Article reproduced here with kind permission of the author
It is that time of the year when we dedicate 16 days to remind the world of the endless need to eliminate violence against women.
November 25 is the International Day for the elimination of violence against women. In Uganda various organisations have done a good job using different media to pass the message that ought to be the everyday message to the population.
Tweetups, SMS campaigns, radio talkshows are all on to get Ugandans to understand that violence against a woman is violence against humanity too! That you can judge a society by the way it treats its women.
A week before November 25th, I read a thread on Facebook group that I am part of. It was about a female journalist from Bukedde who had died during childbirth.
We didn’t discuss much. It was just condolence messages although I felt this was time for us to reflect how close issues we cover are to our own lives. In Uganda everyday 16 mothers die due to childbirth. This is due to complications that could be prevented. In many ways maternal health is a social justice issue.
Just as this news was sinking in, another disturbing post came up. A female journalist had committed suicide. Moreen Ndagire, whom I didn’t know personally, was a Sub-editor at a Red Pepper, a leading tabloid in Uganda. At the age of 24, she had achieved quite a lot that not many youth can do in this country with a high unemployment rate.
The report said that Ndagire had committed suicide after she was gangraped. The rape took place in August, there’s not much detail of where but this devastation had sent Ndagire to immediately turn to attempt to take her life.
As the Observer reports, Ndagire was saved by relatives and then later came back to work. What was disturbing in this report is that a colleague at work even joked about the rape to Ndagire. When I tweeted about this story some people were quick to say that the use of ‘Kulika agasajja’ by a male colleague to Ndagire shouldn’t be taken as an abuse, that it wasn’t said in bad faith. However I wonder what sort of human finds it fitting to publically, in a newsroom, congratulate a girl for a surviving a rape. To me, this is unacceptable and horrific that even at work places women have no support and protection.
Ndagire walked out of her office and she returned and tried to work again the next day. According to the Observer report, the Human Resource manager at Red Pepper doesn’t seem to concern herself with what an employee had faced. To her she seemed to work fine and she says they know little about her death.
Ndagire’s story is not just one; it is that of very many women who have faced rape, are abandoned by loved ones and have no fall back place much among their peers.
Rape victims in Uganda find another harrowing process trying to get an offender prosecuted. In fact most rapes in Uganda go unreported.
Related Article: Uganda's forgotten victims of war rape
Even in the press report, it is not clear if there was an investigation to find the perpetrators of this crime that robbed Ndagire of her dignity and life.
After a few tweets I wondered what could be done, for we shouldn’t let this young soul die in vain.
I contacted a friend, a lawyer and these were the suggestions.
“I think the matter can be followed up from the police side to see if we can see what the police have done, any arrests and investigations. If nothing has been done (like I highly suspect), we can see how to raise this as a case of negligence and call the police to act. I am surprised and shocked that it is not featuring anywhere in the 16 days of activism and I am close to pointing fingers on why? Where is Fida, Uwonet and the numerous women organizations in this country? What are they doing about it? Can they do anything about it? Can they hire private investigators to get evidence?"
For now ,if you are on twitter you can help send the message that a rape of a woman should not go without justice being sought.
Rosebell Kagumire is a Ugandan multimedia journalist working on media, women, peace and conflict issues. She currently works with Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) and contributes articles to Inter Press Service (IPS Africa).
Rosebell's work on peace and security was recognised at the 2008 Ugandan Investigative Journalism Awards hosted by Makerere University Department of Mass Communication. Her blog won the first African journalist blogging awards hosted by Panos West Africa in 2009 and the 2010 VOICE blogging fellowship by Oxfam GB.