GWED-G Hosts Women’s Conferences in Gulu & Omoro for VOICE Project
As part of its Oxfam/Novib VOICE Project seeking to empower and unite local women leaders throughout 12 sub-counties in Gulu and Omoro Districts, GWED-G hosted a series of women’s conferences. These conferences attracted 300 participants including Women Council representatives, women councilors, community development officers, district speakers, women’s caucus representatives, resident district commissioners, Local Council IIIs & Vs, and sub-county chiefs, among others.
The women’s conferences sought to draw women together in a concerted effort to increase women’s participation and representation in leadership positions and decision making processes. The conference enlightened participants on the need for women’s participation in leadership to boost representation, especially considering the upcoming elections in Uganda are to take place in early 2021. These events provided participants with a platform to share specific barriers and explore opportunities to enhance women’s leadership participation, as well as outline legislative provisions for expanding women’s possibilities in elected assemblies. Participants developed action plans to promote women’s effective participation in leadership spaces and decision making.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and following guidelines set forth by the districts leadership, GWED-G adapted its conferences to a decentralized format. This meant instead of hosting one single event, our team held multiple smaller events within each sub-county. Our team also used the opportunity to disseminate important COVID-19 preventive information.
As the women’s conferences were decentralized, we solicited several different keynote and guest speakers to focus on topics relevant to each locality. One keynote speaker, Mrs. Achan Susan Loum, focused on why there is a need for more women in leadership, encouraging attendees to stand for office and galvanize support around issues important to women. Other sessions emphasized different approaches, such as caucusing to unite women beyond political affiliations to make substantial gains on issues that affect all women, and subsequently their families and communities as a whole.
Another topic covered was discussing the preponderance of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) that has reportedly seen a rise during the coronavirus crisis, which was explored by GWED-G team member, Mr. Odong Geoffrey. He provided a review of the basics of SGBV as well as shared insights on how to best support survivors and prevent incidents.
Ms. Lakareber Maliam Okelo conducted sessions on ‘Balancing Public & Private Life’ to enable women vying for or in leadership positions to better manager day-to-day affairs, consultations for remedial measures, and be better positioned to resolve conflicts at personal, family and community levels. Much of the discussion centred on stress management techniques and being able to recognize its onset.
Participants drafted actions plans to deal with important issues identified. Issues flagged for action included tackling child/forced marriages and teenage pregnancies, difficulties reporting SGBV cases for referral, weaknesses in access to maternal and child health, and the need to continue economic empowerment of women VSLA groups (particularly amid COVID-19). Attendees decided that, given current restrictions, some issues would be best addressed by door-to-door sensitization (especially sensitive topics); while others would be handled with small group sensitization to elicit dialogues and discussions in order to better understand the changing dynamics and challenges more recently developed.
The women’s conferences represent the end of GWED-G’s implementation of the VOICE Project in Gulu and Omoro Districts. This project was to influence change for amplifying women’s voices and promoting women’s rights in the Acholi sub-region.