International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

From where I stand: “I can’t tell men to stop being violent when I am violent”

David Motamota is a refugee from South Sudan and a leader of the Bidibidi Refugee settlement in Yumbe district, Uganda. He has changed his own violent ways and now serves as a role model for other men in the settlement.

Date: Thursday, November 23, 2017

“We escaped the war in South Sudan and most of us arrived here in September 2016 with almost nothing. People were very poor. We were given slashers and hoes for clearing the place and tarpaulin to construct temporary shelters. Imagine people who were used to a good life and now had to start over, with nothing. I felt bitter… I started to become violent whenever my wife asked for something that required money. We would spend an entire day without talking to each other. Sometimes if I wanted to annoy her, I would tell our son, “you are as dull as your mother”.

My wife and I didn’t stop fighting until UN Women and Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) started counselling sessions in our settlement. As a village leader, I was among the first people to attend the interactive counselling sessions. Through the sessions, we learned that we are all human beings and we have equal rights. My wife and I went to the counselling sessions together. I started looking at her as a human being; as somebody I am supposed to stay with so that we change together. If she does something wrong, I talk to her freely and she does the same to me. Now, our home is violence free.

David Motamota shares a laugh with one of his sons outside his home in the Bidibidi Refugee settlement in Uganda. (Photo: UN Women/Aidah Nanjoyo)

David Motamota shares a laugh with one of his sons outside his home in the Bidibidi Refugee settlement in Uganda. (Photo: UN Women/Aidah Nanjoyo)

In our culture, women have no voice. As men, we are supposed to discipline our wives however we like. In fact, [we think] a woman is like a child.  If I tell her to lie down, she is expected to oblige. Even if she reports to the clan leaders, they will instead accuse her of disrespecting me. But things are changing, and changing for the better.

My story is similar to many refugee families in this settlement camp. During the interactive sessions, both men and women discuss the causes of violence in homes and how to end it. We use real examples and challenge the men, “most of you (men) don’t want violence to happen to your mother or your sister. Then, why do you want it to happen to someone’s daughter?” Because of the intervention, many men have started changing their attitudes towards gender equality and domestic violence cases have gone down. Before, we used to receive reports daily. Now we see a case every two weeks or even a month.

We have pledged not to act violently toward our wives. It starts with you as an individual; then you become a role model. I can’t tell men to stop being violent when I am violent.”

David Motamota, 29 years old, is a refugee from South Sudan and a village leader in the Bidibidi Refugee settlement in Uganda, which hosts over 272,206 refugees. Gender-based violence within the settlements and conflicts between the refugees and the host communities is common, as resources and services cannot keep up with the rising population demands. Since 2014, UN Women in partnership with Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) and War Child Canada has assisted over 60,000 refugees and host communities in Adjumani and Yumbe districts, with the provision of psychosocial support, legal counselling and assistance, court mediation and medical referral for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. The project, funded by the Royal Embassy of Norway and United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF), has also raised awareness among men and women in the refugee settlements and boosted refugee women’s leadership and participation. Motamota’s story relates to Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and its target on ending violence against women, and also SDG 16, on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.