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From Perpetuators to Protectors: How we can make the people responsible for greater violence against women part of the solution

Uganda is often referred to as “Boda Country” because of its vast network of motorcycle public transporters locally refered to as “Boda Bodas”. There are thousands of Boda Boda stops throughout the country and the advantage is that at every hour of the night Boda Bodas are on the move and have notoriously been used to commit robbery and often crimes against women. Uganda recently passed the so called morality laws banning women from "indecent dressing". This has led to increased attacks on women. Working with Boda Cooperatives, a very effective community "watch dog” network can be set up. A way to empower Boda riders to champion the protection of women with the right motivation of course. Turning the perpetuators into protectors!

Photo of Apiyo Oweka-Laboke
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Working with an organisation that perates a youth centre focusing on school dropouts of which 80% are women, I was able to gather a focus group quite easily from the women at the centre, many of whom are victims of gender based violence. The centre also teaches English and most of the students in the English class are Boda Boda riders and youth working as house help. I included several international volunteers into the discussion as well to have a more diverse group. The centre is surrounded by two of the biggest slums in Kampala where most of the students reside and listening to their stories eventually led me to the conclusion that working with would be attackers is where the solution lies.
Key findings
1. There is safety in numbers and women should move in groups
2.Intuition should not be ignored, if you think you are being followed you probably are.
3.Busy areas and centres are normally safe
4. Stick to routes that are familiar when traveling, avoiding isolated shortcuts.
5.Drugs and alcohol are the lead cause of violence against women and girls in domestic situations.

Causes of increased violence against women
1. Rampant alcoholism in the slums
2. The new morality law banning "indecent" dressing
3. Unregistered Boda bodas
4. culture of impunity where there is no serious consequences for attackers
5. unemployment among idle and disorderly youths

1. How can we leverage off the mob in crowded areas to protect women and girls?
2. What is the motivation of the attackers?
3. How can women lessen the risks of being attacked?
4.Who should be responsible for the protection of women?
5. How can we motivate them to protect women?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Rehmah Kasule

Dear Apiyo,
I have great experience working with young women and I have a tested model for social and economic empowerment of young women. In case you need support, I can share that. See my project SWEEP that has been running for the past one year. I have a project running in Kawempe, if you are interested we can share and collaborate.

Photo of DeletedUser


Nice work Apiyo!
The "culture of impunity" factor stands out as a recurring theme in several bits of research. I am reminded of the casual sexism and racism that was rife in the 1970s and early 80s in the UK. We needed enforceable law, supported broadly by public opinion to show that this sort of activity is wrong, and then improvements in behavior increased. The problem has not gone away sadly, but it is definitely better.

I was a little concerned by the "women should move in groups" comment. I am sure it is meant as practical advice, but it doesn't seem so far away from "women should dress modestly" or "women shouldn't travel after dark".

Photo of Apiyo Oweka-Laboke

Hi Mark, Thanks for the wonderful comments. Women should move in groups is meant to be precautionary. Alluding to my last Game park visit, a lion will make prey of the lone bufalo regardless of how skinny it is.

Photo of Apiyo Oweka-Laboke

A friend of mine shared this story with me today. Its is in the local language Luganda but basically one of the idlers who has been undressing women he deemed indecent since the morality law was passes was today beaten by his well...fellow idlers. More violence I know but there is hope.