5 Min Inspiration: How refugees in Uganda feel safer

5 Min Inspiration: How refugees in Uganda feel safer

“…we no longer see [menstruation] as a burden but a change that has to happen to every woman. Girls and women now feel more secure and safe than before...” Woman in Kaborogota

Can you imagine the change that quote represents? Most women menstruate 450 times in their lives. If that feels like not just a burden, but also actively unsafe [1], that’s nearly 10 years of your life—3,500 days—you are afraid of what your own body is doing and the risks you have to take to manage it.
Helping with menstruation education and supplies—at the specific request of participants—is just one of the many ways the APEAL II project in Uganda helped 81% of people feel safer. As one person says, “yes, there is increasing respect of the role of women and girls among family members and even in the community.”  Getting people the information, support, and respectful service from humanitarian workers they deserved.

The Access, Protection, Empowerment, Accountability, and Leadership (APEAL II) project in Uganda ran from May of 2020 through April of 2021 with $3.7 million in ECHO fundings. Working with 9 consortium partners, the team reached 54,153 people directly (25,838 were women) and 216,612 indirectly. Partners for the APEAL II project were: WoMena Uganda, Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, Uganda Law Society, the Kabarole Research and Resource Center, IRC, Save the Children, War Child Holland, and Humanity and Inclusion.

What changed?

  • Violence is going down. 74% of refugees and 84% of host communities say that violence and insecurity went down over the life of the project.
  • People feel safe and dignified. 76% of people say humanitarian assistance is safe, dignified, and accountable. 81% of people feel safe and dignified, compared to 76% in 2020.
  • People can face crisis: The number of people who have to adopt negative coping strategies dropped 47% in Kyangwali district, and 92% in Kyaka.
  • People can cover basic needs. 61% of people in savings groups (VSLAs) said that helped them meet basic needs. 39% of people were able to start businesses, and 36% paid off their medical bills.
  • People feel less vulnerable. 37% of women and 33% of men feel that interventions are helping people overcome their vulnerabilities.
  • Humanitarian actors are getting better. Humanitarian groups are 46% more likely to offer safe and dignified services. 75% of people think the project took people’s views and needs into account.

How did it happen?

  • Improve humanitarian accountability. Now, 76% of actors are incorporating protection and safety standards into their work. That’s especially impressive because the trainings and support targeted organizations that don’t focus on GBV or protection as part of their regular goals. As one actor said, “…initially our beneficiary involvement was more for sustainability not participation as a principle. After the training in protection mainstreaming, we are quite conscious of safety, dignity and participation as humanitarian principles.”
  • Bring communities together. The project targeted 80% refugees and 20% members of host communities to make sure that the people who most need help got support, and that they didn’t create divisions between different groups of people.
  • Connect across actors. Because the partners worked together in a consortium, it was easier to refer people to services even if we don’t provide them. That made it faster and easier for people to get the help they need.
  • Change based on feedback. Communities asked for savings groups (VSLAs) that targeted young people, not just savings groups for adults. They also asked for more support with menstrual hygiene. As a result, the Kabarole Resources and Research center and CARE worked together with 3,500 people in VSLAs to set them up as safe spaces and include youth.
  • Adapt to COVID-19. The team set up COVID-19 isolation centers, found ways to source PPE, set up online referral systems, and paid for participants and partners to access data on their phones so they could stay safe during COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • Build on existing learning. The project worked with learnings from APEAL I to design the new phase and build in evidence to constantly improve the work.

Want to learn more?
Check out the evaluation.

[1] If you want to understand more about why women feel unsafe during menstruation, this report from Uganda is incredibly powerful