In broad terms, a nation/state is said to be at peace and security when there is respect for self-determination, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Peace also prevails when there is no use or threat, use of force, aggression, military occupation, interference in the internal affairs of a country, the elimination of domination, discrimination, oppression and exploitation, as well as of gross and mass violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Government of Uganda in Vision 2040 recognizes that societal fabrics at individual, household, community and national levels must be at peace for any development to take place. This is line with several global, regional, sub regional and national commitments on equality, development and peace including SDGs that Uganda is party to.
Uganda is hosts over 1.4 million refugees has endeavored to contribute to peaceful co-existence among her neighbors and boosts of being a peaceful and secure country.
The practical and true meaning of peace for individual women/men and girls/boys however as determined by their unique experiences in families and society has been ignored. Peace at individual level means;
- The family has shelter, enough food and is in good health
- Children are able to attain formal education and above all are assured of employment
- Parents have enough money to pay for their children’s school fees and in time
- Children go to school without fear of kidnap, defilement and rape on the way to school by their teachers/lecturers, strangers etc.
- Girls not missing classes due to menstruation
- Young girls not being coerced into sex, early and forced marriages
- Women taking full control of their fertility
- Having manageable families
- Equitable access and utilization of basic services like health care
- Adult individuals are able to meet social standards (successful and stable relationships and high standard of living).
- Spouses jointly planning and contributing to the welfare of the family together
- Individuals are free from any form of violence and discrimination “I cannot say that I have peace when my husband batters me, quarrels and criticizes me, does not come back home or does not provide for the family.”
- Justice and fairness for all
- Women and girls and other marginalized groups actively and effectively participating in decision making and development processes.
The above definition embraces the notion that peace does not only mean the absence of war, armed violence and hostilities at the national and international levels there is limited enjoyment of economic and social justice, equality and the entire range of human rights and fundamental freedoms within society.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) and in particular violence against women continues to erode peace from women and girls around the world. Women and girls are not only subjected to horrific experiences of rape, defilement, child marriages and forceful marriages but are victims of a number of gross human rights violations like Female Genital Mutilation, Human Trafficking, widow inheritance, denial of property rights, power imbalance, neglect, discrimination, stereotypes and societal biases.
According to UDHS 2016, help seeking behavior to overcome violence and its effects is very low. It is estimated that 33% women and 30% men sought help to stop violence they had experienced and that 51% women and 49% men neither sought help nor told anyone about the violence.
The enjoyment of real peace at individual levels is not sufficient yet peace is a prerequisite for a sustainable socio-economic transformation, democracy and national unity. This year once again, the world marked the International Peace Day on September 21st aligned to Sustainable Development Goal No. 16 on “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.”
Annually, various governments, Development Partners, CSOs, FBOs and individual activists across the globe walk together during the 16 days of activism against GBV from the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women from 25th November to the International Human Rights Day on 10th December every year.
Stringent measures ought to be taken to adequately address GBV in all its forms for women and girls to live in a peaceful society.
Article by Prudence Atukwatse