In Uganda, as in many countries, women and children are often more vulnerable to detention in the first place, to ill-treatment in detention and subject to a system that does not account for their specific needs. Joint research conducted by PRI and Uganda-based Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in 2015 showed that women prisoners are mostly poor (76 per cent of those surveyed), are mothers (92 per cent), and are survivors of domestic violence (74 per cent).
In early 2013, PRI and FHRI established a partnership with objectives in three areas: child-friendly justice; the treatment of women prisoners; and sharing of good practice on criminal justice reform within the East Africa region.
FHRI highlighted the following achievements, as a result of partnership working:
- Civil society, professionals and government are now increasingly mobilised around the need for juvenile justice reform in Uganda. FHRI brought NGOs together, sharing good practice and standards and facilitated new joint pilot initiatives that successfully promoted mediation and diverted juveniles from the formal justice system. FHRI was also able to inform the Children Amendment Bill (2015), resulting in new legal provisions which give greater priority to the use of restorative justice for children.
- FHRI was able to take up the issue of children of prisoners and conducted unique research on this topic. This issue is a priority for the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and the research was welcomed, when presented at an ACERWC Conference, as ‘ground-breaking’. A new coalition has now been formed in Uganda to take forward the report’s recommendations.
- FHRI has become a leading advocate on the needs of women offenders in Uganda. Research was conducted on women prisoners, providing information and stimulating dialogue that led to the judiciary and the Uganda Prison Service requesting further guidance. This led to the first ever training for women prison officers in the region on the UN Bangkok Rules and a workshop for magistrates on sentencing guidelines.
- There is now an active regional network of criminal justice organisations. Under this network, NGO exchange visits were organised and contributed to the sharing of good practice across the region.
FHRI says: “The partnership with PRI is empowering. FHRI was able to deepen its work on juvenile justice and the work on the Bangkok Rules was ground-breaking. It has built the capacity of our staff particularly in the area of research, writing, international advocacy and public speaking.”
PRI says: “FHRI’s local experience, established networks and access to prisons in Uganda enabled PRI to extend its work and knowledge on women and children in detention, and contributed to regional and international advocacy. The success of our East Africa work has now led to the establishment of a new PRI Africa Office.”