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Raids, its effects on girls and women in Karamoja

 

File Photo: Young Mothers at a community engagement on girl’s rights recently

By Edward Akaki

Karamoja, a semi-arid pastoralist region found in the North Eastern part of the country, Uganda has over the years been faced with harsh climatic change effects, cattle rustling, coupled with the disarmament process, escalating insecurity and looming hunger.

This has hit the region so hard most especially the teenage girls and women who are affected by sexual abuses during and after cattle rustling incidents, where some are usually defiled/raped leading to teenage pregnancies, early marriages, school dropouts, single parenting, health complications among others thus increasing the levels of vulnerability.

According to (UDHS, 2016), 1 in every 4 girls in Karamoja has had their first child putting the teenage pregnancy rate at 24 percent. Also, up to 53 percent and 13 percent of women/girls have experienced physical and sexual violence respectively in the region since age 15.

Both Romana Ileny and Esther Achipa who are young mothers say they became young mothers due poverty and harmful cultural practices. Esther says she was forced into marriage while Romana dropped out of school since her parents could not afford. 

Gender inequality and Gender Based Violence are widespread in Karamoja and are perpetuated by harmful cultural norms, inadequate protection of human rights, alcohol consumption, and poverty that compels girls to engage in early and non-protected sex for survival; 9.4 percent of girls aged 10-24 years have experienced forced sexual intercourse as reported by (UNFPA, 2017).

with the scorching draught that hit the region since last year, most pastoralists in the region and from neighbouring countries are settled at Kobebe dam found in Lotisan sub county. Something Hon. John Robert Adupa Akiiki, a reformed warrior and now the LCIII chairperson of the Sub County corelates to the current reduced raids and sexual related violence against girls and women.

Adupa added that raids affected very many people but girls and women being the most affected as they face the consequences like forced marriages, abduction among others which has left them economically and socially disadvantaged.

Young men of warrior age rape girls aged between 10 and 12 years as a way of “securing” them for marriage. Although the extent of this traditional practice is difficult to judge, rape is cited as common thus contributing to many girls being married off as early as 10 years (Coffey 2016).

Two teenage girls currently aged 18years testified to being raped during a raid in their compound where one of the twins conceived and is currently a single mother to a child of unknown father.

Sylvia Abura one of the rape survivors during raids said when the warriors went to raid at their home, they forcefully broke into their house, raped her and the sister. She added that a month later, they realised that her sister, Sarah Lokoru was pregnant due to the rape. Lokoru currently mother a one year old child. 

File Photo:Sylvia Abura and her sister, Sarah Lokoru carrying her child

Inspector of Police Michael Longole the Mt. Moroto Regional Police Spokesperson confirmed that most of the raiders do not harm women but rather abduct, rape and leave them helpless during their raiding activities.

According to Longole, the raids have been directly linked to a lot of sexual violence since the joint security forces launched the disarmament exercise in 2021 with numbers reducing as the process intensified.

This situation is made worse by the inadequacy of the health sector to provide GBV response services. Most of the health facilities are hard to reach due to the pastoral life of the Karimojong in addition to the fear of the affected teenagers to expose themselves.

In the 2016 UDHS, Karamoja had the highest percentage of mothers with live births delivered by the traditional birth attendant at 20 percent compared to only 0.6 percent in Kampala. The burden of maternal health is also made worse by the continued practice of female genital Mutilation (FGM) in some communities such as the Tepeth, Pokot and Kadam ethnic groups in spite of the anti-FGM legislations. Current statistics put FGM at 6.4 percent in the Karamoja region (UDHS, 2016).

According to Dorothy Chegem the ‘She Leads’ programs officer at Karamoja Women Umbrella Organization (KAWUO), through their community activities of capacity building of elders, men, girls and young women in the region, most young women and girls have managed to speak up about the issues affecting them.

File Photo: Dorothy Chegem the programs officer at Karamoja Women Umbrella Organization

She says the women have also helped champion for peace through convincing their husbands to hand over their guns to the government; a case in point where two men in Komaret Village, Loputuk Sub-county, Moroto district handed over their guns after being approached by the women.

If you see them doing such things and trying to help revive peace in the region that means they are also helping reduce the effects of raids on their fellows and thus improving women rights in the region”, Chegem concluded.

Justin Tuko, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner emphasized that the rudimentary cultural practices like rape for securing a woman for marriage, teenage marriages among others are against the law and the district security departments will enforce where necessary.

He added that survivors of sexual harassments and Gender based violence in Moroto district have a shelter where they are rehabilitated.

According to UNFPA-Uganda 2022 report, if no action is taken to reduce childhood sexual abuse then;

• Teenage pregnancy will continue with 50% of teenage girls at risk each year.
• About 64% of teenage mothers will not complete primary education level.
• About 60% of teenage mothers will end up in peasant agriculture work.
• Annually more than UGX. 645 billion (181.8 Million USD) will be spent by Government of Uganda on healthcare for teen mothers and education of their children.

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