Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cultural Norms

Once again; I accompanied my bosses on a trip to the Northern region of Uganda specifically the districts of Koboko, Pader and Karamoja on a monitoring and evaluation exercise for one of the ongoing projects over there. What these districts have in common are distance between each other, dark as sin people and extremely dry weather! I used to lament about the distance from Kampala to Entebbe until I travelled north. That journey to and fro is enough to make location as an item on my list of deal-breakers in a potential partner.
Aside from the journey and the extremely hot weather plus short and stout cows; the north is actually beautiful. I loved my first visit to Nebbi and thought it one of the developing districts in that region but Koboko puts up a good fight. It is coming along wonderfully. What impressed me most though was Karamoja. It is incredibly beautiful! The dryness of the earth and weather add to its beauty and I was told it is something else when the rainy season is upon them. If it wasn’t so dry and far, I would consider having a weekend home over there.
To get back to the purpose of the trip, the project under monitoring and evaluation had to do with the mitigation of gender based violence against girls and women with disabilities. Inasmuch as it was successful across all three districts, the main challenge against absolute success; prejudice and attitude towards persons with disabilities notwithstanding are the cultural norms.
In Kakwa culture (a tribe of people from Koboko) it is a taboo for a woman to report her husband to the police in case of gender based violence. A practice enabled by family members and friends who decide to keep silent about the crime thereby obstructing the judicial system. A victim in Karamoja narrated a similar experience where her partner an officer of the law at that couldn’t be brought to justice over child negligence and abuse out of fear and cultural beliefs. They would rather suffer in silence than bring shame upon themselves and their partners in the community.
If we the educated, well travelled, sophisticated and modern city dwellers can be ensnared in its tight far reaching tentacles when push comes to shove, how about the uneducated and helpless village dwellers? These are ideologies set before us and will continue to live on after us. One cannot battle pre-conceived notions until it is a do-or-die situation which I believe gender based violence is. It always comes down to someone’s inner strength and the need to do better for and by themselves because help alone is nothing. Until one comes to such a point, these tentacles will never be let go of.

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