Uganda: Taking responsibility for changes
30 October 2008

Girls performing during Women's day in Kampala, which brings light to domestic abuse, among other issues. (JRS)
Neither the most civilised nor the most powerful communities have managed to completely solve the problem of alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Kampala, 30 October 2008 JRS psychosocial programme organised a campaign on domestic violence and alcohol abuse, two major social problems, in Aparo Hill-Top and Oryang IDP camps on October 30 and 31. The campaign aimed at fostering collaboration, strengthening community initiative and forming the right attitude among internally displaced persons (IDP) in the camps.

Of the incidences of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) reported in these camps, a high proportion has been exacerbated by alcohol abuse. The widespread production and sale of home-made brew as an income-generating activity for women in the two camps feeds into the cycle of drinking and violence. For instance, 75% of the men in the camps consume alcohol to an extent that some are found drunk at 10:00 in the morning already. Therefore, JRS considered it an urgent matter to address the issue of alcohol abuse and domestic violence and to especially empower women.

One activity during the workshop was an insinuated rope pulling demonstrating the physical impact of alcohol abuse: One group represented persons under the influence of alcohol who were weak in coordinating their physical individual and cooperative efforts, while the other group represented sober persons who managed to combine their forces to win. JRS team and counsellors from both camps officially ended the campaign calling for change in the communities. “Alcohol is not the solution to your problems but it increases violence and causes further problems in the community,” they told participants. More than 100 IDPs took part in the campaign.

Alcohol abuse is prevalent in all societies

Asked if the awareness-raising campaign can be considered successful it has to be stressed that effects of campaigns in general are difficult to measure. Neither the most civilised nor the most powerful communities have managed to completely solve the problem of alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Attempts to judge the amount of development taking place only on this high level will most likely result in disappointment. Responsiveness may be noticeable on different levels and to smaller extents. People who have taken part in the campaigns and benefited from that rather small investment of time can bring about considerable changes in their own communities in the longer perspective.

Over several months, JRS psychosocial programme and community facilitators have steadily built up a positive relationship with IDPs following their desire to create awareness and increase responsiveness to violence and rampant abuse of alcohol in their communities. The campaigns showed that communities are able to become self-corrective and are ready to work together once they are challenged and motivated. Their response showed further that they have not only the power but also feel the obligation to solve their own problems once awareness has been raised and they have been provided with the necessary tools to improve the situation. When they finally see the changes happen, community members feel proud.

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