Turning Sexual and Gender Based (SGBV) Pain into Power

Oliver a Congolese refugee was married for 17 years. Hers was not a rosy marriage as within a few years, she had seven children and suffering physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband. As is the case with many survivors of Gender Based Violence, Oliver feared to report her partner of many years and suffered several beatings in silence which at times left her hospitalized but with few options upon discharge and without a livelihood, she returned to her marital home and continued abuse.

Oliver and her husband survived largely on crop farming and even though she put in the most hours in the garden, he decided the fate of the harvest. Her children witnessed a lot of it.

Her breaking point came in 2018 when she returned from hospital after the birth of her youngest baby to find herself locked out of the house by the husband who alleged the baby was not his and she was not welcome anymore. In tears, Oliver moved in with her brother a couple of villages away, with nothing but her child. It is from here that she reported her plight to HIJRA that initially supported her with basics such as clothes for her new born son.

Several joint meetings between Oliver and her husband with OPM, UNHCR, Police and community leaders saw Oliver get all her children to move into a house in a different village and escorted to retrieve some household items from her marital home to start a new life.

Keen to work and provide for her children, Oliver requested for start -up capital of UGX.60, 000 from HIJRA. With this, she bought fish and bananas that she sold for a profit after paying off UGX.2000 at a time over a 06 week period. Oliver endured hawking her merchandise with her new born on the back in 30 days unsure about where her next customer would come from. Her profit after the loan repayment was a meager UGX.25000 but she was determined to keep going.

Oliver who gets psychosocial support routinely from HIJRA is only unable to make it when her child falls ill. But Oliver has turned her pain into power expanding her merchandise to include tomato sales. She has built valuable networks quickly and is making a profit of UGX.15, 000.

With this, 05 of Oliver’s children have joined Kashojwa primary school, thanks to her new business and she is committed to keeping them in school. She is able to provide basic needs in home and she no longer cries herself to sleep. Oliver does not regret life after her marriage and is happiest for her children.

  Oliver said; ‘‘God has not forgotten about me, he gave me people who were able to understand my problems to counsel me. With these hands of mine I will continue to work for my children. Women in the settlement run households, the legs I have will continue to move around to look for more customers and I will not stop seeking advice from HIJRA’’.

Oliver plans to open an account in the Moban SACCO a credit facility established by UNHCR to refugees to enable them engage in livelihood projects. This will see her begin saving with the SACCO to be able to access bigger credit to eventually grow her business further. She continues together with her children to receive counselling from HIJRA and is open to the idea of her children in time rebuilding their relationship with their father. He has yet to accept his parental responsibility since his release from prison for violating Oliver

HIJRA in conjunction with UNHCR, Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and other partners as well as the Police and Judiciary works to prevent and respond to SGBV through community awareness on SGBV and its dangers and responding to SGBV survivors in refugee settlements, providing counseling, facilitating survivors obtain medical examination and treatment from the health partners and ensuring access to justice.

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