The violence started when Nighty’s husband, Octii John, got a co-wife. From that time he would be neglecting his family in favor of his other family. Nighty explains:
“He did not provide us with food or do the farming, and he did not bother fixing the roof. Things were not easy. Each time he would come and want to beat me. It was difficult. I could not imagine I would be alive by now.” During all this Nighty felt sick:
“Domestic violence brings sickness. I had sickness within me. My heart would always be paining. I would not sleep”.
Nighty and John were fighting all the time and the people around them were fed up, so Nighty found herself without anywhere to go. She heard of ActionAid through a friend and went to seek help after John had been beating her up because she did not want him to bring the school books for her children to the children he has with his co-wife.
Now we are living peacefully
Nighty and John were not in good terms at all. At ActionAid International Uganda’s Women Protection Centre in Amuru they participated in mediation and received counseling regarding the issues of domestic violence. That put an end to the violence.
“One thing that is very useful and which has had an impact in our lives is that my husband is no longer threatening me and the children. He has not been beating me since I came to Action Aid 3 months ago. He is also no longer taking my property to his other wife, and when we came back from the mediation with ActionAid, he fixed the roof and he is even doing the farming for me now. We are living in peace and harmony,” Nighty explains.
“I am very grateful to ActionAid, I am really happy again, she continues. “Without their help I do not think I would be here with my children.”
Why did you stop beating your wife?
While Nighty is telling me her story, her husband, John, sits next to her. John explains that he has learnt that fighting, threatening and being violent have yielded nothing to him and that they are criminal acts.
“We were counseled at ActionAid, we were educated on how to keep our children well and how to live in peace and harmony, and our roles and responsibilities. So I saw that that was very important, and that is what triggered me to change. Also now Nighty does things according to what we have discussed. We have mutual understanding now as a result of the counseling and education we got from ActionAid,” he explains.
As a result of the help from ActionAid, John is now sharing his responsibilities between his two homes. He is pleased with how things have changed since the counseling and he wishes for other couples that are having fights and using gender based violence to have the same opportunity of learning from their mistakes and change their ways.
Nighty says that she has changed attitude towards her husband’s co-wife because her husband is now living well with her. They two wives do not visit each other, but they greet each other.
“At least now, I am well. I still have some fear within me; I am not certain of what might happen tomorrow, but as for now, I am still content,” she said.
Women Protection Centres
ActionAid has established 10 Women Protection Centres in Uganda. At the shelters, survivors of gender based violence are provided with temporary refuge, lodging, food, and other services including referral to legal, psychological and medical assistance, in line with national guidelines. The Women Protection Centres are promoting collaboration and coordination between all key factors such as the police, formal and informal courts, medical units, district probation office and the community. ActionAid Uganda has facilitated police, medical and legal officer in evidence collection, follow up and case management in a bid to strengthen the referral pathway in provision of integrated services.
Like Nighty, more women now walk to the protection centres opening up to report cases and speak out without fearing what their community members will say.
Still obstacles to be overcome
According to community development officer at the gender desk in Amuru, Achiro Can Fancy, GBV is considered by the community as a private issue to be solved in the family and reporting GBV is not welcome.
“Only when they have failed to handle the issue in the family, the community supports survivors to get treatment and also to get some basic support. But if a woman reports a case, she will not be let in peace, because the family of the man thinks you are not a good wife when you think you can solve the issues outside the home. They send women away or they ask you to get the man from the police. Even friends will think you have taken it at bit far because it is an issue of the family,” Achiro Can Fancy explains.
The gender desk office work together with ActionAid on issues concerning GBV and mediation. According to Achiro Can Fancy many cases of GBV are not reported at all because domestic violence is considered a private issue.