A man in the struggle for women’s rights

If a man lost his tooth fighting for his shirt, that might be understandable, and many will possibly come to his defense. Men put on shirts and that’s his shirt, they will say. But if he lost his tooth for a bra then everyone will most likely ask, “How? Men don’t wear bras!”

If a man lost his tooth fighting for his shirt, that might be understandable, and many will possibly come to his defense. Men put on shirts and that’s his shirt, they will say. But if he lost his tooth for a bra then everyone will most likely ask, “How? Men don’t wear bras!”

In the same way when one sees women bravely and fearlessly fighting for the rights of women, it is easy to say that that is what they are supposed to do – woman up for the cause of fellow women. But when it’s a man advocating the rights of women, especially in a patriarchal society like ours, one cannot help but immediately wonder about what motivates him.
Slender, relatively tall, dark-skinned 24-year-old Ali Kaviri is one such man to whom such questions can be posed.

This soft-spoken man describes himself as a women rights’ activist. Kaviri has crafted a career in human rights promotion and protection with a particular interest in the universal rights of women. And they-the women with whom he is joining hands for the cause that is deeply rooted into society but remains contentious, misunderstood by many, ignored or both- are giving him the nod.

In 2009, then 19 years old, Kaviri was named Mr FOWADE by the women’s organisation Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWADE), a position conferred upon a man who understands and supports the cause for women’s rights. Kaviri had attended a FOWADE’s six-week long training on gender and governance. He exhibited ambition and excellence. “The training awakened my consciousness towards gender issues,” he says.

Drawing from his childhood
But why a field where not many men will go or probably know little about or simply choose to ignore?
For Kaviri it was passion or conviction, emanating from his childhood experiences in his home village of Kibuku, in Eastern Uganda. “It was a society that had no respect for a woman,” he recalls. “Women were battered, had no decision making powers and were not allowed to raise their hand in public to speak. Only men did.”

It is not that Kaviri was opposed to men talking. Rather, he believed that women, just like men, had the right to express their opinions. It is these injustices against women that Kaviri says inspired him to advocate for the rights of women. To realise his aspirations, Kaviri eyed leadership roles because, he argues, leaders influence decisions. He figured that being a leader would put him in position to influence decisions to protect the rights of women. He obviously needed an education first.

Coming from a humble background and raised by a single mother, Kaviri went to a number of schools including Koborwa and Busesa primary schools before joining Margaret Secondary School Kyebando for O’ Level and Kyambogo College School for A’ Level. The opportunity that would enable him realise his aspirations came in his Senior Six vacation shortly before he joined Kyambogo University for a Bachelor’s degree in Community Based Rehabilitation.

That was the FOWADE training that he embraced, ending up being named Mr FOWADE. With other alumni of the training, Kaviri would begin advocacy and leadership development for young people, sexual rights and reproductive health for girls in schools. In 2012, Kaviri was voted chairperson of the Young Leaders Alumni Association (FYLAA), a FOWADE initiative for young people to advance the cause of women in leadership and development.

Kaviri is also the Field Coordinator at Digital Opportunity Trust International (Uganda), an organization that equips child mothers with business and technological skills for improved economic livelihood. He is a blogger and writes articles advocating for the rights of women. He has been in Tanzania and Malaysia in women empowerment fora. In June 2013, Kaviri was one of Uganda’s delegates at the Women Deliver Conference in Malaysia.

The eldest of three children born to a peasant mother, Irene Litta, as he never knew his father, Kaviri challenges what he terms as a “societal perception” that advocating for the rights of women tantamount to subduing men. “What is wrong with saying that a young girl of 13 years shouldn’t be married off?” he argues, and adds, “What women are asking for is equality and fairness. Gender is a human rights issue.”

“Some of my peers ridicule or misunderstand me. Some, in fact, think I am not in the right state of mind to advocate for the rights of women,” he says, noting though that some section of society sees him as an example, which encourages him.

Role models
Kaviri’s role models are FOWADE’s Patricia Munaabi and Oxfam International’s Winnie Byanyima, the women he says have been consistent in advocating for women rights; the Pakistan girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban Muslim extremists for advocating for the rights of girls to education in Pakistan.

Kaviri’s views on:
Bride price and the Marriage and Divorce bill:
“Discouraging paying bride price is a way of protecting the rights of girls to education. Some girls are married off by their parents to get material wealth. Those who look at this law in bad faith are simply not informed.”

Proposed mini-skirt bill: It seems politicians lack meaningful and better things to focus on. Issues like youth unemployment should have been their focus rather than (pass) a bill that infringes on the rights of women. Politicians should know that we live in a dynamic world. Young people should be left to express themselves. It’s their rights. In fact some young people look nice in mini shirts.


Govt asked to use part of COVID-19 cash donations

KAMPALA – Youth-led organizations have implored the Government to consider using part of the billions of money donated to the National COVID-19 task force, for financial support to local companies and organizations.

According to the youth leaders, the majority of the young people have been laid off by various companies whose income inflows have been affected by the current lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“The Government should come out and support these organizations not to lay off workers. Let them use some of the money to support these companies, to pay off their workers for a few months,” Gloria Nawanyanga, a Youth leader and HIV advocate said.

Last month, 4,200 companies closed shop over the current lockdown. According to the trade minister Amelia Kyambadde, the companies could not adhere to some standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government.

While some companies have remained in operation, they have had to lay off many of their employees to reduce operational costs.

President Yoweri Museveni, on Friday, warned such companies to avoid laying off workers and instead find a better alternative such as delaying payment or going without pay for a few months.

On COVID-19 cash donations, the youth who wondered what the money is used for, appealed to the government to ensure proper accountability of the funds.

Youth inclusion

The youth also implored the government to consider immediate inclusion of the youth leaders and youth-led organizations in the national COVID-19 task force to ensure that the response is holistic.

” While attention is currently focused on those most immediately affected by this situation, there are many indicators that this Pandemic will have long-lasting social, cultural, economic, political and multi-dimensional impacts on the whole of societies including the young people,” Ali Kaviri, the team leader youth equality center, said.

Speaking during a virtual press briefing in Kampala, Kaviri among other youth leaders called upon the government to establish a recovery plan for the country which should entail an extensive development plan including social protection mechanism in the medium and long term to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Youth.

Uganda currently has the youngest population in the East African Region with 78%  of the population being under 30 years of age.

The high rate of youth unemployment currently stands at 54%.

According to the youth leaders, this predisposes the youth to a life of redundancy and vulnerability coupled with exploitation.

In the recovery plan for Uganda, the youth want the government to extend financial support to small and medium enterprises especially those employing young people.

” We need to support the SMEs and the informal sector that employs most Ugandans especially the youth to prevent young entrepreneurs from falling back into poverty, bankruptcy, and massive job losses resulting from the prolonged lockdown,” Kaviri said.

The youth also want the government to invest 5% of the ministry of health budget as stand-alone allocation for the establishment of and sustenance of youth corners in all public health facilities at all levels.

They also appealed to the government to improve Uganda’s health system and young people’s access to health services in some places especially in refugee camps and informal settings such as slum communities.

They commended the government especially President Museveni and health minister Jane Aceng, for their leadership in preventing the spread of the Pandemic in Uganda.


Ugandans still ignorant about SDGs

Youth leaders from various Civil Society Organisations have called on the Government to involve the youth and other groups of people in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) for better results. They argued that the implementation of SDGs remains slow and invisible because there is no inclusiveness. This was during the youth dialogue on SDGs in Kampala on Tuesday. They event was organised by Youth Equality Centre (YEC). The YEC Team Leader, Ali Kaviri said the youth are very critical and need to be involved at every stage. “The youth have been left out of the whole process yet they are the majority. We need the youth to be involved and become drivers of SDGs in their communities. When we go to the communities, people ask us what SDGs are,” he added. Kaviri called on all youth organisations to come up with a clear framework on how to coordinate various activities towards the implementation of SDGs. The Programme Manager; Healing Point International, Kenneth Wabuteya said there is a need to move from policy to action. 

 Nakayima speaking to participants“We have many policies, but no action. Youth need to take the lead in the implementation of SDGs right from their areas of operation.  We need to involve all youth from various sectors including; drivers, boda-boda drivers, students and market vendors among others to make them understand,” he said. Wabuteya said many people think SDGs are for elites because they have not been sensitised.   Ashraf Kakaire, from the Open Space Centre, said SDGs dialogues should move away from hotels to communities. “We must localize this concept for people to understand it,” he added. The NGO-Forum Coordinator Policy and Advocacy, Esther Nakayima said there is a need for a consortium of youth from all organizations on SDGs to take the lead. Phiona Atuhaire, from the Prime Minister’s Office, said SDGs have already been localised into 10 local languages to facilitate proper understanding by the local person.