When women move together, things always change

A survivor of violence and passionate community leader, Mama Hope endured physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of two partners. Today, she volunteers with Womankind partner National Association of Women’s Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU) working to end violence against women and girls.

Mama Hope, COMBAT, outside her home

"When I was 11 years old, my father was taken away early one morning, and up to today, we don’t know what happened to him. We grew up with our mother, who had 7 children, so it was not easy for our mum to sustain us or send us to school. Our community and our culture didn’t favour girls to go to school: boys were given the priority. I dropped out in secondary school; there was no money for fees, or even for the necessary things you need for being at school.

After dropping out of school, there was no option other than getting married. After having two children with my first husband, the situation changed. He started seeing a lot of women, at time even buying things for those women, even when we had no food in the house. On top of that, he would hurl insults, calling me hopeless and useless, saying I had no other options. I couldn’t bear it, so I left that marriage.

I went for a second marriage, and again, after having children, things changed. The man would come home drunk, get his pistol, and demand warm food. Eventually he would come home drunk and if I didn’t get up quickly to open the door, the beatings would begin. Once after beating me, he forced me into sex. I saw I was living with a monster of a man. The worst beating was just a week before delivery. He hit me on the head and I was so embarrassed, I cried. On the day of delivery, he came home very drunk, and I went to the hospital alone. When I came back, I had made up my mind to leave. I saw my life was at risk: at any time, he could kill me. 

During those times, I really didn’t know if I would make it in life. But now, I feel proud as a respected woman in the community. The trainings I underwent [with NAWOU] helped me personally, and now I have to go and stand with others. If I feel weak or if I decide to sit back, how will I help others? In the course of the trainings, people come together and share experiences, and you realise you are not alone: there are other people who are also suffering. It encourages you to stand; it brings courage.

It is really exciting to go from being a victim of violence to standing up for others. And when I see people coming to me, as a woman who was insulted and called a dog, I feel very proud. The people I talk to, they believe in me and they trust me, and I see changes after sharing my story with them. It really excites me to be part of something bigger.

We are really proud of what Womankind is doing and we really appreciate it. It is not easy to reach out to the local community without support. Transport, gathering people together, and talking to people without somebody standing behind you is not easy. The changes we are seeing are out of their support.

For my daughters’ future, I hope they have good jobs and families. After I got trainings on how to save, I joined the village savings group and found out at the end of the year that the little I accumulated plus the interest was enough to pay their school fees. I feel proud because I know education is the key to life. And I hope that eventually, they will not be like me. I believe my girls will be able to stand on their own.

I can now live in peace because I know if there is something lacking, I don’t have to look to a man: I can get my own means of settling my problems. If you learn to stand on your own and be self-reliant, even if things are hard, you’ll have peace of mind and you will be happy.

There is a saying that unity is power. When more women come together, they have a stronger voice than only one woman standing alone. I have seen that when women move together, things always change."