Amanyire Iren is a young woman aged 25 and a single mother of 3 beautiful children with the youngest slightly above one year. She lives in Kigoyera village in Kyenjojo District midwestern Uganda. Recently she recounted her life’s journey, a journey paved with pain, suffering, endurance and triumph.
At only 16 she had to drop out of school. Her parents couldn’t afford it due to their abject poverty. Soon after, she was pressured into marriage by her family to an older man of 40 years. They hoped he will change her life for the better. She reminiscences how broken she got when her dream to become a midwife like Mrs Kobutungi (the darling of her community) was quashed.
At first, her husband was a loving man during the early months of their marriage. She remembers when he spent almost two months without any conjugal activity when they had just married. But this bliss was only short-lived. When she conceived after six months the husband changed from the loving gentleman he knew. He became so abusive and violent. He started physically, emotionally and sexually violating her. He would lock her out of their two-roomed house when he came back with other sexual partners. Sometimes he could not buy her food while she was pregnant. She recalls the kindness of her neighbours who would at times help share their little with her. Sadly she couldn’t burden her family. She knew they wouldn’t be able to pay back her husband’s dowry.
She endured this pain and suffering for seven years. It got even worse after the third child. She could only resign and accept her fate as a woman. She wondered who would accept her with children, how would she take care of them or find a job without an education or skills? Her only option was to keep with her abusive husband at least for the sake of her children. Her mum would console her to pray to God to change her husband. At times she would remind her to look at his positive side like buying family groceries, paying medical bills etc.
The violence became worse during the COVID lockdown of 2020 when he wasn’t working and they struggled financially. Deep down in her soul, she knew she had to get out, but couldn’t find a way. In 2021, an opportunity came when the SCAPE project was introduced in Kyarusozi Sub County with support from UN Women (Women Peace Humanitarian Fund). “My friend Rachel Tumusime who had attended prior meetings with Richard staff of Innovations for Development (I4DEV) invited me to attend one of their planned meetings on conflict prevention. During that meeting, I couldn’t stop feeling sad because all they talked about was related to my situation. Rachel encouraged me to join the Women’s Group of Kabuyanda Women Entrepreneurs which had been selected to join the project.
Four months after joining the group, I was seconded to join the list of women to be trained as Community Peace Ambassadors for the project. The training was so informative, I learned a lot and even gained the confidence to speak about conflicts in my community, particularly Domestic Violence. I felt I couldn’t be a good Ambassador for Peace while enduring violence at home.
I got the courage to confront my husband and even filed a case at the Probations Office. He tried to stop me from attending group meetings and he failed. With encouragement from my peers, I started learning how to start a business. The sessions on entrepreneurship I had while training to be Peace Ambassadors came in handy. Early this year (2022), I got confident to borrow 600.000/= UGX (US$ 166) from my group and started a boutique of Mivumba (second-hand clothing). Since then my business has expanded and in March I completed my loan and have now requested 1,000,000 (US$ 277).
In March I left my husband’s home to rent my own house with my children. I pay for all the groceries for my family with my own money and hard work. I continue to serve my community as a Peace Ambassador and my future is bright. But one thing I believe is the most important gain for me, is the belief in myself as a woman that I can do anything for myself and my family without anyone controlling me. Freedom is priceless”.
Iren is just one of the many women who have gone through so much and upon finding one another through their community groups, they’re now fighting back and challenging toxic masculinities and GBV. They believe women can be change-makers and a shield for resisting negative social norms. Our work is to facilitate this social change, strengthen their capacities, and nudge community leaders to understand that change is possible and can be achieved with a collective purpose to resist all forms of oppression.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *