging up the dangers of FGM again in his annual “back to school” letter in September.

The Guardian-backed campaign, led by 17-year-old Bristol schoolgirl Fahma Mohamed, was supported by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, as well as signatories from around the globe.

FGM is believed to affect up to 140 million women worldwide and an estimated 66,000 women in the UK, with up to 24,000 girls under 15 believed to be at risk.


Source: Hiiraan online

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Somalis campaign for their children to not suffer FGM

London Evening Standard


Mutilation has been a part of culture in Somaliland for centuries. But girls there tell Martin Bentham it is time for attitudes to change


Taking a stand: victims Mariam Abdi, and Hoda Saleban, both 15

The poster over the main street in Boroma, Somaliland, has a simple warning emblazoned on it in bold print.

“FGM increases risk of complications during childbirth,” it tells passers-by, reinforcing the message with
“Hands off!” and “Stop Female Genital Mutilation!”

Similar billboards, written in Somali, are outside the university and elsewhere in the centre of the busy town, close to the Ethiopian border. Their prominent location reflects the increasing intensity of a campaign to stop mutilation, after centuries in which the practice has been a central feature of cultural and religious beliefs.
Such beliefs mean FGM remains almost universal in Somaliland, with official estimates indicating that 98 per cent of women have had their genitals cut and sometimes sewn up as well.


Campaigner: village leader Said Farah Abdullah

 Mutilation remains legal, and openly advocated by some as a protection for girls against promiscuity, social shame, and rejection by prospective husbands. Support for the practice was illustrated this month in another Somaliland town, when an anti-FGM poster identical to the one in Boroma was torn down by protesters after Friday prayers. They claimed its message was un-Islamic.

But attitudes are beginning to change. The government of Somaliland — an autonomous region of Somalia — is preparing a law to stop the worst forms of FGM. Its badge is on the poster. Religious leaders are starting to offer a new interpretation of Islamic law that prohibits sewing and reduces cutting.

Educational campaigns have been launched, teaching girls about their rights and the damaging health consequences of FGM. These are generating increasing opposition to mutilation among the younger generation.

In the remote rural settlement of Xoorey, at a meeting with the charity World Vision, which is providing FGM awareness tuition, one schoolgirl after another spoke out against the practice and told of the trauma they suffered.

Hoda Saleban, 15, said she had undergone “sunna” FGM, involving removal of part of the clitoris — but now believed it was neither culturally nor religiously justified. “I was at home and my mother called a traditional birth attendant who did the sunna one,” she said. “But I will not do it. I remember the pain that I had that day and I don’t want my daughter to be circumcised that way.”


Protection: Nimco Eid, anti FGM campaigner

Mariam Abdi, also 15, said she was cut at six, but now knew about the health problems. These include a heightened risk of infections, difficulty during labour and potential for stillbirth, and fistula, a condition linked to FGM which causes incontinence.  She added: “It was a bad culture and a bad practice before. It was like a kind of punishment. They did a bad thing to me and I don’t want to do that to my daughters. They  were cutting part of the genitals. It is not good for health.”

Sainab Abdi, 11, suffered FGM aged five and said she did not agree that “cutting a part of a woman” was right.

But, in a sign of how dfficult it is to change attitudes, 12-year-old Nimco Ahmed said she still believed in mutilation, despite giving a vivid account of the trauma she faced: “I was eight years old. It was not only me: there were another three girls. My mother called a traditional birth attendant. Then my mother and some other women were holding my shoulders and legs.

“I was feeling afraid and it was very painful. She was using the blades and it took about 30 minutes. They tied my legs together after they did it. I was in bed for three days. I was in pain.

“But I will do it with my daughters. I have heard it is a bad thing to do, but in our community I believe that every girl should have it done.” Most views in Xoorey do appear to have changed, however. Said Farah Abdullah, 54, a village leader with six daughters, said he had circumcised the elder two, but left the younger four unharmed after being told by a preacher that mutilation was contrary to Islamic teaching.

“I believe that FGM is a bad, bad thing which has affected our grandmothers, mothers and daughters,” he said. “It was against sharia. Now in this community we are strongly against FGM. Democracy is springing. People are realising that everyone has the right to choose what to do with their bodies.”

Asha Omer, an elderly woman, said girls in Xoorey had been cut at the age of 10, but that had changed. Her stepdaughter Sahra Jeh, 13, had not had FGM as a result. “In this community they have told us we should not circumcise our daughters so we don’t anymore,” said Asha.

Sahra added: “I’m very happy not to have been circumcised. I have had a lot of information about FGM and feel bad when I hear that other girls have been circumcised.” What happens in Somaliland is highly significant for the British fight to stop mutilation: the prevalence of FGM among Somali females in Britain is thought to be similarly high.

Hands off: posters warning of the dangers of FGM have been erected in Boroma

The Department for International Development is supporting anti-FGM efforts in Somaliland, and provides funding for projects to improve girls’ rights and opportunities.

Nimco Eid, 27, a World Vision child protection officer who has been leading the charity’s work on FGM there, said success would take years to achieve, but they were gaining results: “It has not been easy to come out and talk about it because it is a cultural belief. But now we have the support of religious leaders, community leaders and parents.

“They understand these problems will continue when their girls are married, when they are pregnant, and afterwards. You can even show up on Somali TV and talk about this.”

She said the typical age at which FGM is inflicted was between six and 11. She had been cut at seven. “If I knew my parents were going to do it now I would say no. I remember the traditional birth attendants coming, carrying a big bag with all the things. Then my aunt forced me to lie down and they did it to me.

“Afterwards I couldn’t go to the toilet because it was very painful. My mother beat me with a stick saying that I must. I want FGM to go from this country. I can’t tolerate girls undergoing what I did.”


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Dood wadaag ku saabsan amniga, xaquuqul insaanka oo lagu qabtay Muqdisho


Kulankan dood wadaaga ah oo ay soo qaban qaabisya Hay’adda Xaquuqda Aadanaha ee Elman ayaa waxaa ka qeyb galay xubno ka tirsan labada gole ee dowladda, siyaasiyiin, aqoonyaho iyo bulshada rayidka, kaasi oo lagu qabtay Muqdisho.

Kulanka ayaa waxaa looga hadlay amniga, xuquul insaanka, dib u dhiska dalka, kaalinta siyaasadeed ee haweenka, kaalinta dhalinyarada ay ka qaadan karaan dib u dhiska dalka iyo xojinta waxbarashada, iyadoo intii ay socotay dooda kulanka la isku waydaarsaday arragtiyo ka turjumeysa muhiimadda ay qodobadaasi leeyihiin.

Fartuun Cabdisalaan Aadan oo ah madaxa Hay’adda xaquuqul insaanka ee Elman oo ka hadlaysa ujeeddada kulanka ayaa sheegtay in shirkan  uu ahmiyad weyn ugu fadhiyo ka qeyb galayaasha, iyadoo sidoo kale ka hadashay dadka ku dhibaateysan goobaha laga xoreeya Al-Shabaab in gar gaar lala gaaro.

Xildhibaan Cabdirashiid Maxamed Xidig oo isna kulanka hadal ka jeediyay ayaa ka hadlay ahmiyadda amniga iyo howlgallada dalka ka socda ee maleeshiyada Al-Shabaab looga xoreynayo goobaha fara ku tiriska ah ee ay dalka kaga suganyihiin, isagoo ku baaqay in la xoojiyo howlgalladaasi.

Xildhibaan Fowsiyo Yuusuf Xaaji Aadan ayaa ka hadashay doorka haweenka Soomaaliyeed ee ay ka qaadan karaan siyaasada iyo dib u dhiska dalka, iyadoo xustay haweenka looga baahanyahay inay ku noqdaan kuwa isku duuban oo ka tashada aayahooda.

Eng, Nadiifo Maxamed Cismaan Wasiirka Howlaha Guud iyo dib u dhiska ee Xukuumadda Soomaaliya ayaa hoosta ka xariiqday in Wasaaraddu ay qorsheynayso in dib u dhis balaaran ay kusameyso goobihii ay dowladdu lahayd, iyadoo su’aalo ku saabsan dhanka amniga, waxbarashada iyo dib u dhiska uga jawaabtay ka qeyb galayaashii kulanka.

Kulanka ayaa ku soo idlaaday sidii loogu talagalay, waxaana la isla afgartay in la joogteeyo kulamada nuucaani oo kale ah.


Xigasho  radio mogadisho

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Making markets safe for women vendors in Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby’s market vendors are, by and large, women – around 80 per cent. Many of them are extremely poor, depend on the selling of their vegetables for daily subsistence, and have experienced multiple forms of violence in public and private spaces, including sexual violence. Single mothers and widows face particular risks, as they are often stigmatized, and lack economic and social opportunities to reach their potential.

A market vendor at Gordons market in Port Moresby. Photo: UN Women Papua New Guinea/Alethia Jimenez

A market vendor at Gordons market in Port Moresby. Photo: UN Women Papua New Guinea/Alethia Jimenez

Shortly after the Port Moresby Safe City Programme* started in 2011, with the support of the Government of Spain, UN Women conducted a scoping study with local partners in the city to understand the nature and extent of violence against women and girls, including sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in six marketplaces. It found that 55 per cent of women experienced some form of sexual violence in market spaces in the previous year.

Too often women experienced sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence and extortion on a regular basis. Too often women vendors were displaced from the market premises and forced to sit by busy roadside or open sewage or trash sites to sell their fruits and vegetables, increasing their risk of suffering violence. The study also indicated inadequate storage facilities and toilets, raising security and health concerns.

Two years later, a lot has changed in one of Port Moresby’s main markets, as a result of the strong participation of women vendors through vendors’ associations and innovative initiatives undertaken as part of a comprehensive approach to build safe markets with, and for, women and girls.

The Geheru market has upgraded its infrastructure, including bathrooms and showers, renovated market stalls and shaded areas and potable running water is now available. Moreover, new innovative cashless methods for collection of fees are being implemented to prevent extortion and theft, a market vendor association has been established, and a referral system for survivors of family and sexual violence in the markets is currently being piloted.

New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Murray McCully; Minister for Sports and Pacific Games, Justin Tkachenko, and Deputy City Manager, Honk Kiap, surveying the conditions of Gordons market. Photo: UN Women/Michelle Alexander

New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Murray McCully; Minister for Sports and Pacific Games, Justin Tkachenko; and Deputy City Manager, Honk Kiap; surveying the conditions of Gordons market. Photo: UN Women/Michelle Alexander

Building on these achievements, this week the New Zealand Government announced an additional contribution of up to USD 6.1 million (NZD 7 million) to Port Moresby’s Safe City Programme for a complete refurbishment of infrastructure at a second market site: Gordons Market, the city’s busiest, as well as the largest market in the Pacific. The funding will be made on a one-to-one basis in partnership with the National Capital District Commission (NCDC).

The announcement follows a recent workshop between all Safe City Programme partners and technical experts to provide recommendations for the redevelopment of Gordons market. Recommendations included an enlarged market site, new market buildings and a new drainage system to prevent flooding. To improve management, they suggested ongoing facilitation of vendors’ associations, development and resourcing of cyclical maintenance plans and establishing a mobile-phone-based vendor payment system.

“We have consulted women market vendors and other experts who have given us clear direction as to how to improve the market precinct, improve economic opportunities, improve sanitation, and above all, create a safe public market for everyone,” said UN Women Papua New Guinea Country Representative, Jeffrey Buchanan.

Welcoming the new contribution which will enable a complete refurbishment of the infrastructure at the capital’s busiest market, significantly strengthening the country’s fresh produce supply chain, Mr. Buchanan reiterated “Hard-working market vendors – over 80 per cent of which are women – deserve to have a modern, clean, safe and accessible place to earn a living.”

To provide opportunities for children of the market vendors, two libraries will also be opened in Gerehu and Gordon markets, in partnership with a local bank (Bank South Pacific), a children’s education initiative (Buk Bilong Pikinini), NCDC and UN Women. Many mothers need to take their children with  them to the market, not having the means to put them in school or to pay for child care. The libraries will provide a safe space and learning environment for the children while their mothers work or shop.

*Port Moresby’s Safe City programme is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is part of UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative, which works with local governments and civic leaders in 17 cities and seeks to make urban spaces safer for women and girls.

Source  UN  WOMEN

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Kenya: Halt Crackdown on Somalis Press release

Friday, April 11, 2014


Nairobi – Kenyan police and other security agencies should stop arbitrary arrests and detentions, extortion, and other abuses against Somalis during security operations,  Human Rights Watch said today. The government should also halt summary deportations and ensure that any undocumented Somalis are given the opportunity to file asylum claims.

On April 4 and 8, 2014, Human Rights Watch visited Pangani police station in Eastleigh and found hundreds of detainees packed into cells designed to accommodate 20 people. Detainees had no room to sit, and the cells were filthy with urine and excrement. Police were also holding detainees beyond the 24-hour limit proscribed under Kenyan law, without taking them to court. One man at Pangani station complained to Human Rights Watch that he had been held for eight days without being taken to court.

“Scapegoating and abusing Somalis for heinous attacks by unknown people is not going to protect Kenyans, Somalis, or anyone else against more attacks,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Kenya’s deportation of Somalis to their conflict-ridden country without allowing them to seek asylum would be a flagrant breach of its legal obligations.”

Since April 2, almost 4,000 people are reported to have been arrested and detained in Nairobi and Mombasa. According to Human Rights Watch research, some of the detainees have been released after they produced identification documents, but only after days in deplorable detention conditions or after they paid bribes. On April 9, the Kenyan authorities summarily deported 82 undocumented Somali nationals from the capital, Nairobi, to Somalia. Kenyan officials have said that they plan to deport all undocumented Somali nationals as part of the response to recent grenade and other attacks in Kenya by unidentified people.

The Kenyan government began a massive security operation in Nairobi’s predominantly Somali Eastleigh district on April 2. On April 9, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku told the media that, during “Operation Usalama Watch,” police had arrested “almost 4,000 people.” An Administration Police spokesman, Masoud Mwinyi, said police had arrested and screened 3,000 people of whom 467 had been detained for further investigation. He said police had also charged 67 people with various unspecified offenses.

According to Kenyan officials, the operation began in response to a number of attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa in March that killed a total of 12 people and injured 8 more. An attack on a Nairobi shopping mall in September 2013 killed 67 people and injured hundreds.

Kenyan police operations in Nairobi and Mombasa in the wake of attacks have resulted on numerous occasions in serious human rights violations against both refugees and Kenyan citizens, Human Rights Watch said.

In the Pangani police station, Human Rights Watch witnessed police whipping, beating, and verbally abusing detainees. There have been numerous credible accounts of Kenyan security forces extorting money and beating people during the arrests and in detention.

Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people have also been detained in the Kasarani sports stadium in Nairobi. Independent investigators and media were denied access to Kasarani until April 9, when a limited visit was permitted. People who participated said that they were only provided limited access and were not able to freely interview detainees in the stadium.

On April 8, Lenku said, “The process will continue until we do not have illegal aliens and those found to have refugees documents are taken to refugees camps.”

Kenyan security forces, including the Administration Police and General Service Unit (GSU) have a  record of committing serious human rights violations during security operations against communities of ethnic Somalis, Human Rights Watch said.

A May 2013 Human Rights Watch report described how Kenyan police in Nairobi tortured, raped, and otherwise abused and arbitrarily detained at least 1,000 refugees, including women and children, between mid-November 2012 and late January 2013, following grenade and other attacks in Eastleigh. The police called the refugees “terrorists” and said they should move to the refugee camps.

“For the second time in less than two years, the world is looking on aghast as Kenyan security forces abuse countless men, women, and children alike in the heart of Kenya, just a stone’s throw from government ministries and the United Nations,”  Simpson said.

The police sweeps follow an announcement on March 26 that all urban refugees were required to move to refugee camps. Such a move would violate a July 26, 2013 Kenyan High Court ruling, which quashed an identical government refugee relocation plan from December 2012.

According to credible sources, some Somali refugees arrested in Eastleigh in the April operation were released with an order to report to the refugee camps within two weeks.

On April 9, Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya told journalists that Kenya had deported 82 Somali nationals to Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Kenya should stop summarily deporting Somali nationals, which risks violating its obligations under Kenyan and international law not to return anyone to situations of persecution or generalized violence. Any undocumented individuals should be given the opportunity to file an application for asylum, Human Rights Watch said.

The Kenyan government should provide full access to staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to interview and register asylum claims of undocumented Somalis.

In January, the United Nations refugee agency issued guidelines on returns to Somalia and called on countries not to return anyone before interviewing them and ensuring they do not face the threat of persecution or other serious harm if returned. UNHCR said that Somalia remains “a very dangerous place” and that no Somali national should be “forcibly returned to Somalia unless the returning state is convinced that the persons involved would not be at risk of persecution.”

Human Rights Watch said the Kenyan authorities were obliged to allow UNHCR to register asylum claims from anyone in Kenya, regardless of how long the person had been in Kenya before lodging a claim. Although Kenyan refugee law says an asylum seeker should lodge their claim with the authorities within 30 days of arrival, UNHCR does not impose any such deadline. Somali nationals’ access to UNHCR is all the more important after Kenya suspended all services to urban refugees, including registering new asylum seekers, in December 2012.

Kenyan immigration law allows the authorities to regulate who is in Kenya, and Kenya may prevent certain categories of people from entering or remaining in the country, including those deemed to be a security threat.

However, Kenyan and international law prohibit refoulement – forcible return to persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, or to a situation where a person would be at real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Kenya is also prohibited from returning anyone to a place where their “life, physical integrity, or liberty would be threatened on account of external aggression, occupation, foreign domination, or events seriously disturbing public order.”

In its January 2014 guidelines, UNHCR said that it “consider[s] the options for Somalis to find protection from persecution or serious harm within Southern and Central Somalia to be limited,” especially in the large areas that remain under the control of the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab has continued to forcibly recruit people into its ranks, including children, and to target individuals perceived to support the Somali government and its partners. On March 5, al-Shabaab publicly executed three alleged spies in Barawe, one of the group’s strongholds.

UNHCR also noted an increase in al-Shabaab attacks in 2013 in Mogadishu that killed civilians. Conflict related injuries in Mogadishu and the southern port town of Kismayo also increased in early 2014.

According to UNHCR, 1.1 million people are currently displaced within Somalia, including 369,000 in Mogadishu. In a March 2013 report, Human Rights Watch found that members of state security forces and armed groups had raped, beaten, and otherwise mistreated displaced Somalis in Mogadishu. A February 2014 Human Rights Watch report documented high levels of rape and sexual abuse against displaced women and girls in the capital throughout 2013.

In other parts of south-central Somalia, a joint military offensive by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Armed Forces (SNAF) against al-Shabaab has resulted in new internal displacement, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Foreign donors to Kenya and UNHCR should vigorously and publicly oppose summary deportations of Somalis, Human Rights Watch said.

“Kenya’s summary deportation of Somali nationals should end,” Simpson said. “Undocumented people should be given the opportunity to file an asylum application rather than being summarily deported back to the dangers of south-central Somalia

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Women living with HIV cultivate leaders and food, in Uganda’s slums

In the Katwe slum in Kampala, a group of women living with HIV are cultivating food, cleaning up the community and raising awareness of the right to sanitation and adequate housing.

“When I wake up and get my spade, the neighbour gets her broom, and we happily clean our area!” says an enthusiastic Consolata Zavuga. Her smile and sense of humour are well known in the community.

Unclogging the drains; the Galima women conduct a community cleanup campaign

Unclogging the drains; the Galima women conduct a community cleanup campaign. Photo: Shelter & Settlements Alternatives: Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA:UHSNET)

The 58-year-old Ugandan activist founded the “Galima Fights HIV/AIDS Initiative” after attending the 11th International Conference for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda in October 2003. The initiative unites a group of 65 women living with HIV in informal settlements located in the Makindye Division of the Katwe II Base Zone, one of the most notorious slums of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

These slums are characterized by poor housing conditions, lack of basic sanitation, including insufficient access to clean water and toilet facilities, poor physical structures, insecure tenure and evictions. The women earn their living from small informal businesses. However, many of them do not own titles to their homes and are thus easy targets for being rendered homeless in unorthodox ways, like being thrown out of their homes in the middle of the night, with no provision of alternative housing. They also face barriers to developing and sustaining their businesses to support their livelihoods or sustain their families.

Zavuga’s initial goal in creating the group was to encourage fellow women accessing Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to cultivate food in order to improve their nutrition, a necessity for HIV care. “Galima” comes from the Luganda word “amanyi agalima,” meaning energy to cultivate food crops. These include bananas, maize, sweet potatoes, beans, yams, tomatoes, eggplant and carrots.

“I am joyful every time I see many more people affected by HIV/AIDS joining our group or discovering their potential and shunning the bad spirit of the virus,” says Zavuga, whose popularity stems from her hard work and commitment to her community. Today, her group is composed of women, both youth and adults, and men have also joined. “With an active membership of 65 people, I am happy but still count it as a journey not complete.”

In addition to cultivating food, the group makes arts and crafts such as necklaces, bangles from beans, mats and bags, among other materials, to earn an income. They’ve received training from the national Ugandan NGO Shelter and Settlements Alternatives: Uganda Human Settlements Network, also known as SSA:UHSNET. The Network believes that women’s access to productive assets like land and decent housing will give way to long-term opportunities for economic development. A grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality,  the Network engages with partners in the housing sector to support and create opportunities for urban poor women’s groups to access land and housing, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS.

As a result of this training and their craft-making, Zavuga’s group has managed to start saving towards decent and affordable housing.

Cleaning up the community

Study circle training: helping the women identify and discuss their community challenges

Study circle training: helping the women identify and discuss their community challenges. Photo: Shelter & Settlements Alternatives: Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA:UHSNET)

Another priority has been the need to make their community more habitable and clean, by undertaking clean-up efforts, which also greatly reduces the chance of infections that could affect the women.

In Kampala, 1,200 to 1,500 tonnes of garbage are estimated to be generated per day, but only 400 to 500 tonnes 35 per cent are collected, according to a 2010 report by Uganda’s Auditor General. While Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) garbage-collection trucks as well as privately owned trucks are available, most people cannot afford them and the process of garbage collection is too lengthy, so garbage piles up in drainage systems and other open places within residential areas.

“We started the Keep Katwe Clean exercise after a study circle training in Mulago,” Zavuga explains. The study circle training which allowed participants to identify issues in their communities and develop ways to address them, was conducted by the SSA:UHSNET NGO.

The study circle training helped and the women understand their collective community needs and spearhead solutions. They identified sanitation as the most important, and initiated a campaign of community clean-ups on every second Saturday of the month to raise awareness of the right to sanitation and adequate housing.

Under Zavuga’s leadership, the Galima Fights HIV/AIDS Initiative collective was able to lobby the Chairperson of their local council and councillors to ask Kampala City authorities for support with garbage collection.

“Since June 2013, KCCA sends us vehicles free-of-charge and provides the [labour] to load collected waste from our zone. Thanks to the cleaning circle, a simple phone call makes the KCCA officials politely send their garbage vehicle to collect the garbage,” she says, proudly.

Because of these activities, residences of Katwe have now recognized the need for their own proactive efforts and commitment to clean up their community, along with local authorities.

“We had no motivation to clean our areas,” explained community member Namitala Regina, during a clean-up. “Zavuga has trained us because she was trained… I am eager to learn what else these people have for us!”

The resulted has been an immediate change in mindsets. Residents have taken ownership of the urgent need to ensure that their environment is kept clean, with leaders coming on board to support the initiative.

“Tetudda mabega,” says Zavuga, meaning “we shall not move backward.”

Source  UN WOMEN

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