Recent findings from a study conducted in Uganda reveal alarming statistics: one in three Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) have suffered physical or sexual abuse, while an even more distressing one in two have experienced sexual harassment. This pervasive violence against AGYW poses a grave concern that demands immediate attention. Such acts of violence not only inflict physical and emotional trauma but also lead to financial hardships, hindering AGYW’s ability to pursue education, employment, and a healthy life.
Addressing this pressing issue, ACTS101 Uganda partnered with UGANENT LAW to organize an empowering event titled “Empowerment to Power,” specifically targeting young women in the workplace. The primary objective of this engagement was to empower AGYW, enabling them to voice their concerns and advocate for measures against workplace violence and abuse. Additionally, it aimed to raise awareness regarding the pervasive issue of violence targeting AGYW in employment settings.
Understanding Body Autonomy and Gender-Based Violence (GBV):
Mrs. Bridget N. Jjuuko, Executive Director of ACTS101 Uganda, initiated the event with a crucial presentation highlighting the significance of body autonomy. Body autonomy emphasizes an individual’s right to make choices about their body without fear of violence or coercion. During the presentation, the six core types of gender-based violence (GBV) were discussed in detail:
- Physical Violence
- Verbal Violence
- Psychological Violence
- Harassment and Sexual Violence
- Socio-Economic Violence
- Domestic Violence
Sharing Personal Experiences:
Following Mrs. Jjuuko’s presentation, AGYW participants were encouraged to share their personal experiences of workplace violence. These stories unveiled the heart-wrenching reality of their daily struggles. For instance:
– One young woman recounted how her boss frequently made inappropriate comments about her appearance, creating an uncomfortable work environment.
– Another young woman revealed that her boss had demanded a kiss, and upon her refusal, unjustly terminated her employment.
– A third young woman, who identifies as transgender, disclosed being physically assaulted by a client.
Understanding Legal Framework and Rights:
The sharing of experiences led to a constructive discussion about the legal framework concerning sexual harassment. Ms. Shakira, a lawyer from UGANENT LAW, advised AGYW participants to carefully review their employment contracts and become aware of their rights. She emphasized the importance of maintaining a journal to document any incidents of harassment and encouraged participants to confide in trusted friends or family members about their experiences.
Charting the Path Forward:
The engagement concluded with a session dedicated to charting a path forward. AGYW participants proposed several actionable steps to address workplace GBV effectively:
- Development of a one-page information sheet on GBV within every organization.
- Creation of a standard GBV manual tailored to AGYW, facilitating training and awareness.
- Drafting a petition to raise awareness about GBV.
- Collaboration among civil society organizations to collectively combat this pressing issue.
The “Empowerment to Power” engagement served as a valuable platform for AGYW to share their workplace harassment experiences and gain insights into their rights. Although significant work remains in addressing this pervasive problem, this event marked a crucial step forward. By empowering AGYW to stand against workplace sexual harassment, we aim to build a more just and equitable society for all, recognizing that AGYW represent the future of Uganda.
AfNHi Youth Mentee 2023