Mobilizing communities to prevent violence against refugee women and girls in Uganda — Interview with Alal Single Dora, Director of THRIVE Gulu

THRIVE Gulu is a women-led, grassroots non-governmental organization founded in 2010 that provides essential trauma recovery services to individuals and communities in post-conflict northern Uganda. With support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), it is running a project in Odek sub-county in Omoro District and Palabek Refugee Settlement in Lamwo District.

We talked with Alal Single Dora to learn more about this meaningful project.

Why is THRIVE Gulu’s work focused on refugee women and girls?

Women and girl refugees face increased risks of poverty, exploitation, abuse, school dropout and hampered access to life-saving services, and experience extra caregiving burden — all of which were exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also have limited access to information and decision-making spaces.

In 2018, we decided to expand our geographic and demographic scope to reach refugees from South Sudan who were forcibly displaced into the Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda, as we were moved by the untold sufferings of women and children who form 80% of the refugee population in the settlement.

How do you empower women and girls to become agents of change?

We have established empowerment groups for women and girls with the Village Savings Loans Association programmes, run by women. These programmes aim to improve their economic empowerment and leadership skills, while providing them with safe spaces where they can share their concerns and needs. Using the Girl Shine methodology, trained mentors provide life skills to adolescent girls to improve their knowledge of gender-based violence and how to seek support services.

In addition, through our community radio programmes, women are able to speak freely on issues affecting women and girls in their communities.

All these activities provide women and girls a chance to access support services, to connect with their peers and support each other, their families and communities.

A young black girl wearing a white t-shirt with the UN Trust Fund logo, a green headband and black skirt, is seen smiling receiving an award from a young black women wearing a yellow and black dress. In the background we can see people sitting and standing outside.
Certification award to the girls who completed the 8-months Girl Shine curriculum at the Palabek Lamwo settlement. Credit: Odokonyero Jacob/THRIVE Gulu

Why is it crucial to involve all community members in the work to end violence against women and girls?

Communities play an important role in the efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls. THRIVE Gulu promotes gender equality and supports communities’ efforts to prevent violence against women and girls through awareness-raising activities, behaviour change communication, and access to justice for survivors — through formal and informal mechanisms.

We use the Zero Tolerance Village Alliance (ZTVA) methodology to mobilize entire communities, including men and boys, to challenge pre-existing gender inequalities, collaborate on prevention interventions, collectively shape new norms to promote women’s and girls’ rights, refer survivors and promote a culture of zero tolerance to violence.

We have also established community-based structures with volunteers, which provide psychological first aid to survivors, refer cases to appropriate service providers, and monitor and report survivors’ conditions.

In addition, we facilitate community radio dialogues through our ZTVA members, local authorities and law enforcement to find practical strategies to prevent violence against women and girls.

A black woman wearing a purple shirt and a brown jacket with the UN Trust Fund logo is talking through a microphone in front of a small crowd of people outside.
Community awareness-raising session organized by the ZTVA Forum members with community members. Credit: Odokonyero Jacob/THRIVE Guru

How has the UN Trust Fund’s support helped to build your organizational resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and other complex, protracted crises in Uganda?

It helped us to continue supporting communities, during and beyond the pandemic, by providing them with case management and counselling support. Even during lockdowns, we were able to remain actively engaged with communities through our community volunteer structures.

As an organization, we learnt a lot, adapted, and continued to provide empowerment, mental health and psychosocial support services.



UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated to eradicating all forms of #VAWG.