Fear of Forced Marriage Causes Resistance to Resettlement
February 24, 2010
By Wade Snowdon with reporting by Ochan George
AMURU, NORTHERN UGANDA-As the majority of the population returns to their original homesteads after decades of displacement, some such as 16 year old Aber1 finds it difficult to return home for fearing the remoteness and lack of social services in the village.
Reporting to one of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative's (ARLPI) Community Based Facilitators (CBF) that her family was trying to marry her to an older man, Aber an orphan who was under the guardianship of the grandmother was handed over to the Child and Family Protection Unit (CFPU) for protection during investigations and the police informed of the case.
After consultations with Aber and her family, it was decided that the officer in charge of CFPU along with ARLPI would conduct a mediation between the conflicting parties where it was discovered that the girl was resisting moving to the village as she sees the place as “remote.”
Denying the allegations of forced marriage, the uncle to the minor stated, “Nobody wants to marry her to any man. She only does not want to return to the village because she sees the place as not lively and interactive like the camp is.”
Despite the reassurance of her relatives, Aber still refused to accept resettling in the village.“I am still fearful to return home because I know I will be beaten and forced to marry this man,” she said.
To meet a compromise, the family agreed to allow her to stay with an uncle in the camp to enable her to continue with her studies. However, it was seen as important that constant follow-up and visits to the girl would be beneficial to help her to re-consider moving back to the village upon the completion of the school holidays.
Aber is just one of many children and youth who have reportedly resisted moving 'back' to their original home site. Many view it as taking away their opportunities, their friends, and the way of life they have always known.
“Unlike elders who know the benefits of returning home, children do not know what to expect,” said Mr. Ochan George, ARLPI's Program Officer. “I appreciate the child's concern as she has spent the majority of her life in the camp. She now feels like she is being displaced if she is to return to a home she does not know.”
ARLPI's response to the situation is a part of their role in providing services to the community regarding Sexually Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Prevention and Response. The 2 year CARE funded project entitled, ‘Multi-Sectoral Approach to Ending Sexually Gender Based Violence in Northern Uganda,’ seeks to holistically mitigate SGBV through numerous initiatives such as Community Based Facilitators who as at educators and case managers located at the grass root level. These individuals provide information and link those in need to various protection and treatment services available.
Almost half of all IDP camps throughout the region have been decommissioned while the rest are in the processes of assessment for closure. However, a minority of individuals still remain in the camps such as the vulnerable, those involved in land conflict, and those who haven't made up their mind to return as of yet.
The majority of the return sites lack the basic necessities such as clean drinking water and social services such as hospitals and schools therefore failing to convince some of a better life in the villages.
1Name changed for confidentiality purposes