Under the Mango Tree

At Columbia, I am part of an organization called Peer Health Exchange.  Every Friday, PHE health educators go to local Manhattan Public Schools and teach health workshops to students who would otherwise not receive a health education. My workshop discusses Abusive Relationships.  So I am really interested in how people perceive behaviors that are considered abusive by some, but that others may consider normal or even acceptable.  Yesterday, I had one such experience.  The GROW team accompanied one of the GWED-G staff member to Latwong Community to attend a community dialogue on Gender Based Violence and Wife Beating.

When we arrived, the community members were seated on straw mats underneath a giant mango tree.  Surrounding us were dozens of animals; we were especially amazed at were these massive turkeys with red, rubbery gobbles hanging from their chins.  They started chasing this female turkey around the compound, giving off this horrendous gargling noise.

Anyway, enough about the animals. Next we started the Community Dialogue.  Juliet led the discussion, telling the community members that she was not there to train them, but to have an open discussion about their views and beliefs:

J: I am not here to train you, but to share and to hear your views and answer your questions.”

 She opened by asking them what they would think if they saw a woman walking around with swollen lips and broken limbs.  They answered that they would think either she had fallen or her husband had beaten her.  Juliet’s follow-up question asked what would be the cause of the husband beating the woman.  What I thought was most interesting about the meeting was that at first the men and women alike both blamed the violence on the woman, saying she had disrespected the man or was too stubborn:

J:  This is what we will discuss, the physical aspect.  So now I will ask, what brings about physical assault?
C:  Maybe stubbornness on the side of the woman, or a misunderstanding.
J:  I mean not only on the side of the woman, what about the man?
C:  Lack of respect on the side of the women brings about wife beating        

However, Juliet pushed them farther, asking if both parties in a marriage should respect each other.  And they said yes, both the man and the woman should show respect.  Once the community members started to consider the man’s role in causing GBV, they listed some more causes of wife beating.  One of the common responses was stealing (a man would tie his pants at the bottom and fill them with stolen seeds), alcoholism, and extramarital affairs:

J:  Do you think wife beating is good?  Is it only as a result of a man not respecting a woman, or is it both sides?  Should men respect the woman?
C: It should be both sides.
J:  Do you think that if a man or a woman does not respect the other, then the family will be peaceful?
C:  It will bring Gender Based Violence [GBV from now on]
J:  What else brings about GBV?
C:  Overdrinking and drunkenness on the side of the man.  When a man over drinks he brings fighting into the home.  Also theft is a problem.  Men steal things to sell.  What he does is that he ties the bottom of his pants around his legs and fills his pants up with
stolen seeds and other things.  Then he goes and sells them

 As the meeting continued, they discussed the negative consequences of wife beating: a wife leaving a husband, someone’s business being harmed, the children being unable to go to school, etc…

J: And now I will ask, what are the results of wife beating?
C:  If the wife leaves the home, the children don’t go to school because the marriage is in dissolution.  Physical assault is a result of wife beating.  It can also bring death.
J:  Have you ever heard of someone who has died due to GBV?
C: Very many.  Maybe a man will spear his wife or knife her.
J: What about your business?  If you do business and you beat your woman and she leaves, what is the result?
C:  It brings poverty and famine.
J:  Supposing you used to grow, maybe, 5 bags of beans.  Now because you beat your wife she left.  What will happen to your business?
C:  The business will decline and the household income will decline.

At the end of the meeting, the community leaders decided to implement bylaws to punish perpetrators who stole, over drank, or beat their wives.  Juliet promised to follow up with them.

J:  As leaders in your community, what can you do?
C:  The leaders can punish the person who sleeps with someone else’s wife.
J:  On the issue of stealing, the leaders should set bylaws.
C:  Bylaws can punish people who steal or who are drunk by making them dig a latrine or be a worker and do community service. 

I was pretty amazed at how open the community members were in discussing these issues, having never anywhere seen a group so ready to openly share the problems they face on a daily basis with people who were basically strangers.  This is a testament, I believe, to how much the inhabitants of Gulu trust GWED-G and its staff.

My complete notes from the community dialogue included below!

Best,
Nicole

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() – I am unsure about thus term or phrase, [] – my notes, not in official transcript

Awach Subcounty, Gulu District, Latwong Community Dialogue

Juliet:  Greetings, my name is Juliet and I am from GWED-G.  Have you heard about GWED-G?  We want today to welcome our visitors.  Do you know these people?  They are students and have come to understand from you.  You can ask them questions.  These students are not giving money but are just here to learn from you.  Today we are going to talk about Gender Based Violence.  Now I will refer to the (Owner of the Home) to welcome us all.

Owner of the House:  Thank you for coming.  I am happy to see you even though there are few of us.  The people gathered here today are few because so many are working in the garden.  The people who are here are all from different (homes), not the same place.

Juliet:  Please, everyone sit down and do not remain standing. I am going to start the meeting now.  I am not here to train you, but to share and to hear your views and answer your questions.  So now I want to ask, if in this village you come across a woman with swollen lips and broken hands and legs, what comes into your mind?

Community: You start to think that something happened.

J:  What will come?  What really happened to the lady?

C: Maybe her husband beats the woman.  [They all agree]  Yes, maybe she was beaten by her husband.  Either she fell or it was her husband.

J:  If it was her husband, do you think it was physical assault?

C:  Yes, wife beating happens in this village.

J:  This is what we will discuss, the physical aspect.  So now I will ask, what brings about physical assault?

C:  Maybe stubbornness on the side of the woman, or a misunderstanding.

J:  I mean not only on the side of the woman, what about the man?

C:  Lack of respect on the side of the women brings about wife beating [meaning that the woman is not respecting the man.  As a note, Juliet later said that one woman said that when the husband does not respect the wife it is not an issue, but when the woman does not respect the man it is an issue]

J:  Do you think wife beating is good?  Is it only as a result of a man not respecting a woman, or is it both sides?  Should men respect the woman?

C: It should be both sides.

J:  Do you think that if a man or a woman does not respect the other, then the family will be peaceful?

C:  It will bring Gender Based Violence [GBV from now on]

J:  What else brings about GBV?

C:  Overdrinking and drunkenness on the side of the man.  When a man over drinks he brings fighting into the home.  Also theft is a problem.  Men steal things to sell.  What he does is that he ties the bottom of his pants around his legs and fills his pants up with stolen seeds and other things.  Then he goes and sells them.  Another thing is the restrictions a man places on a woman; when a man doesn’t allow a woman to move around it brings GBV.  Laziness on the side of the man is also a problem.  The woman gardens and cooks and does everything.  But when she comes to the hut the man does nothing to help her.  Extra marital affairs on the side of men and women also bring GBV.

J:  Yea, maybe the man is drinking a lot of alcohol at home, and then the woman will go somewhere else and sleep there (have an affair?).  Or a man says he is going to be with his friends but he goes to another woman.  And now I will ask, what are the results of wife beating?

C:  If the wife leaves the home, the children don’t go to school because the marriage is in dissolution.  Physical assault is a result of wife beating.  It can also bring death.

J:  Have you ever heard of someone who has died due to GBV?

C: Very many.  Maybe a man will spear his wife or knife her.

J:  So what are the results?  It can lead to prison.  What are the results of fighting?  It can lead to deformity.  It also brings about extra marital affairs.  If you keep beating your wife, she will move with other men.  It can also bring disease and HIV.  But what are more results of GBV?  What about your business?  If you do business and you beat your woman and she leaves, what is the result?

C:  It brings poverty and famine.

J:  Supposing you used to grow, maybe, 5 bags of beans.  Now because you beat your wife she left.  What will happen to your business?

C:  The business will decline and the household income will decline.

J: What should be done at this community about this problem?

C:  There should be dialogue between the man and the woman, and there should be a reduction in the level of drinking.

J:  Well about the dialogue.  Suppose you are having a dialogue but the husband and wife still quarrel and it escalates into GBV?  What do you do?

C:  The woman should sit the man down.

C: The leaders should intervene.

C:  The husband should beg for forgiveness and ignore other issues and provide for his family.

J:  You mentioned overdrinking and stealing.  What do you about this?

C:  Training.

J:  What about those who brew the alcohol and those who buy the seeds from the men who steal?

C:  The buyer should refuse buying from these people.  And people who brew should have more restrictions and not over give alcohol to the men.

J:  What can we do about extramarital sex?

C: Extramarital sex is about feelings.  No one can stop extramarital sex.

C:  Maybe training can work.

C:  When a woman doesn’t take care of her husband or a husband doesn’t take care of his wife, then it leads to extramarital sex.  If the husband does not spend money on his children, the woman will go to another man.

J:  As leaders in your community, what can you do?

C:  The leaders can punish the person who sleeps with someone else’s wife.

J:  On the issue of stealing, the leaders should set bylaws.

C:  Bylaws can punish people who steal or who are drunk by making them dig a latrine or be a worker and do community service.

J:  Are there other things that can be done?

C:  Capital punishment.

J:  What you leaders say you will do, I will follow up on this.  Who will be in charge to see that these bylaws are followed strictly?

C:  Those of us who are here will follow up on these issues of stealing, affairs, and beatings.  We will follow up with the youth so the youth will see that what they are doing is wrong.  We will give punishment to those who break the laws.  On the issue of GBV we will also do this.

J:  These people who say they will follow up with the bylaws, they have to take the time to do it.  The LCs will help with following up.

C: The bylaws we will set will arrest someone who has been stealing, and bring men back to their women.

J:  The LC cannot be alone.  The (woman leader) should also help [Carina is the woman leader.  Some people have land issues.  She didn’t train them, just came and shared with them ??)

J:  This dialogue has ended unless there is anything else.

C:  We want to ask about the people who have come from the school.  Are you from (Makarere) or outside?

J:  They are from out and have come to learn from you.  Are there any other questions?

C:  These students, will they come back?  When most students come to do research they don’t come back.

J:  They are here for 3 weeks, but after that they won’t be around.  However, they are not only here but are also going to other parts of the district.  And they are not just visiting GBV projects but other projects as well.

Carina:  Thank you so much for coming.  By the time I was elected to be GWED-G’s representative, I was training people and I still continue to train people on GBV.  Now I have seen the rates of fighting decrease, and I just wish to myself that the fighting would go away completely.

J:  On the issue of GBV, it is no only fighting but also words and psychological torture.  I will give an example.  The woman can prepare food, but the husband won’t eat it.

C, as in community again:  Yes, there is also psychological abuse.

J:  There is also economic abuse.  A man can steal your goat to sell.  But it is the woman’s goat, and she has the right to the money for it.  There is also the example of the man giving away your daughter for early marriage in order to get money.  In our culture, it used to be believed that a woman should be beaten by a man.  We should erase this mindset.  It used to be thought that if a man didn’t beat a woman, he does not love her.  Erase this from your head.  Your husband should not be beating you.  And if you come from the garden after digging, the woman carries the child, and the firewood, and the jug.  But the man isn’t carrying anything.  He will follow the woman while she carries everything.  But the ma should start helping the wife.  Now I want to ask, does the woman not feel the pain of being beaten?

C:  Everyone feels the pain of being beaten.

J:  Any form of beating, whether with an axe or a spear or any other form, should be stopped because we all feel the same pain.

[Now GlobeMed starts to talk to the community]

Lexa: Thank you so much for welcoming us into your community.  It was really interesting to hear what you have to say.  We are grateful to be here today and hear your stories and share food and drink with you.

Lillian:  It is great to see you mobilizing your community to combat GBV and educate your community.  We would like to ask a question.  What is the biggest need in your community?

C:  Food, transport from here to town.  We walk or ride bicycles.  Poverty and famine are also problems.  We need start up capital for income generation in our homes:  food, goats, water.  We would like an ox to plow.  Also a hybrid cow for milk. We have a village savings loan, but can only put in a little bit of money.  It was started by CARE International but is now funded by GWED-G, and they are implementing it.  [In this village they have 5 village savings groups that GWED-G took up from CARE.  There are also two more groups that are partnered with the Dioceses of Northern Uganda.  Most are mixed groups, and a few are only women.  Only one is men only.]

Lillian:  What is the women’s biggest concern?  What is the men’s?

C:  The women want a milk cow, and the men want an ox.  Also, we don’t have a hospital here and have to go to the sub county.

Lillian:  How do you feel about psychosocial support and the rehabilitation of war victims?

C:  We are trying to integrate them.  We don’t find any difference.  They are staying peacefully. [The man who spoke was actually one of the war victims who was rehabilitated, and has found no problem with the community.]

J:  What about physical rehabilitation, like bullets, splinters, bombs, or other injuries?  [The physical rehabilitation GWED-G does is only for 3 sub counties, they are the ones most affected by the war.]

C:  The rebels cut their limbs open.  It is so for them.  It causes poverty.

J:  Physical rehabilitation is there and you should go

C:  One of the men was just operated on.

[The GWED-G project for war victims is only concerned with people who were abducted after 2002.  If you were abducted earlier, then GWED-G’s project doesn’t work on you.]

Lillian:  Is HIV a problem in your community and how do you handle it?

C:  It seems like it is a big problem here.  But people who are HIV positive walk up to the sub county health center to get ARVs.

Lexa:  Is there any stigmatization?

C:  It is there but is not really a big problem, because so many people are affected by HIV, that stigma is not a big problem.

Lillian:  How do you get tested?  Is it that if you think you are HIV positive you go and get tested?

C:  Workers move in the villages and test people.  If you are HIV positive, they will counsel you and refer you to a health center

[Now the LC 1 closes the meeting.  His name is Loum Alfred]

Alfred:  Thank you everyone.  Since the beginning I have seen that what we have discussed and shared is important to our lives.  We should keep on sharing everything so that those ones who are not here can learn about what we discuss.  I am asking for help with our needs.  If you can give us only one or two to help [meaning an ox, etc…].  Next time, more people will come to the meeting.

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2 responses to “Under the Mango Tree

  1. This is so interesting! It sounds like you guys are learning a lot. The dialogue is really open and honest; I can’t imagine how cool it must have been to watch this happening.

    • Wao! Globemed GROW 2012 is a wonderful one, being part of the play is very important Nicole as you learn and experience in the physical rather than ear say, you are in the right place!

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