Franklin D. Roosevelt defined freedom as the supremacy of human rights everywhere. “Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept, there can be no end save victory.” He spoke. The European Union in Uganda has done a great deal in bringing that freedom to Ugandans through a couple of programs that ran for the period 2014 to 2021.
With the blessing of the Government of Uganda, the European Union partnered with different start-up organizations to bring livelihood, and socioeconomic development amongst the youth and elevated the recognition of women’s rights in Uganda.
This is through widening the reach of human rights awareness with the objective of minimizing their abuse and enhancing good governance, increased funding of the means to improve public accountability of state functions. Such efforts through partnering and funding have elevated the awareness level of not just the would-be victims of human rights abuses, especially against women and children but as well the perpetrators knowing they are engaging a population that is informed contrary to earlier before such partnerships and funding and thus a check on the would perpetrators’ actions towards the population, this ultimately resulting a notable reduction in human rights abuses all over the communities reached.
In close relation is the funding of means that enhance public accountability, through such, the population is made aware of what to expect from public servants and thus increasing and triggering the demand for such services in the right and expected quality and quantity, hence implying the people in public service do not have the much opportunity as before to take advantage of the ignorance of the population to offer substandard services, with an expectant and demanding population, public service can only meet the expectations and demands of the population or risk triggering collective condemnation and pleas of accountability from the population.
Uganda has been and is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) where most of the provisions for recognition of Fundamental human rights were further adopted and enshrined in its 1995 constitution through the creation of an independent chapter in that regard that provides for the rights amongst which include; the right to adequate housing and livelihood, freedom from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, freedom of expression and speech, the right to work and rights of workers, right to education, right to access clean water and right to have free and full consent of intending spouses before marriage.
In August 2022, NTV Uganda aired a documentary on this initiative of the European Union’s program towards the sensitization of Ugandans. The documentary highlights the EU’s funding of its objective of good governance towards Ugandans through a partnership with AFFCAD Business and Vocational Institute to provide sustainability and livelihood among youth living in slum areas. The program has enabled the skilling of the said youths and enabled them to get certifications from the Directorate of Industrial Training.
Through this training and skilling coupled with the transformation of the skills into meaningful work, the livelihood of young adults and women has immensely changed for the better as they are in an easier position to sustain themselves unlike earlier before the introduction of these training and skilling. Unfortunately, the reach of such skilling and training is still limited and narrow in comparison to the vast communities in need of them, this thus implies, poverty and shortage of means for sustenance still prevail amongst most communities in Uganda.
In the same regard, Article 23(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates for the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and the protection of unemployment from the state to its people. The European Union as earlier noted has skilled the youth to fend for themselves through different kinds of work including carpentry, welding skills, and the creative and arts industry, to mention but a few.
Under Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 as amended, article 39 provides for the right to a clean and healthy environment. On 28th July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution on the right to access safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right and pronounced that it is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. For a country endowed with numerous freshwater bodies, it seems ironic to say the water is not only insufficient but also mostly unsafe for domestic use. All this mostly results from droughts and human interference with water bodies. To remedy this, the EU documentary highlights the initiatives taken by the European Union through Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative to ease accessibility to clean water by funding water plants i.e., Ggaba Water Plant 3 and Katosi Water Plant.
Nonetheless, despite close to three decades since the adoption of the 1995 constitution, Uganda still faces mild violations of human rights not limited to political rights, rights of journalists and writers but also those rights and freedoms whose abuse is characterized by domestic violence, forced and early girl child marriages, discrimination in the education of the girl child and the regard of their interests as second to those of men a form of discrimination. To the worst are some communities that do still glorify inhumane acts like Female genital Mutilation despite efforts to eradicate the practice including funding from the European Union to do the same, some individuals have gone extent of hiding and forcing teenage girls into the practice while those who have resisted the practice still face discrimination and treatment as inferior in society
In 1985, the Government of Uganda ratified the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women of 1981(CEDAW). Article 5 of the CEDAW requires member states to take all appropriate measures to eliminate prejudices and customary practices based on the idea of the inferiority of women. The same rights of women are enshrined under Article 33 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 as Amended. The European Union has through funding from the Spotlight Initiative addressed Gender Based Violence and other practices against women and children.
These practices as highlighted in the Documentary include early and child marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Spotlight Initiative has established shelters for survivors of these practices against women and through skilling of these women in order to establish sustainability. The Government of Uganda has also put into place policies and laws to curb and eliminate these injustices. These policies include the National Policy on the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence in Uganda, 2016, and the Domestic Violence Act, 2010, and its regulations.
Female Genital Mutilation, as highlighted in the documentary, greatly affects women between the ages of 15 to 49 in areas of Kapchorwa, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, and Amudat. Whereas culture is quite considered an aspect worth treasure, FGM amounts to torture and degrading treatment. Therefore, such a practice is contrary not only to principles of natural justice but also to the fundamental human rights as enshrined in international and national legal provisions.
The practice of Female Genital Mutilation has currently and in the recent past been considered one of more damage than benefit, its effects are characterized by unfound inhumanity, degrading treatment, and torture. Until then, society regards women and girls as unworthy of any respect.
The inhumane act not only exposes these young girls to unimaginable pain during and a few days after the mutilation but also poses lifetime adverse effects for those lucky enough to survive death resulting from over-bleeding. The risks of catching infections during and after the act of FGM are extremely high since rudimentary tools that are hardly well sanitized to fit medical purposes are used, risks of difficulties during childbirth, difficulty during urination, possible deaths of new-born babies, infertility, and more, such dangers extremely outweigh any possible cultural beliefs that could justify the act.
Despite efforts to counter and combat Female Genital Mutilation, according to a survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF, the average prevalence rate of FGM in Sebei and Karamoja sub-regions was 26.6% and extremely higher for some districts and villages. This implies a high number of girls within the two sub-regions are mutilated and worse is that more are under threat of the same. Despite existing laws that make the practice illegal, Article 44(a) of the 1995 constitution of Uganda provides for a right whose derogation is prohibited which is the freedom from torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. The act of Female Genital Mutilation falls not short of torture, cruelty, inhumanity, and degrading treatment of those to whom it is performed. However, this constitutional provision proved not sufficient to prohibit FGM in Uganda.
With the continuous and rampant performance of the act, the parliament was 2010 prompted to pass the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010, this illegalized Female Genital Mutilation and as well prescribed sentences for those involved. As expected, this created fear regarding practicing the inhumane act, especially in urban or semi-urban areas as a reasonable reduction was recorded.
The Spotlight Initiative Uganda has continued to support women who are victims and survivors of these inhuman practices through the establishment of shelters and through training in literacy activities in order to create awareness. The initiative has also trained these girls and women survivors of GBV, FGM, and early marriages with hands-on skills to enhance their productivity to improve their livelihood this to say reduced their dependence on society that requires them to first be mutilated for them to be considered worthy human beings. With such training, the resistance of girls against FGM and GBV has been enhanced and vice to a particular extent defeated.
Nonetheless, these challenges still do exist and are at large hardly reported hence some not forming part of the statistics, the need to intensify the countermeasures already in existence and to think of better strategies remains a necessity to cause or achieve an ultimate end of such degrading and inhumane practices.
Here is a documentary, watch for more details and you can follow the hashtag #EUAndUganda