Kembabazi Joan: Standing Up for Women’s Rights in Uganda with GCF

From heartbreak to hope, we tell the story of one woman making change in Uganda with GCF, Kembabazi Joan.

Gufasha Moreen lost her life while she was giving birth in an early marriage she was forced to enter after having to drop out of school at an early age of 13 years.

Sadly, her story is not an isolated reality in Kayunga District of Uganda.

Her best friend Kembabazi Joan, was left broken-hearted and spoke up and help many other girls, while honouring the memory of her friend Gufasha she found a community-based organisation – the Gufasha Girl Child Foundation (GCF).

Today, the organisation empowers and equips less privileged girls and young mothers with skills and knowledge to achieve their full potential.

Joan, Founder/Director of the Gufasha Girl Child Foundation, speaks to Youth Time’s Gresë Sermaxhaj, about how this organisation advocates for women’s rights, improves menstrual hygiene and management, and promotes reproductive health rights.

GCF also works to end child marriage, fights gender-based violence and strives to end period stigma.

In this piece, Joan tells us more about her far-reaching activism and the contribution of the organisation she found in the memory of her friend. 


Ending Child Marriages

Joan has joined her voice with many other young activists calling for action against early childhood marriages.

“Through our campaign of ending child marriage and teenage pregnancies, we have been rescued 20 girls from early child marriages. 

“GCF also provides reproductive health education which aims at helping girls make healthy and informed decisions for their bodies, lives and future.”

During her work, Joan has tackled root causes of child marriages, which include; period poverty where girls exchange their bodies for pads, and lack of Reproductive Health Education.

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Helping these girls, GCF provides safe physical spaces through which they discuss challenges they face not only at homes, but in the community, too.

“Thanks to this, we provide these girls with solutions that help them survive different difficulties.”.

Besides, GFC has been implementing projects that support education of girls through its campaign “Take Her Back to School”- through which girls are provided with scholastic materials and tuition to support their education.


Ending Period Poverty and Fighting Gender-Based Violence

Research shows that there are many negative social and economic impacts of not meeting the menstrual needs of girls and women.

Menstrual health and hygiene is a human rights issue, and GFC has a valuable contribution towards its full realisation.

“We have provided sanitary products to over 250 girls and trained over 55 girls on how to make their own reusable pads,” she elaborates.

Unfortunately, topics surrounding menstruation are rarely spoken about both at home and in schools in the country.

“Through our determined and passionate team we provide and educate girls on menstrual-related topics that help them have safe, sound and dignified periods,” she adds.

As gender-based violence remains a global problem, GFC scales up prevention efforts to address gender unequal power relations.

Kembabazi Joan Standing Up for Womens Rights in Uganda with GCF 1
GCF Founder: Kembabazi Joan

“We work with multiple stakeholders right from local community leaders, religious leaders and others across multiple sectors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been so many rising numbers of gender-based violence (GBV) within the communities we work with, through our community clubs, we provide safe spaces to survivors of GBV in which they share their stories and we ensure they find justice as the perpetrator faces law and bear the responsibility alone.”

In addition, GFC trains girls and women to become women’s rights activists and speak their voices.   

“Through our community clubs we talk about consent, body autonomy and also listen to what they have to say about their experience of the world.”

“We create safer environments for all girls and young women by challenging their peers to reflect on their own behaviour and speaking up when someone crosses the line or by enlisting the help of others if they do not feel safe.”

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A Brief Background on Women’s Rights in Uganda

Uganda currently ranks 65th out of 153 countries on the global gender gap index for equal economic participation and opportunity among men and women.

Joan reminds us that the 1995 constitution of Uganda, article 33, states that women are entitled to their rights, equal to men; the state shall provide facilities and opportunities necessary to strengthen women’s position and their participation in all aspects of life.

“However, there are still gaps between policies and practices that address gender equality in Uganda and their implementation lacks,” she explains. 

Different stakeholders are still working together to ensure that SDGS are fully achieved, and despite the obstacles, they have made great strides to advance women’s rights in Uganda. Stakeholders include, but are not limited to; United Nations, Uganda Human Rights Commission, UN Women, the Parliament of Uganda and other Civil Society Organisations.

All things considered, Joan has a message to spread:

“I will stand up for what’s right. I will stand up for women and girl’s rights because yes, we deserve better.”

Follow the work of GFC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photos: GCF

More from Grese Sermaxhaj here:

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