William Mazzu is a domestic violence survivor that now works to end it in Omugo settlement. Photo credit: Oxfam

I am a product of domestic violence – William Mazzu

“It is not by accident that I chose to focus on Gender and Protection which is only a small part of my Development Studies Degree,” starts William Mazzu. “I wanted to advocate for a change, especially, in the way women and girls are treated in our communities.”

It is during the launch of 16 days of Activism in Rhinocamp extension -Omugo settlement when I engage with William Mazzu, 29, who works with Oxfam local partner with CEFORD as a Gender and Protection Assistant in Omugo Settlement in Arua.

William is a soft-spoken gentleman with a soft almost shy smile, a demeanor that completely changes when he starts talking about the issue of violence. His facial expression shifts back and forth between anger, sadness and resolve as he narrates the ordeal of the violence he faced growing up, the same violence he sees everyday as he conducts his work in the settlement.

“I come from a polygamous family. And being a boy, I got the privilege to go to school. My sisters on the other hand were forced into marriage at tender ages of 14 or 15 years. The kind of environment we were brought up in celebrated the male child over the female. Sadly, the girls accepted that that as fate,” he says.

“I became an advocate to add my voice to other gender and protection actors to empower women and girls especially; against Sexual and Gender Based Violence,” he adds.

“I am a product of domestic violence. From the time I was little, my father, (who I later found out was my step father) used beat my mother and I all the time. I later came to understand the reason for the beatings - he wanted to impart his dominance and suspected that I was not his son despite my mother maintaining that I was his.

I felt helpless… I wanted the beatings to stop, I wanted to protect my mother, but I was too young. When I got the chance to meet my real father, I never went back to my mother. Somehow, I blame myself for the beatings she endured and the fact that I left her in that man’s home,” continues William.

William works closely with Oxfam/CEFORD Gender and Protection Committees in the settlement to build their capacity to address the issues of Sexual and Gender based violence in the refugee and host communities.

“With the help of Oxfam, we have formed gender and protection committees. These committees are trained to be able to handle and/or refer cases of violence to be addressed,” says William.

“Some people are very rigid towards changing the way they treat women but at least, they come to the dialogue meetings and respect the committees. Slowly, we will change their mindsets from violence,” he adds, “I am 100% against violence - I am pro-peace and pro-dialogue. I have a wife and children now and God-forbid that anyone should hurt them!”

“I am proud to be part of the campaign calling for the end of gender based violence,” he concludes with a smile.

“The 16 days of activism against gender based violence should serve as reminder to everyone about how real this issue is. It should foster change,” William adds.