The Ugandan girl who trekked barefoot to escape marriage at 13

Scholastica Nacap walked barefoot for 60km, across dangerous mountain terrain in north-east Uganda, to avoid getting married. She was just 13. Orphaned at nine, she was told by her father’s relatives she must marry a much older, wealthy man, so Nacap ran.

“I had to escape. I couldn’t accept [becoming] a wife and mother at 13,” she says.

Five years on Nacap is back in Karamoja, this time leading the way in the fight against early marriage and child pregnancy in this remote region. Child marriage is common in Karamoja, which has a population of about 1 million people, mainly pastoralists, scattered across 27,900 sq km of semi-arid terrain.

“Change is a gradual process that takes time,” says Alain Sibenaler, Uganda’s representative of the UN population fund, UNFPA. “However, through awareness-raising and community engagements, communities are beginning to appreciate the need to invest in education.”

Globally, an estimated 12 million girls are married before they turn 18. A report by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the World Bank concluded that child marriage costs nations billions and destroys life prospects for girls.

The legal age of marriage in Uganda is 18 (although girls can marry from 16 with parental consent), but UN statistics suggest 40% of girls marry before 18, and 10% before they are 15.

The ICRW report said a lack of sex education and access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services contributed to early pregnancies that very often lead to early marriage.

The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 reported that almost a fifth (19%) of girls aged 15 to 19 have given birth – another 5% were pregnant with their first child. Teenagers in rural areas were more likely to have children at a young age. Around 25% of those who drop out of school are pregnant teenagers.

Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations, with 75% of people below the age of 30 and 58% under the age of 20. The country also has one of the highest fertility rates – women give birth to an average of 5.6 children – compared with 4.8 in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. This is attributed to low use of contraceptives and early marriage.

Nacap is one of those trying to turn the tide where she lives. She now helps at a club for girls run by Bangladeshi NGO Brac, aimed at 10- to 22-year-olds and offering information on the dangers of early marriage and pregnancy. They also provide training, including tailoring and agricultural skills, and advice on how to manage money.

“In club discussions I advise the girls to shun early pregnancy and early marriages. I tell them not to be deceived by boys to ruin their future. I encourage them to go to school to study,” says Nacap, who is back in contact with her family. “Those who can’t manage studies [I encourage] to engage in a particular business activity and earn money for themselves.”

There are 250 clubs in Karamoja’s seven districts. “We share our experiences by telling stories, participating in debates, discussion of issues such as rape, adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights, growing up and menstrual hygiene. We talk about HIV, family planning and contraception,” says Nacap.

A total of 14,392 of girls have attended since May 2016, and about a quarter of them now run a business or have a job. About 80% have control over their earnings and 59% participate in household decision-making.

Nacap now runs a small bakery and restaurant – making doughnuts and selling cooked mixed maize and beans, chapatis and tea. She is not married and does not plan to be any time soon. “Which boy or man can deceive and lure me? No. I have money from business. I am busy trying to expand it. I don’t have time to think about men and marriage,” says Nacap.

She uses some of the money she earns to support her two sisters. “I need them to study and become role models. Our [relatives] should stop thinking about marrying them off. They should educate them to become lawyers, teachers, engineers and bankers who can make change in our community,” says Nacap.

“I need financial support. I need to expand the bakery and restaurant business to achieve my dreams.”

16 days of activism – 2018

The theme of the 2018 Campaign is “End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.” This year’s theme builds on the momentum and achievements during the 2017 campaign, when over 700 organizations in 92 countries campaigned around the theme of “Together We Can End GBV in Education.” Our goal for 2018 is to continue to target the institutions in which gender-based violence is perpetuated and push for systemic change and accountability.

rom 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.

For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions—one in three women worldwide experience gender-based violence.

The time for change is here and now.

In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc and others, have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced any more. Advocates understand that while the names and contexts may differ across geographic locations, women and girls everywhere are experiencing extensive abuse and their stories need to be brought to light.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November

One of the most devastating human rights violations

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.

Gender inequality persists worldwide. Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will require more vigorous efforts, including legal frameworks, to counter deeply rooted gender-based discrimination that often results from patriarchal attitudes and related social norms, as stated by the UN Secretary-General, in his latest report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Some intolerable facts

Violence against women is the most extreme form of discrimination. According to the aforementioned report, on the basis of data from 2005 to 2016 for 87 countries, 19 per cent of women between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey. In the most extreme cases, such violence can lead to death. In 2012, almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to 6 per cent of male victims.

Another extreme case of violence against women is female genital mutilation/cutting. This harmful practice has declined by 24 per cent since around 2000. Nevertheless, prevalence remains high in some of the 30 countries with representative data. In those countries, survey data from around 2015 indicate that more than 1 in 3 girls between 15 and 19 years of age have undergone the procedure compared to nearly 1 in 2 girls around 2000.

Moreover, only just over half (52 per cent) of women between 15 and 49 years of age who are married or in a relationship make their own decisions about consensual sexual relations and use of contraceptives and health services. That statistic is based on available data from around 2012 for 45 countries, 43 of which are in developing regions.

Research also shows that achieving gender equality helps in preventing conflict, and high rates of violence against women correlates with outbreaks of conflict. Despite the evidence, actions for women’s inclusion, leadership and protection remain inadequate. In some areas, there has even been a roll back on progress.

Lack of funds

One of the major challenges to efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls worldwide is the substantial funding shortfall. As a result, resources for initiatives to prevent and end violence against women and girls are severely lacking. Frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals, which include a specific target on ending violence against women and girls, offer huge promise, but must be adequately funded in order to bring real and significant changes in the lives of women and girls.

This year has brought some good news in this regard, as the European Union and the United Nations launched the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls.

Another initiative that has been helping to expose this scourge is the UNiTE to end violence against women initiative launched in 2008 by the then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, which is also supported by his successor, António Guterres.

Violence in school affects learning for both girls and boys

While boys and girls can be both victims and perpetrators of SRGBV, girls are often at greater risk of sexual violence, whilst boys are often more exposed to corporal punishment and bullying. Teachers and school staff -important partners addressing SRGBV – can also be perpetrators, in some cases acting with impunity. Poorly enforced legislation, inadequate child protection policies and weak or non-existent reporting mechanisms all increase children’s vulnerability to SRGBV.

SRGBV has serious consequences for children’s physical and mental health and well-being. It has been shown to adversely impact learning, school attendance and completion. New analysis presented in our paper shows that bullying affects boys’ and girls’ ability to master basic numeracy skills.

Sexual violence is a highly destructive form of SRGBV that contributes to girls’ poor performance and dropout. Unintended pregnancy resulting from sexual coercion and rape effectively marks the end of their education in many countries.

While increased advocacy and recognition of SRGBV has been a positive trend in recent years, we still do not know its full scale or impact. Reliable international data are lacking on the various forms of SRGBV and on sexual violence in particular.
Evidence across and within countries is uneven and incomplete. Cross-national surveys and learning assessments that collect data on violence within school settings have generally focused on physical violence and bullying, and have not always applied a gender perspective.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close