Kabake is giving Acholi women a Voice to speak up after the LRA War

After the end of the over two decades of protracted war led by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in northern Uganda more than 10 years ago, women are slowly finding their silenced voice back once again through Kabake.

Thanks to Konrad Stifftung that sponsored the weekly community debate that is recorded and aired on 102 Mega FM, one of the leading radio station in Gulu district (northern Uganda) every Sunday between 10AM and 12NOON.

Paska Auma, 53, a resident of Pajine village in Lokung Sub County in Lamwo says Kabake has enabled hundreds of rural women to speak directly to the leaders on pertinent issues that affect them.

“Our leaders pay a lot attention on issues discussed on Kabake. I think the only way to get through to them is by raising such matters on Radio Mega. They will act immediately,” Auma adds.

“You know, our (Acholi) culture bars women from speaking in a public meeting especially when men are around. I am happy that young men are allowing their wife to speak during community debate (Kabake) on pertinent issues. I am very, very happy that I was able to participate in Kabake,” says Auma.

She also noted that there are a number of topics that were discussed on the radio during Kabake from other districts in Acholi sub region and the leaders got concern and acted on it.

Auma returned home in 2006 from the internally displaced camp in Kitgum district about 20 miles from her home after she fled following a deadly raid on her village by a group of LRA rebels in 1996 that left three people dead.

Another resident of Akeli- Kongo central also in Lokung Sub County, Betty Akot, 28, says it has always been a challenge for women to approach leaders with issues affecting them.

“Kabake has really empowered us. No one use to listen to us at all before but not anymore. Things have changed for the better. Radio has become a very powerful tool of communication for us (women),” notes Akot.

She says she is not the only one who have found out that her voice can bring positive change to her community.

“You know, women are not supposed to speak or discuss important issues in the presence of men. We (women) are treated as a second class of people. But I am happy that Kabake is changing that perception. Our elders have started to realize that you cannot build a strong society without involving women,” says Akot.

She says through Kabake, leaders have been able to pay attention issues related to health care, education, roads and agriculture that needed to be addressed.

Rose Abalo, another resident says Kabake has now replaced Wang Oo.

“The only way we can reach our youth is through the radio since Wang Oo seems to have died during the LRA war. Through this debate on the radio, we can get our young generations to understand our culture and apply them in their daily life so as to keep it alive. I think that is the only way go,” notes Abalo.

Wang Oo is fire place where before the insurgency, family use to gather in the evening and discuss important issues affecting them and the community around them.

It also where the elders orally pass on Acholi cultural values as well as norms to the young generations.

Mzee Ferdinando Obonyo, 86, an elder in Licwa parish in Lokung Sub County says in the past, women were only allowed to speak through their husband but has to changed.

Obonyo also admitted that even during clan meeting, women were not allowed to speak even if the decision is going to affect them.

Obonyo says Kabake has a great role to play changing the mindset of the community by discouraging harmful practices that harms women and children.

Richard Komakech, a former youth leader of Pangira parish says Kabake, Konrad Stiftung and Innocent Aloyo, (the producer of the radio program) have become a household among the over 2 Million people in Acholi and Lango sub regions who are resettling back to their original villages after cessation of hostility.

“As communities in northern Uganda rebuild their shattered life once again after the cessation of hostilities, radio has become an important medium of communication in promoting development. At the return sites that are not connected to power (electricity) so that one can watch TV, radio comes in handy since it uses dry cells, says Komakech.

Meanwhile the area Councilor Three for Pangira parish, Mark Olara, says Kabake has become the most popular radio program among the resettling community because of the topical issues that are always aired on the radio.

Olara noted that Kabake have not only offer women and youth a platform to air out issues that affects them directly but leaders have enormously benefited from the discussions too.

He explained that as leaders, they have been able to understand priority areas as far as service delivery is concern.

On Sunday (August 5, 2018), members of community numbering about 100 who were gathered under a tree in Lokung Trading Centre in Lokung Sub County in Lamwo District to contribute their views for Kabake discussed two topics after proposing ten topics earlier on.

One was on cross generational sex were older women were alleged to have been involving in sexual relationship with young men in the area.

On cross generational sex topic whom Geoffrey Nyero, the Headteacher of Pangira Primary was the Chairperson, majority of young men and women were against such relationships.

Lapson Omony, one of the participants who was against such practice blamed older women for spreading HIV/Aids to young men through such love affairs.

Another participants, Dick Odoki who was also against older women falling in love with young men says such practice is an abomination under the Acholi culture.

Odoki who was works at a local night discotheque at the trading centre says it has become common for young boys to enter into a relationship with older women for material gains.

He also says he has ever witnessed old women visiting the night club with intention to dance with young boys especially at night.

But Alice Lamunu, a bartender at the trading center says young men are to blame for falling in love with women older than.

“Whenever I am in my bar, they (youth) come and ask me to have sex with them. Even if I tell them that I am older, they insist that it does not matter. Their argument that my body is a God’s gift and I should not be mean with it,” says

She says such sexual relationship is being fueled by alcohol adding young men are engaged in heavy drinking.

Another resident, Paska Auma says youth are the problem because they think old women will prepare for them nice dishes once they fall in love them, something she noted that it risky since they can contract sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids.

Auma also criticized elderly women who go for young boys describing them as wizards.

However some of the participants blamed such sexual relationship on the eroding culture as a result of the long insurgency and high cost involved in customary marriage.

They argue that with the high level of poverty especially among unemployed young men, marrying a young women is unthinkable since it requires a lot of money.

Alfonsio Labista Okwera says besides marriage become expensive for young men, girls have become untrustworthy.

“Life in the internally displaced persons camps has taught our girls unbecoming behaviours. They keep moving from one man to another. This makes marriage risky,” says Okwera.

Another topic members of the community discussed was an allegation about police officers whom they (community) accused of carrying out arbitrary arrests of suspected motorbike smugglers.

These smugglers are suspected to be buying motorbikes cheaply from neighbouring South Sudan before bringing it into Uganda through Uganda- South Sudan through the porous border illegally.

Report by James Owich

James Owich, Freelance Journalist Mob:

Skype: jamesioowc Twitter:@jamesoo79

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