A heavy turnout Saturday by Ugandan law enforcement and civil society organizations for Kampala's “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” march helped spread the message of solidarity in stopping violence against women.
With a marching band playing, men and women walked through downtown Kampala, with some holding signs.
As part of the event, a few men literally walked a mile (about 1.6 kilometers) in women's high-heeled shoes to protest sexualized violence, educate their communities and raise money for chronically underfunded rape crisis centers, women's shelters and other sexual violence prevention and recovery services.
The march was a project of Venture Humanity Inc., a U.S.-based nonprofit, and was sponsored by U.N. Women, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality.
The march came at a time when violence against women is increasing. Police say they have seen an increase in the number of rape and domestic violence cases in recent years. Although this could be attributed to more women reporting assaults, officers say they still find the statistics troubling.
The Ugandan Bureau of Statistics estimated that nearly 70 percent of married women are subjected to violence by their partners.
Uganda has harsh laws against domestic violence and rape, but they are rarely enforced. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. State Department, while over 1,000 Ugandan women reported rapes in 2013, there were only 11 convictions that year.
Johnson Akampa, who works for the Youth Advocacy Foundation in Uganda, said men need to speak out so that Ugandans can address these issues together.
“Violence is something that is growing day by day and taking root, and we are losing lives of not just women but also young girls," Akampa said. "Young girls are being violated and their rights being abused ... and all of this is taking place in darkness or in silence.
"So as men, we are coming out to say this must stop. We are coming out to say we should have more men supporting their women. ... Let's come out and show to the public and share with the public and march and walk a mile in their shoes."
Representatives from U.N. Women and the White Ribbon Campaign — a global, Canadian-based movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls — stressed that such violence was preventable and asked that Ugandan police help implement anti-violence laws.
Representatives of the police said they were committed to stepping up efforts in their communities.