After over a year of engaging a monthly average of 500 women, men and youth to create a violence-free society in Lira’s Aromo sub-county with the highest incidence of physical and sexual violence, Isis-WICCE, WOPI-U, Lira local government and the community activists in Aromo devised a new strategy to reach girls, boys and even more community members.
With fewer reported cases of sexual violence, forced child marriage and teen pregnancy since community activists’ conversations around board games, in households, at community gathering points and during private counselling sessions, it was clear that girls, boys and their guardians needed to be specifically targeted.
“Football brings everyone on board- children, teachers, parents and especially men- and with that you have their complete attention” Lira district’s Community Development Officer Francis Okello explains.
On this basis, the ‘Kick Violence out of Lira’ initiative was birthed. A football tournament starting with conversations in schools to reinforce positive messages enabling girls to protect themselves from sexual or emotional abuse, report incidents and commit to stay in school. In the same conversations, boys equally learn to champion a violence-free school environment and society.
The latest tournament won by the Aromo Primary School team, gathered up to 1,5000 students from four local schools, teachers, parents, community members and local government leaders. As the competing teams played, specific messages were passed on. Students from participating schools also received educational anti-violence materials and books.
As Moses Dalili, the Lira Chief Administrative Officer explains, “ We are not here to play but to appeal to our people to choose the path of peace and household stability, to support their children to remain in school and stop the emotional violence so children can meet their aspirations”.
Girls and boys who had participated in the school conversations on violence and understanding their sexual and reproductive health and rights called on those present to stop physical, sexual and economic violence for the good of all. (More here and here)
The Lira Resident District Commissioner, Emmanuel Mwaka Lutukomoi addressed teachers and parents, stressing, “children are the fertile soil for sowing lasting peace in the world. We need to be accountable for children’s future and stop domestic violence.”
Speaking directly to the pupils and parents, Isis-WICCE’s Interim Executive Director Helen Kezie-Nwoha said, “I want the girls to promise that they will focus on education and finish school.” She added, “The rate at which girls finish school is lower than boys, so parents please do not marry off your girls and they will take care of you even better.”
Alex Oremo Alot, Lira LC 5 concluded by reflecting on the fruits of the 4-year partnership between Isis-WICCE, WOPI-U and the local government. He however highlighted the high school drop-out rate in Aromo. Addressing parents he said, “ Stop domestic violence because it affects the young children. Instead of drinking, spend your money on books and children so Aromo can be a peaceful sub-county.”
The initial football tournament ended with the winning team joyfully receiving their prize.