His Royal Majesty Olarker Philip Rauni III
National Solidarity and Shared Responsibility Towards Ending AIDS
On December 1st, 2020, we will mark World AIDS Day under the theme National Solidarity and Shared Responsibility Towards Ending AIDS. However, the world has been unimaginably transformed by yet another global pandemic, making it unlike any other year in our lives. With total lockdown due to Covid-19, many girls have been pushed out of school and forced into early marriage and childbearing.
In Uganda where 1.4 million people are living with HIV, women and in particular young women are disproportionately affected. There are also many cultural barriers which have hindered effective HIV prevention programming in Alur Kingdom. New HIV infections are expected to rise in coming years if untested widow/widower marriage, unplanned or controlled polygamy, multiple sexual network including the active youth are not addressed in the Kingdom.
HIV Situation in the Kingdom
While there have been increased efforts to scale up treatment to reduce new infection, there are still many people living with HIV who do not have access to the treatment. Most Alur men do not test with their wives during antenatal visits or even after child delivery which further exposes the risk of increased infections.
Alur Kingdom covers the three districts of Nebbi, Zombo, Pakwach and part of Democratic Republic of Congo. There are 56 chiefdoms in both Uganda with a population of over I million subjects and 8 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo where majority of the Alur subjects live.
Before HIV/AIDS in Uganda was first registered, the Alur people didn’t have any major sexual related deaths. Cultural practices like widow inheritance, polygamy, marriage without testing couples, sharing of sharp blades in the face, belly and other body parts for beautification of girls and women were a common practice among the people and yet they influence the spread of HIV/AIDS. Although some of these practices have been abandoned, knowledge of HIV is still low in the communities which calls for mass mobilization especially by the cultural leaders who have influence in the communities.
To realize the full potential of the Kingdom on its HIV response, there is need to strengthen our capacity to adopt to new policies and innovations, to effectively respond to HIV/AIDS especially among the youths.
What we are doing
His Royal Majesty Olarker Philip Rauni III (the King of Alur) in 2015, made a pronouncement opposing gender based violence, promotion of girl child education, encouraging chiefs and all men in particular to advocate for the rights of women in our society, prohibition of early child marriage, condemnation of rape and defilement of young girls/ women and their rights to own land. This has become the flag ship document in designing the strategies in the fight against HIV/AIDS and this is being implemented through the “Kura Matira Scheme”.
In July 2020, Kura Matira Project funded by TASO and traditional justice system was launched and will run for five-years aimed at reducing new HIV infections among adolescent girls and ending child marriage. This is being implemented through issuing of marriage certificates and returning to the fireplace.
The TASO Kura Matira project is being implemented in the in 3 chiefdoms Atyak Wi-am in Zombo District, Aryek Chiefdom in Nebbi District and Alwi Chiefdom in Pakwach District but plans are underway to enroll to all Chiefdoms in the Kingdom.
During the Launch of the project, the King urged the Chiefs to work together with other stakeholders and end violence against girls and women and also involve youths in the fight against HIV/AIDS through music, dance and drama.
The Kingdom’s 5 years’ Strategic Plan also focuses on preservation, promotion and development of the Alur Culture that is fair to all humanity, promote relevant cultural norms & values and campaign for the reduction of new HIV infections.
With support from Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD), the Kingdom has been supported to protect the adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) escape child marriage, denounce negative cultural practices that fuel new HIV infections, and help them acquire social survival skills through returning to the fireplace.
During the oversight meeting in September 2020 organized by UAC in the office of Jadipu for the Alur Chiefs, Chief wives and technical staff, the Chiefs discussed and agreed to address some key negative cultural practices that impact the HIV response in the Kingdom.
The following were agreed upon:
Reduced time of Alur traditional dances using the Kura Matira project approach and dances to end by 7:00 pm, restoring dignified cultural code of dancing and dressing
Use all Alur traditional social gatherings to create awareness on HIV/AIDS under the supervision of the Clan Leaders and Elders in the community.
Reducing gender-based violence through promotion of dialogue between couples, elders’ meetings and also translate and roll out parenting guidelines from the MoGLSD
Reinforce the pronouncement made His Royal Majesty Ubimu Phillip Olarker Rauni III (the King of Alur) in 2014 prohibiting all extended marriage ceremonies that goes beyond one day, control of loud music and discourage young children from attending these ceremonies after 6:00pm.
Stop all forms of forced widow inheritance. In instances where the widow agrees to marry voluntarily, HIV testing is highly recommended for both parties before marriage, perform the necessary cultural cleansing rituals and protection of the woman’s property.
Prohibit all forms of child and forced marriage that will be enforced and controlled by the chiefs through issuing of Alur kingdom customary marriage certificates approved by the chiefs and train the wives of the chiefs and other women leaders in the kingdom to protect the girls’ rights.
At the same meeting, Ms. Susan Chandiru from UAC also emphasized the need to involve cultural institutions in rolling out the Presidential Fast-track Initiative on ending AIDS in Uganda by 2030.The initiative spells out plans to tackle HIV &AIDS in Uganda through a five point plan to; Engage men in HIV prevention and close the tap on new infections particularly among adolescent girls and young women; Accelerate implementation of Test and Treat and attainment of 90-90-90 targets particularly among men and young people; Consolidate progress on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV; Ensure financial sustainability for the HIV response; and Ensuring institutional effectiveness for a well-coordinated multi-sectoral response.
In our effort to minimize new HIV infections in the community and country, we call on the Government of Uganda, fellow cultural institutions, religious leaders and partners, to contribute to making the world a healthier place. As the theme suggests, ending AIDS calls for national solidarity and shared responsibility.
Together, let us act now to end HIV new infections in Uganda
“Nying Ubimu mwa mi Ker Alur ubed apaka pinja”
Rt. Hon. Ochaya Orach Vincent
Ker Alur – Alur Kingdom
For more information visit our website www.alurkingdom.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org