“My life has been full of pain,” she said, looking out over the lush landscape where she spent her childhood in Kasese, western Uganda. “In my community, women have less power, but if you are disabled you are even more vulnerable to exploitation. »
Ms Muhindo, who has suffered from a physical disability since childhood, said she had faced violence and exclusion throughout her life. Such treatment is the norm for many women and girls with disabilities, she said, noting that they also face difficulties accessing education, employment and health care.
Globally, women and girls with disabilities are at least two to three times more likely than other women to suffer violence.
People think that “a disabled person cannot marry and have children” and that “you will stay (forever) in your father’s house because no one will take care of you”, Ms Muhindo said.
When his parents died, a dispute over who inherited their property set off events that changed the way he lived as a disabled person.
She said she had been threatened and intimidated by her male relatives over the inheritance and felt powerless to defend her interests.
Land disputes can be a catalyst for gender-based violence in Uganda, where it is not uncommon for widows and children to be evicted from their homes following the death of a husband or father, or in the event of of seperation.
The effect of this is twofold: violence can be used to forcibly evict women from their property, and without a place to live or land to farm, they become more vulnerable to violence in the future.
During the course, she learned about inheritance tax and realized that she was the only legal heir to the property, and she gained the confidence to stand up to those close to her.
“I realized that as a disabled person, I can do anything other people can do,” she said. “I can express myself like any other person. I can buy land, have a job.
Advocating for others
It took more than a year, but Ms Muhindo managed to put the land in her name. She now has a safe place to live, food to eat, and makes a living from the crops she grows. She also advocates for other women in her community, including those with disabilities, and speaks about gender-based violence on a local radio station.
“I don’t want other women to go through what I went through,” she said.
The Spotlight Initiative aims to eliminate violence against women and girls through comprehensive programming that addresses all the major drivers.
This includes improving laws and policies that prevent violence, strengthening institutions, promoting gender-equitable social norms, and strengthening women’s movements and essential services for survivors of violence.
- End all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls
- Eliminate harmful practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
- Adapt and strengthen legislation to promote gender equality and empower women and girls
- Guarantee the full and effective participation of women and equal opportunities for leadership in political, economic and public life
- Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care
Globally, almost half of all married women currently have no decision-making power over their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“I felt empowered”
Spotlight and UN Women work with local organizations to help change discriminatory attitudes and support people at risk of or experiencing violence. Since 2019, nearly 300,000 people in Uganda have participated in community-based women’s rights programs with support from the Spotlight Initiative.
UN Women also supported advocacy for a change in legislation that favored male children in inheritance and land matters. In March 2021, the Ugandan Parliament passed the Succession (Amendment) Bill, officially recognizing the equal rights of women to own land.
“Before, I felt uncomfortable speaking, but after the training, I felt more empowered,” says Muhindo.
- The Global Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls is a joint effort of the United Nations with the European Union and other partners.
- In Uganda, it is implemented by the Government of Uganda, the European Union, UN Women, the United Nations entities for reproductive health (UNFPA), children (UNICEF), development (UNDP) and refugees (UNHCR ) in partnership with United Nations human rights agencies. (OHCHR) and migration (IOM), the UN Pulse Laboratory in Uganda and civil society.
- Since 2019, the Spotlight initiative has helped almost one million women and girls in Uganda access essential services.