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A Second Chance
Ugandan organization offers unique assistance to women survivors of violence
Today, as the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) is once again introduced in the U.S. Congress, all I can think about is Miremba.*
I met Miremba a little over a month ago, during our team's recent visit to Tororo, Uganda, where we enjoyed an inspirational visit to the projects of our partner organization MIFUMI.
We listened, we learned, we even sang and danced. But after the singing and dancing were over, and we gathered in a private room to meet some women whom MIFUMI has been assisting for several years, the mood changed. The moment Miremba spoke, our team fell silent, captivated by her story.
“I met MIFUMI after I took poison,” she began.
Miremba’s husband was terribly abusive, and she had few options to escape. If she ran away, what would happen to her five children? If she sought refuge with her parents, would they be able to return the money and cattle they had received as Miremba’s “bride price,” as her husband would surely demand? Could she trust the police to prosecute the case, or would they send her home with chastisement to obey her husband?
After a particularly traumatic experience where her husband threatened her life, an utterly defeated Miremba swallowed rat poison. Fortunately, she survived, and MIFUMI became aware of her situation thanks to a referral from hospital workers caring for her.
In the intervening years, MIFUMI’s legal advisors were able to advance a criminal prosecution that led to Miremba’s husband’s imprisonment. MIFUMI was also able to secure a new home and small plot of farmland for Miremba and her children.
Now, Miremba works closely with MIFUMI to assist women in situations not unlike hers. She accompanies them through the various steps she herself walked, helping them find appropriate sources of physical, emotional and economic security.
MIFUMI’s model of accompaniment for survivors of violence is just one example of the hundreds of promising programs in the global effort to end violence against women that IVAWA would support. IVAWA, if passed, would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority of the United States government (whereas the Violence Against Women Act, currently under debate in the House of Representatives, responds to violence within the U.S.). IVAWA would require all U.S. overseas programs to integrate a thorough awareness of the issue of violence against women, and it would significantly increase the amount of financial and human resources the U.S. dedicates to eradicating this pernicious manifestation of gender inequality.
Promising solutions to the crisis of violence against women abound: MIFUMI is a pioneer in the legal response to existing cases of violence, while ICRWand other partner organizations are simultaneously crafting solutions to end violence before it ever happens. This includes efforts that encourage the many men around the world who reject violence in their relationships to convince their peers to do the same.
For every woman like Miremba who is able to safely escape a violent relationship, there are thousands of others stuck in one. The prevalence of violence against women around the world doesn’t just stifle international development efforts; it hampers the well-being of whole societies. As such, passing IVAWA and supporting the work of thousands of groups like MIFUMI would improve the effectiveness of all U.S. diplomatic efforts around the world.
Help us to advocate this important step in the U.S.’s commitment to ensuring that more women’s stories end the way Miremba’s did, not how it could have.
* Not her real name.