Short Term Shelter – Akello Barbara’s Story

“We need more investment in women’s organizations, better legislation, prosecution of perpetrators, more services for survivors, and training for law enforcement officials” – United Nations

Akello Barbara with son at WAGRAU
Akello Barbara in pink after the birth of her son at WAGRAU

16 year old Akello Barbara showed up at the WAGRAU offices one afternoon desperate, having been kicked out of her family home for becoming pregnant. She was immediately rushed to the clinic for stitches as she had been beaten by her father – so much so that she had lacerations on her head and body.  

In rural Uganda it is customary for a groom’s family to pay a “bride price” to the bride’s family.  Although no longer a legally sanctioned practice because of the dysfunction it causes, the custom continues to be the norm in the majority of rural areas. For a family living in extreme poverty a pregnancy out of wedlock is devastating. The loss of the “bride price”, combined with shame, and the prospect of another mouth to feed, creates a very desperate situation. This does not excuse violence, but can help people from other cultures to grasp the extreme pressures people are experiencing. 

 After seeking medical care for Akello Barbara, WAGRAU took her into our short term housing and accepted her into our TAILORING Program. Giving Akello Barbara a skill to support herself not only gave her independence, and the ability to provide for herself and her child, but it also opened up the possibility that her family would welcome her back home.  Returning to the place where she was abused may sound horrifying in some respects, but she would return as a contributing member of the family, no longer a burden, and be in a position to help her struggling family financially. Additionally in Uganda, extended families live all together on “family land” as part of a “family clan”. And the alternative – to be cut off from your family – leaves you very much alone, and in a land of extreme poverty this can be very dangerous.

Akello Barbara Tailoring with Son in tow
Akello Barabara working on her tailoring skills at WAGRAU with her son in tow

The mediation WAGRAU facilitated was a success! WAGRAU took this opportunity to be clear about Akello Barbara’s rights, AND access to pro-bono legal representation. Because of her new skills and the prospect of having an income, Akello Barbara and her child are now staying at her father’s home, and she is slowly building up her tailoring business. 

As a footnote: when we followed up with Akello Barbara about family planning, she told us her father won’t allow it because it goes against their religion. We know these are delicate matters, so we just offered advice and gave her information and let her make a decision. She decided to get an IUD, since it is not visible like pills or injection implants. 

We share Akello Barbara’s story this week in solidarity with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Below is information about their 16 Days of Activism Campaign. 

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Join our UNiTE campaign: (https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/unite)

(Nov 25- Dec 10) — an initiative of 16 days (https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/unite/16-days-of-activism) of activism concluding on the day that commemorates the International Human Rights Day (https://www.un.org/en/observances/human-rights-day) (10 December).

Akello Barbara at home
Akello Barabara and her son at home with her new machine & skill
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