VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: PUNISHMENT ISLAND AT LAKE BUNYONYI-UGANDA

Agnes Igoye
Posted April 10, 2015 from Uganda
 Lake Bunyonyi-Western Uganda
Entusi Resort and Retreat Center at Lake Bunyonyi, venue of WPSP Uganda Institute 2015
Entusi Resort and Retreat Center at Lake Bunyonyi, venue of WPSP Uganda Institute 2015 (1/7)

Violence against women-that was one of the topics we discussed during The Women In Public Service Project (WPSP) Uganda Institute http://wpsuganda.com/ under the theme: Leadership for Transparent and Accountable Governance March 6th-9th, 2015.

The venue of the institute Lake Bunyonyi is one of those places one ought to visit before they die. It was agreeably a perfect destination for both delegates and speakers from various countries who convened to advance the WPSP vision launched by Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2011, to increase women’s representation in Public service to achieve a minimum of 50/50 women representation by 2050 http://womeninpublicservice.wilsoncenter.org/

Unfortunately, one of the 29 islands that gives this lake its magnificent beauty has a dark history, highlighting critical issues we were discussing at the institute-violence against women. Punishment Island, locally known as Akampene in the Kikiga local language is a ‘grave yard’ where girls/women who became pregnant outside marriage were dumped and left to die, many of starvation. The Women who attempted to swim from this inhabitable Island drowned and no statistics exit nor accountability provided to date. They did not live to tell their stories.

I felt chills as we circled Punishment Island, wondering how many women and girls could have died in this island and feeling even more disturbed that not only did the women die but they also lost their unborn babies who were either male or female. Avoiding to be judgmental in my thoughts, I wondered how the boys/men who were responsible for the pregnancies felt; Did they put up resistance or they simply watched on as the women/girls were bundled up to Punishment Island?

Our tour guide, born and raised in the Islands told us of a few survivors. He said ‘They were lucky to be rescued by poor men who could not afford bride price but had access to the desperate, vulnerable girls/women abandoned to die at Punishment Island’. To these women it was a matter of survival rather than marriage by choice and they had to live in shame, as outcasts for the rest of their lives for the ‘’grave sin’’ they had committed.

Speaking of bride price, these thoughts brought back memories of my own life. First of all my own birth was a scandal simply because I was a girl. Girls were seen as useless, not worth educating; in fact we all had one name in common ‘apesenin’ literary meaning a ‘’debt’’. It was predetermined that we girls would get married off at an early age and when the marriage failed (which would always be the woman’s fault), there would be a ‘’debt’’ to pay back-, bride price to be returned. I saw this happen at an early age when one morning my auntie’s husband, 9 children later stormed my grandfather’s compound, (with security guards) screaming how he did not want my auntie anymore. Attracted by the screams, villagers came to the scene and looked on as he drove away cattle, taking more that he had paid for bride price so many years ago, claiming the cows must have multiplied so he had the right to drive out all the cows, goats and sheep from my grandfather’s crawl. It was payback time- “apesenin’’

Looking back at Punishment Island (Akampene), it was noticeable that it was dying, on the verge of being submerged together with its history! There is no monument in place in remembrance of all those innocent women/girls and their unborn children. –the reason am adding my voice to document this so as to preserve history, for us and other generations to learn from!

Education for both boys and girls, especially at a young age is key to countering such traditions that fuel violence against women and am delighted that for our Women’s day voluntary event, we at the WPSP in Uganda decided to distribute text books to Burimba Primary school (located in one of the Islands of Lake Bunyonyi). We traveled 20 minutes by boat and hiked for over 45 minutes, navigating hills inaccessible by car but it was worth it!

As we waved our hosts goodbye, I was glad to have had this experience with fellow women from several parts of the world including Pakistan, USA, Syria, The Gambia, Burundi, Uganda, and South Africa.

Comments 5

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Alyssa Rust
Apr 13, 2015
Apr 13, 2015

Dear Agnes Igoye,

Thank you for sharing your story. Hearing the history of “Punishment Island” was terrible to hear that women and children’s lives were disregarded and that they were left to die. Your comment about adding your own voice to your post is so true. We have to remember history so we can learn from it and teach future generations to show them the mistakes of our past but also to highlight some of the progress that has been made even though so much more is yet to come.

I also wanted to say thank you for all the work that you are doing. I really loved the pictures of your group delivering books. It sounds like the Women in Public Service Project had a great impact on the area and can really be seen in the smiles on all the kids faces.

Sincerely,

Alyssa Rust 

coolasas
Apr 14, 2015
Apr 14, 2015

Dear Agnes, 

Your story is eye opening and I agree with you when you said we should preserve history however bad it maybe for others to learn and not to repeat. 

But it was one sad part of all the positive and happy time you had in the island and I hope you together with all the women continue to encourage each other and continue to set forth forward leading an inclusive nation building. 

Good luck and more power to you! 

Agnes Igoye
Apr 19, 2015
Apr 19, 2015

Thank you Alyssa Rust and Coolasas for your kind words of support and encouragement. And am glad to have experienced ''Purnishment Island'' to be able to share the story with you all and appreciate your responses.

Hugs from Uganda.

Agnes

Yvette Warren
May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015

Dear Agnes, I am so happy to have found your voice on World Pulse. You are truly a remarkable example of womanhood and leadership. 

I am excited by your commitment to truth, no matter what memories it may imvoke for you. I am also encouraged to continue facing and writing my own truths.

Thank you for being a blessing upon our shared earth.

lauracini
Jul 21, 2015
Jul 21, 2015

Hello, you may be interested to know that I have made a documentary about this story. 4 years of work hopefully premiering this year.

Laura

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