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Kalangala District, a scenic archipelago nestled within the pristine waters of Lake Victoria, has been gripped by a distressing surge in gender-based violence (GBV) especially among children and women. According to the Community Development Officer (CDO) Isa Kaggwa, the district has registered over 30 cases every month since the beginning of 2023, compared to less than 15 cases in previous years. Gender-based violence, which includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse directed towards individuals based on their gender, has long been a global concern. Sadly, Kalangala District has recently witnessed an unsettling increase in such incidents, leaving families shattered and communities traumatized. The causes of GBV in Kalangala are complex and multifaceted. Some of the factors include poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, lack of awareness, impunity, and the influx of foreigners from neighboring countries who come to fish. The fishing community in particular is known for its reckless and permissive lifestyle, which exposes many children and women to sexual exploitation and abuse. Many victims of GBV do not report their cases to the authorities or seek help from service providers due to fear, shame, and lack of awareness, lack of trust or resources. According to National demographic data from 2020, only a minority of women who said had experienced sexual violence in childhood, 59% reported sexual abuse. Furthermore, 33% of girls below the age of 15 were forced at first sex. Therefore, there is an urgent need for more action and support to prevent and respond to the increase of GBV cases in kalangala district and Uganda as a whole. The first step towards combating this menace is to raise awareness and educate the community about the gravity of gender-based violence. Outreach programs, workshops, and public campaigns are vital in breaking the silence surrounding this issue and dispelling harmful myths and misconceptions. By fostering a culture of empathy, respect, and gender equality, Kalangala District can lay the foundation for lasting change. In conjunction with awareness-raising initiatives, strengthening the legal framework is crucial to providing justice for survivors and deterring potential perpetrators. Collaborative efforts between law enforcement agencies, local authorities, and legal experts must be intensified to ensure that cases of gender-based violence are promptly reported, thoroughly investigated, and prosecuted without delay. Additionally, it is imperative to establish specialized courts and support services that cater specifically to survivors, providing them with a safe space to share their experiences and seek justice. In order to address the immediate needs of survivors, Kalangala District should prioritize the establishment of well-equipped and adequately staffed shelters. These sanctuaries would offer a temporary refuge for victims, providing them with essential services such as medical care, counseling, legal aid, and vocational training. Furthermore, comprehensive rehabilitation programs should be implemented to help survivors rebuild their lives, regain their self-esteem, and reintegrate into society with dignity and support. Community involvement plays a pivotal role in curbing gender-based violence. Local leaders, religious institutions, and grassroots organizations should actively engage in the fight against this social epidemic. By organizing community dialogues, workshops, and training sessions, they can foster dialogue and challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes. It is through such collective efforts that long-lasting change can be achieved, ensuring that future generations are raised in a society free from violence and discrimination. Furthermore, the media has a significant role to play in shaping public opinion and raising awareness. Kalangala District's media outlets must commit to responsible journalism by reporting on incidents of gender-based violence accurately, without sensationalism or victim-blaming. By highlighting survivor stories, sharing information about available resources, and providing a platform for discussion, the media can amplify the voices of survivors and encourage public support for the cause. GBV, can be prevented and eliminated with collective action and commitment from all stakeholders. The time to act is now, let us all join hands to end GBV in Kalangala district. Mercy Akankunda, assistant administrator at Proven Foundation Mercy@provenfoundation.org.ug https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/oped/commentary/let-s-combat-gender-based-violence-in-kalangala-4319674


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