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Helping Survivors Heal from Trauma in Northern Uganda

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

As a trauma survivor herself, Sr. Judith uses her experiences & expertise to help victims and perpetrators of SGBV heal.


Sr. Judith received a grant to start the Capacitar Trauma Healing project in response to the effects of war crimes & cultural acceptance of sexual & gender-based violence (SGBV) in Northern Uganda.

In Uganda, about 60% of women over fifteen-years-old have experienced physical violence; which is almost twice the global rate. In 2016, the odds of injuries in Uganda due to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) were 1.36 times in females compared to males. This violence, which can include domestic abuse, sex trafficking, sexual assault and female genital mutilation (FGM), can be attributed to a number of factors. Poor law enforcement, weak prevention policies, poverty, lack of education, substance abuse and attitudes have all contributed to a cultural acceptance of SGBV, which can lead to a lifetime of challenges for victims.  

Left untreated, trauma resulting from SGBV can lead to:

  • Increased alcohol/substance abuse
  • Impulsive/high-risk behaviors
  • Re-enacting the trauma in destructive ways
  • Physical manifestations – pain, panic attacks
  • Relationship and family problems
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating
  • Higher incidence of health problems

Sr. Judith Athieno, SSHJ, knows first-hand the effects this violence can have; she is herself a trauma survivor. Not only can she relate to their experiences, but she also knows how to help victims and perpetrators of SGBV to heal.

A sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sr. Judith is an alumna of ASEC’s Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program, which provides leadership and technology training to Catholic sisters in Africa. In this three-year program, Sr. Judith participated in the Administration Track, receiving training in management, collaboration, conflict resolution, human resources, resource mobilization and more.

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Sr. Judith used her experience along with her ASEC training and skills to secure a grant to start the Capacitar Trauma Healing project to provide critical public health services and counseling to trauma survivors.

Sr. Judith used her experience along with her ASEC training and skills to secure a grant to start the Capacitar Trauma Healing project to provide critical public health services and counseling to trauma survivors.

After graduating from SLDI, Sr. Judith had the confidence needed to approach influential people in her town and successfully secure a grant to establish the Capacitar Trauma Health Project in Northern Uganda. The project is making a huge impact in response to the effects of war crimes and cultural acceptance of SGBV by providing public health and survivor services. They publish position papers and produce community campaigns condemning domestic violence, FGM and forced/early marriage, including hosting public film viewings of survivor stories. They also provide 18-week training for community and religious leaders to contend with SGBV among their constituents.

The Capacitar Trauma Health Project also provides psychosocial support for survivors through individual and group counseling, serving over 80 individuals thus far. Capacitar provides ongoing support through monitoring and evaluation while integrating cultural practices with evidence-based research. Survivor services include follow-up visits and referrals from collaborative partners such as social workers, counselors, local medical schools, lawyers, police, government and hospitals.

The education Sr. Judith received through SLDI provided her with the skills needed to establish the Capacitar Trauma Health Project, which has in turn created jobs and served over 600 people in her community. By providing physical and emotional support to trauma survivors, the project works to heal people in Northern Uganda affected by sexual and gender-based violence. As Sr. Judith noted, 

“Above all, [we are] helping our people to move away from the sickness of ignorance.”

Uplift women in their fight against sexual and gender based violence

When you donate to the education of a woman like Sr. Judith, you're providing critical support to a woman who will become a leader and advocate in the pursuit for gender equality, justice and peace for all people in Africa.

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This article is addressing the following UN Sustainable Development Goal(s):

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls Reduce inequality within and among countries
Sr. Judith Athieno, SHS

Sr. Judith Athieno, SHS
Profiled in article
SLDI Participant - Uganda  

Amy Fedele

Amy Fedele
Editor
Media & Communications Manager  

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