Prompted by concerns voiced by area youth and women, Sister Semerita Mbambu, CSC, conducted a needs assessment in her community of Karangura Sub-county in the Kabarole District. Finding much poverty, she also discovered that domestic violence was prevalent in most homes and a key cause of financial despair.
She took her concerns to her local Justice and Peace Committee members, and together they decided to pursue a campaign of awareness that would spark action and seek solutions. There followed a series of monthly community debates, radio talk shows and workshops. One community debate in Karangura brought together 210 people, including church and community leaders, as well as secondary school students, to share knowledge and experience on the causes of and possible solutions to domestic violence.
With 10 to 12 cases of domestic violence being reported every day in Karangura, a community liaison officer shared that alcoholism is the leading cause of this issue. A district councilor added that women have no control of their own money and are often battered when they refuse to give their small earnings to their husbands for alcohol. Many at this debate and others called for new laws that would regulate alcohol consumption and gambling.
Wherever she goes, Sister Semerita urges church leaders to preach unity and cautions parents against marrying off their children before the age of 18. Unfortunately, too many men marry off their daughters to get money for alcohol.
One key to decreasing domestic violence is to help women become financially self-sufficient. Through the Congregation’s Ministry With the Poor Fund, Sister Semerita has been providing skills development and vegetable seeds, such as potatoes, onions and carrots, in the hope that women will be able to start their own businesses.
“I am hoping after harvesting their crops they shall sell, divide the money and be able to begin a small scale business within their villages,” said Sister Semerita. “I have been monitoring the progress of these seeds given to them as well as the vocational skills.”
The work is ongoing and has been getting attention from beyond Karangura, as leaders in other districts are inviting the sisters to conduct workshops and debates in their respective communities.
This work is strongly supported by the Congregation’s Corporate Stand on Nonviolence, which states, in part, that “nonviolence is constitutive of the message of Jesus,” requiring “innovative, creative responses to social problems and conflicts.” Further, the Congregation’s Corporate Stand on the Oppression of Women in Social and Religious Structures advocates for efforts to “eliminate domination and subordination of women in society” as well as addressing “our own and others’ silent acquiescence to oppressive behavior against women.”
Sister Semerita and other sisters in Uganda are giving life to these words as they strive to create better, healthier, and more productive communities.
See a related article published on January 11, 2019, by Catholic News Service in the Global Sisters Report.