Survivors of violence in Uganda are beaming with hope following the launch of the Global Survivor Network (GSN) local chapters.
The Global Survivor Network (GSN) is an international group of survivors that are leading and shaping a movement to protect people from violence. The GSN empowers and equips survivors to become leaders in advocating for police systems, legal proceedings, and governments that protect the vulnerable from slavery, police brutality, and violence against women and children.
The GSN local chapters in Uganda were successfully launched during the months of November and December 2022, in three different districts, namely Kasese (western region), Gulu (northern region), and Tororo (eastern region).
The local GSN chapters are a build-up to the national launch of the Uganda Survivor Network, also known as “The Voice,” which is scheduled to launch in March of 2023.
During the launch event, the survivor leaders were presented with a “megaphone” by representatives of national and local government, religious and traditional leaders, and representatives of criminal justice agencies. The megaphone is a symbolic depiction of the name the group of 164 survivors chose to be known as - “The Voice.”
One representative of “The Voice,” Lillian Acen, who is also a member of the IJM GSN Leadership Council stated that having the GSN presence in Uganda gives survivors a platform to be heard. She expressed optimism that this will inspire the protection of women and children for generations to come.
“We are the voice of those down there. We are eager to see those who have undergone pain come out of that darkness and shine. We want to see that there are peaceful families to make future generations to be warm. This begins in the home and communities, and it will be felt in the country and the world,” Acen said to the participants at the GSN local chapter launch in Gulu.
During the respective launches, survivors presented poems, songs, and dramas, exposing the horror and indiscriminate nature of abuse, most of which were drawn from emotional personal accounts. The dramas depicted how the cycle of abuse, often perpetrated by close family members, is hidden from the public eye, leaving the victim isolated and traumatized, with nowhere to run. In their message, the survivors called on leaders to stand up for justice.
This inspired conversations regarding the protection of women and children, reporting to the authorities, and necessary steps toward seeking justice.
“Survivors have a uniquely powerful experience and expertise to offer; they can share about the nature of the exploitation, the factors that enable it to thrive, the criminals who profit from it and the solutions that will stop it,” explained Cissy Namuzimbi, IJM Uganda’s Survivor Services Manager.
Wamaitha Kimani, the Country Director, IJM Uganda concurred, saying, “the most authentic leaders in the work that we do are those who have survived it.”
Kimani urged duty bearers to act.
“As we make our policies, and establish laws, and as we determine where to invest our resources, we must listen to what the leaders of this [GSN] movement are saying,” said Wamaitha.
Important government officials were in attendance, including Senior Judicial Officers, Resident District Commissioners, District Chairpersons, the Uganda Police, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), representatives of traditional institutions, as well as local, cultural, and religious leaders.
The officials attached their signatures to a commitment board, portraying their dedication to amplify survivor voices and protect vulnerable women and children from violence.
Photo #1: Leaders and members of "The Voice" gathered to celebrate the launch of the chapter."
Above Photos #2,3,4: Government officials publicly declaring their commitment to amplifying survivor voices."