“We Have Love, Happiness, Trust and People Want to Copy Us”

How SASA Changed Bosco and Harriet’s Life “We were both drunkards, competing for the role of worst parent and fighting every day.” Bosco recounts. His wife Harriet owned a home brewery while he was given the title of Chairperson at the village’s main drinking hole because he spent the most time, money and had the most sexual partners. Bosco and Harriet had neglected their two children who were being housed, fed and cared for by a kind neighbor.

After receiving the initial SASA training, Okot, a Community Activist (CA) in Aromo sub-county of Lira district, set his sights on impacting Harriet and Bosco’s family. SASA (Start, Awareness, Support, Action) is a community-led approach for preventing violence against women that focuses on individuals reflecting on their lives and relationships, questioning negatives uses of power and working together to change harmful social practices. Change starts with the trained CAs who are local volunteers and champions of non-violence.

Bosco explains, “Okot kept coming to talk to us. He would follow us to the drinking joint to sensitise us.” SASA focuses on a personal, interactive step-by-step process as opposed to mass awareness raising. “We found that all the effects of violence he talked about kept pinching us. The CAs kept close to us, talked to us and convinced us to change” Bosco adds.

Following the end of the 20-year conflict in Northern Uganda, heavily affected communities such as Aromo in Lira, which hosted one of most congested IDP camps, witnessed a stark increase in community violence. Over time, community members had adopted harmful practices such as excessive drinking, unsafe sexual behavior, domestic violence and increased sexual assault of schoolgirls. Following a community dialogue in Lira WOPI-U, Isis-WICCE and the Lira Local Government introduced the SASA model.

With time, Bosco and Harriet decided to make a change. They have since bought two goats, a few chicken and paid school fees for their child to attend boarding school. “We now share income, we dig together and we stopped drinking. We now have love, happiness, trust and people are admiring our change and want to copy us” Bosco now declares.

The SASA project has been operating since 2013 in Lira district, initially targeting Ogote and Akaoidebe, the two villages that reported the highest rates of violence.