The gendered effects of armed conflict on the livelihoods of the people of Katakwi District, Uganda
Asire, Loyce Allen
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This research dissertation presents an analysis of the state of affairs by July 2005 with respect to the gendered effects of armed conflict on the livelihoods of the people of Katakwi District. The study was aimed at establishing how the gender dynamics in armed conflict affected the livelihood patterns of the people of Katakwi. This was accomplished by assessing the nature and impact of armed conflict, establishing the changes in gender relations, identifying and analysing the livelihood and coping mechanisms devised during armed conflict and assessing the role of the various stakeholders towards addressing the plight of the people of Katakwi during armed conflict. The study findings indicate that the effects of armed conflict in Katakwi are mainly associated to the consequences of internal displacement. The dissertation is presented in five chapters covering; background to the study spelling out the objectives and scope of the study supported by the conceptual framework, the literature review, study methodology, presentation and discussion of findings, and finally summary of findings and the recommendations. Throughout the report, how the conflict has impacted on males and females differently has been emphasized. The study drew on primary and secondary sources of data. A total of 98 adults were interviewed through a survey questionnaire. In addition Six focus group discussions were also conducted which findings were augmented by interviews with the key informants and desk reviews. The study was conducted in Katakwi, located in the North Eastern part of Uganda and borders Karamoja to the North, Lango to the South and Bugisu in the East. Katakwi has experienced a unique brunt of armed conflict whereby the armed aggression is in two folds: firstly the armed Karamojong cattle rustlers who have persisted over the last fifty years and secondly, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) incursion of June 2003. The fact that the aggressors are armed makes it difficult to repel resulting to forced migration and displacement. However, the Teso community voluntarily organised a local militia called the Arrow Boys, who together with the UPDF repelled the LRA rebels. Despite all this efforts, 150,000 persons were internally displaced within 65 camps in Katakwi district as of February 2006. In effect, efforts to defeat militarily or negotiate peace with the LRA and the peaceful disarmament of the Karamojong have not been successful. The research findings indicate that the impact of armed conflict in Katakwi on males and females has been different in life style, access to social services, gender relations, livelihood strategies and coping mechanisms. Despite the loss of oxen for crop cultivation, the risk of cattle raids, inaccessibility of cultivable land and the insecurity along the roads to the villages, the researcher observed that the respondents still rely on crop cultivation and cattle rearing as a source of livelihood. This is mainly because there is no other alternative source of income. It was revealed that some men had died in the course of war, some had joined UPDF, others had migrated to urban areas; those who were in the camp were helpless and could not provide for their families. Thus women bore the brunt of war because their role of providing food on table does not change, which exacerbated women’s vulnerability. This reversal in traditional role challenged the concept of femininity and masculinity. To assert their masculinity, most men had resorted to drinking alcohol, battering women and irresponsible sexual behaviour. Similarly, the study found out that, in Katakwi, repeated concerns raised was the issue of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and psychological torture affecting both males and female. Domestic violence is rampant as most men had resorted to alcoholism. Combatants and cattle rustlers target, abduct and rape females when trying to secure a livelihood. Females are also sexually exploited by those who are supposed to protect them in exchange for a living. The study also reveals that, in Katakwi IDP situation, people lack access to critical resources like land, agricultural inputs, credit, education and extension services, and exposure to indigenous knowledge, appropriate technology and decision-making process. Therefore, women and men in Katakwi cannot fully exploit their potential in agricultural production. In order to cope up with the challenges and consequences of armed conflict, the people of Katakwi had to design some livelihood strategies and coping mechanisms. However, some of the coping mechanisms are risky and are just a desperate means of earning a living. Nevertheless, there are various international and national institutional framework, policies and guidelines to IDPS. However, they had bottlenecks to their effectiveness. Despite the return of peace in some parts of Katakwi, sub counties bordering Karamoja such as Ngariam and Kapelebyong have remained unsafe and inaccessible. The issue of Karamojong induced displacement seems invisible, yet on the actual ground, protracted putting IDPs in a terrible state with women suffering and being worse off than men. Since armed conflict impacts on men and women differently, the respective stakeholders need to translate the existing policies and frameworks on armed conflict and design interventions that address specific needs of each group or sex under armed conflict. There is need to translate the livelihood strategies and coping mechanisms devised by the people of Katakwi under armed conflict for the benefit of the post conflict resettlement and reconstruction.