“Domestic violence is a big problem in Uganda. Even in Christian communities polygamy is common and violence of wife-on-wife is a common criminal offense,” Laizure said. “The LRA isn’t active in Uganda anymore but sexual violence and unrest is still very present. They did a lot of damage there and it’s the women and girls who are suffering the most.”
“Sister Rosemary helped us teach the classes and it went very well. Law students who visited before us saw a need for that, and we’re hoping future students can elaborate on this project,” Engel said. “We had to speak more slowly, but Sr. Rosemary was helpful and the students were very receptive.”
In instigating discussion about domestic violence, the students were able to grasp the bigger picture it creates for Ugandan women and help the women of St. Monica’s understand how they can respond.
“Their definition of domestic violence was very different — they considered abortion domestic violence and female children being sold into marriage as domestic violence,” Stricklin said.
“Just defining the concept of domestic violence and abuse was important — it’s not a novel concept but I don’t think everyone in that community has the resources to address it or talk about it constructively and once we got them talking about the impact on the community, we saw a lot of lightbulbs clicking on,” Laizure said. “They see the connections and need for more resources and conversations and that was encouraging to participate in. Ugandan women are incredibly powerful.”
Though the students felt they were able to make a positive impact through their efforts, their week at St. Monica’s shed light on a continued demand for women’s rights projects to which law students could contribute. Traditional beliefs and social structure have created much difficulty for female landowners in Uganda, and land ownership can make the difference between feeding a family and forcing them to migrate elsewhere.