Strength in numbers: Women's groups reuniting families

Uganda

March 6, 2015

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Alice, 28, sings in a strong voice. She’s singing about her experiences, but she had to overcome challenges to get here. Conflict forced her husband to flee their village in Uganda, leaving her to take care of their five children.

Peace and stability are starting to take hold in the remote villages and grazing lands of Karamoja, but Alice’s family and many others still struggle with the echoes of the country’s recent civil war.

Tensions between the government and the local tribesmen have forced many men, like Alice’s husband Benson, to flee across the border into South Sudan to escape confrontation or false accusations. It’s dangerous for the men, but the women and children left behind often suffer the most.

In a region where women have little economic power and even less political influence, Mercy Corps’ women’s groups are empowering them to advocate for themselves and their communities. Alice joined the group in her village after Benson left, seeking the power of the collective to help her solve her family’s crisis.

Women rarely engage with local government here, but Alice and her group negotiated with authorities to allow Benson and other men who fled across the border to finally return home. The reunited families show that when women like Alice and her group come together, they are capable of truly remarkable things.

The women are strengthening their community in other ways, too. The women’s groups receive training in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and fighting gender-based violence.

Change takes time, and tensions resulting from years of war are not easily silenced. But the anti-violence groups offer women like Alice a voice — in their song and dance, they share powerful stories. They describe their challenges, but they also share their visions for a more peaceful future. And together, they work to make that future a reality.