Armed conflicts and women empowerment in Northern Uganda : a case of LRA conflict in Gulu and Kitgum Districts 2003-2008
Atim, Odwong Beatrice
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Northern Uganda has witnessed armed conflicts for a long time. The most disastrous armed conflict in northern Uganda, the LRA conflict broke out immediately after the NRA’s take over or government in 1986. This war displaced many people especially in the districts of Gulu and Kitgum and led to many deaths in addition to many other effects. For over twenty years however, many studies were conducted concerning the effects of the LRA conflict on very many aspects of life except women empowerment. Therefore, this study was conducted to analyse the effect of armed conflicts on women empowerment, with specific reference to the LRA conflict in Gulu and Kitgum districts. The study adopted three specific objectives; to analyse the effects of armed conflicts on women in Gulu and Kitgum districts, to examine the nature of women empowerment in Gulu and Kitgum districts, and to explore other ways of empowering women in Gulu and Kitgum districts. Cross-sectional research design based on qualitative and quantitative data from primary and secondary sources were adopted to meet the study objectives. It was discovered that the LRA conflict has led to enormous suffering for women as they have suffered rape, murder, torture by the LRA combatants and government soldiers, prostitution, domestic violence, unwanted pregnancies, defilement, bodily harm, forced marriages and discrimination in education attainment. The negativities of the LRA insurgency denied women access to education and skills acquisition due to fear of abduction, camp life denied them access to economic resources and increased male domination. Despite the efforts by different NGOs, CBOs, government and development partners put in to empower women, very little has been achieved due to the LRA insurgency. Coupled with women’s lack of adequate education skills, access to and control of economic recourses, male domination and women’s selfishness to advance personal careers, women empowerment has remained a dream yet to achieve especially with rural women in Gulu and Kitgum districts. The study thus recommends that the approach to women empowerment be streamlined to include rural women in the agrarian cuttings, the state and other agencies at all levels of discussions concerned with women issues and empowerment. Unique and innovative approaches for women empowerment should also be designed, adopted and promoted by all stakeholders to match the disempowering factors such limited skills, limited access to economic resources and involvement in decision making if women empowerment is to be achieved, particularly so in Northern Uganda. These should include interventions such as interest free loans, farmers’ credit schemes with emphasis on girls and women, integrated gender focused skills training and development, and sensitizing of rural women on their rights, about the law, leadership and key global development trends.