Yesterday, at some point on the epic drive, I spotted a massive billboard with a large picture of a man’s face across it. Intrigued, I read on and discovered that it was aimed at ending domestic violence. Its slogan was something along the lines of: “a worthy husband does not beat his wife”. I was rather surprised and pondered whether I’d ever seen anything similar in the UK – I’m not sure that I have.
Billboard advertising is still one of the primary means of mass communication in Uganda – hence the colourful shop-front adverts I was entranced by yesterday. It’s used to communicate key issues and direct messages – meaning that this morning I came across signs such as “an honest marriage begins by getting tested together” and “Say no to sex! Don’t start! Every choice has a consequence. Make the right decision.” (Both are part of HIV awareness campaigns.)
Talking with Odiira (PAG’s Communications Officer and our guide all week) about the domestic violence billboard, she explained that it’s a massive problem in Uganda. Many men believe that their wives should be made to submit to them, and that violence is the key to achieving this. In some tribes, beatings are the norm. There is a huge campaign – of which this billboard is part – to overcome these beliefs.
It was therefore fascinating to meet with Richard this afternoon, as he shared his story of having previously beaten his wife and children, but now living a life where he cared and provided for them instead. He became involved in PEP (Participatory Evaluation Process) – the initiative for which Tearfund funds PAG and came to faith through the Bible studies that are part of the process. He realised that violence towards his family was not compatible with his new life and instead became passionate about providing all that they needed and enabling his children to go on to great things. When we asked him today, he said that he’d like his children to become doctors or teachers and to have at least one pastor!
While he was talking with us, we asked how he now felt about his family. His reply caused our interpretor and the other men with us to laugh. We asked why this was. All he’d said was: “I love my wife” Apparently, it’s very unusual for men to admit that out loud here. For Richard, a man who once drank all his family’s income away and beat his wife as a punishment for not having food with which to make dinner, this is an incredible transformation.