Addressing Uganda's mental health gap: fighting stigma and protecting vulnerable communities in the Wakiso District.
Since 2018, the Golden Center for Women's Rights (GCWR) has been working to promote and protect the health, economic and social rights of female refugees, sex workers, vulnerable adolescent girls and young women from the LBGTQ community in rural and peri-urban areas of Uganda.
The organization focuses on a number of activities; empowering women to participate in civil, economic and social activities, advocating for the protection and promotion of women's' and girl's rights, conducting campaigns and trainings relating to sexual reproductive health rights, gender based violence and drug abuse, to name a few.
In Uganda, less than 1% of health financing directly goes towards mental health*. What's more, community stigma and low levels of awareness lead to unaddressed mental health issues for which the LGBTQ community is particularly vulnerable.
"Mental health is expensive, misunderstood, silenced and taken for granted in Uganda. Few people are willing to prioritize mental health wellness, therapy is taken as a western behaviour, and available therapists/counsellors are few, conservative and costly. Making it, hard for marginalized communities to access mental health services. " Shira Natenda, Executive Director of GCWR
With this in mind, GCWR is conducting a year-long project funded by Madiro to promote and protect the mental health of its community. They do so by setting up an intervention centre and a helpline to share information and welcome those who need counselling. The organization is also conducting healing circles, individual counselling sessions, distributing self-care kits, and partnering with other programs to maximize their impact on their beneficiaries.
"My mental health challenges and being gay have been associated with witchcraft. I have been taken to churches for deliverance. At one point I have felt like a disgrace but being in a space with people like me has relieved me. I have made friends, I have learnt to overcome.", says one of GCWR's beneficiaries.
GCWR was awarded a $25,000 grant for this project, as a part of Madiro's call for proposals in 2021 and in collaboration with The Gillian and Adrian Schauer Foundation and the King Baudouin Foundation Canada.
*Source: American Psychological Association, Mental health in Uganda, February 2021