Empowering Women for Uganda’s Long-Term Health & Well-Being

Action Against Hunger’s food security & livelihood programs help women overcome decades of civil war and domestic abuse
Women arrive at a training center operated by ACF in Uganda. Photo: Tine Frank

Thousands of families across northern Uganda are slowly rebuilding their lives as they recover from two decades of civil war and displacement. This process is doubly important for the women of northern Uganda, who, as central household figures, must overcome ingrained struggles of abuse if their families are to overcome hunger and poverty.

The United Nations’ designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a reminder that the struggle to end gender abuse is a daily reality for far too many women around the world. Uganda’s experience, both past and present, illustrates the importance of this global issue and casts abuse as a developmental issue: domestic violence affects not only women, but the long-term health and well-being of their families and communities.

Women provide 80 percent of food crops and comprise 70 percent of the agricultural workforce in Uganda, yet many have poor access to property and education. Unequal access and control of resources compromises women’s economic independence and their capacity for decision making and action—all of which makes them even more vulnerable to abuse. Women also face higher health risks, few social protections and often have limited knowledge of their fundamental rights.

“During the armed conflict that ravaged northern Uganda for two decades, women became the first victims of war. Thousands have experienced violence through kidnapping, rape, sexual slavery, as well as forced marriage and pregnancies. Today, many of them are mothers and heads of families; most are left alone to take care of their homes.”
—Youcef Hammache, Desk Officer, Action Against Hunger

Women who suffer from abuse are at greater risk of a low nutritional status and of developing malnutrition. Action Against Hunger is working closely with communities in northern Uganda to address violence against women by working to increase their independence and self-sufficiency.

Strengthening the Role of Women

Northern Uganda has been relatively stable since 2006. After living in displacement camps for many years, most families have now returned to their home villages, where women play a major role in reconstructing their homes, livelihoods, and food and income sources. After two decades living in displacement camps, much has been lost to the communities of northern Uganda, including important agricultural and pastoral understandings of their homeland.

Since 2009, Action Against Hunger has worked to protect and support women across northern Uganda. Through workshops and women’s centers, ACF’s teams have trained women in a range of remunerative economic activities, including agriculture, clothes-making, bookkeeping and veterinary care, in addition to providing capital to help women develop small businesses.

“We’re aiming to reduce violence against women by increasing their economic opportunities and educating their communities. When we help women, we’re also helping to stimulate regional economic development. Women are the key to the future and to restoring regions ravaged by war. To reduce hunger in the 21st Century, we need to put women at the heart of our programs in Uganda and around the world.”
—Youcef Hammache, Desk Officer, Action Against Hunger

Through Action Against Hunger’s food security & livelihoods initiatives, ACF has identified more than 13,000 women who will each receive a $170 grant in support of their business projects, empowering them to make their own decisions about investments for their future livelihoods.

For more on Action Against Hunger’s cash-based interventions and their promise for vulnerable populations around the world, view Unconditional cash transfers: giving choice to people in need, which appreared in Humanitarian Exchange Magazine from February 2011.

What other programs can be used to empower women around the world? What other examples exist where women’s empowerment leads to public health improvements?