It was international women’s day last month. In Uganda it’s a public holiday (any excuse for a public holiday here it seems!) We had a lot of discussion about women’s rights and gender equity on the staff USHAPE family planning course we ran in January. One thing to come out of these discussions was that we agreed it would be helpful to form a committee to look at these issues in the hospital e.g. gender based violence, sexual harassment, teenage pregnancy etc. So on international women’s day the hospital gender equity committee was launched and representatives from each department were voted. Our new female chaplain is chairing the committee so I have high hopes for the work of the committee!
I presented some statistics on gender based violence at the meeting to highlight the need for some work in this area. The figures are pretty difficult to ignore. It’s estimated that 35% of all women have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. In the last Ugandan demographic health survey in 2011 56% of women aged 15-49yrs reported having experienced physical violence at some point in their lives, 28% had experienced sexual violence and 62% had experienced one or both. 60% of those who had experienced violence were abused by their husband or partner. 16% had experienced violence during pregnancy, 82% of women who reported their husbands often got drunk also reported violence and only 1.5% of women sought help from a health worker. One of the student nurses did a research project last year in Buhoma centre (the village that the hospital is in). She gave 57 women a questionnaire and found 63% had experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives. Obviously these are not easy issues to tackle and there are many cultural issues complicating things further but just getting people talking about it is a start.
In the evening we had games and a dance competition to celebrate the day