Regaining women’s power through ‘Cash for Work’ Opportunities

Building resilient communities free from Gender-Based Violence

Joyce Moga, a South Sudanese refugee who struggled with domestic violence in her home. A scar remains on her right arm. (Photo Credit: UNDPUganda/Natsuki 2018).

West Nile, Northern Uganda — When Joyce Moga* decided to flee to Uganda from South Sudan, it was not just the conflict in her home country she was running from.

Joyce was also running from domestic abuse at the hands of her husband who became violent every time he got home drunk, which she would not stand anymore. Together with her four children, Joyce crossed to Uganda on foot and started a new life in one of the refugee settlement in the West Nile sub-region of Northern Uganda.

However, a few months later, her husband followed them into Uganda and settled in the same settlement living in a hut not far away from theirs. Due to this proximity to her family, the harassment started again. Every time he got drunk, he came to their hut and harassed them leading to fights.

In their last fight, he injured Joyce, leaving a painful wound on one of her arms. This wound became the turning point for her as it drew the community in to shield her and her children from him.

Joyce’s story is not the only one. Displacement has changed the relationship in the family. Women bear the heaviest burden in childcare and in maintaining the household, while men no longer feel they have a place within the community. In times of conflict and humanitarian crisis, the most dangerous place for a woman is her home due to domestic violence. Various families running from conflict and domestic violence continue to face the same problems later even in refugee settlements.

“Alcohol and drug use is on the increase in both the refugee settlements and host communities leading to domestic violence, family disputes and sexual abuse,” Martina Azireo, Secretary for Gender in Moyo district says.

Ms. Azireo explains that many of the refugee women and girls have deep psychological trauma because they have already survived or witnessed gang rape by rebels from the places they have escaped in their countries of origin.

In such situations, victims do not have any source of income to support their families. For this reason, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Uganda through its “Emergency Livelihood Support through Cash for Work for Refugees from South Sudan” project is providing emergency employment opportunities (‘Cash for Work’) to various refugees to enable them have a source of income to fend for their families.

The project aims to meet the different needs of women and men including those who have specific needs due to their exposure to gender-based violence (GBV). As women and children constitute 82% of the refugee population, including recent arrivals, the project prioritises women, especially survivors of GBV, and youth at risk.

Some of the activities that the project’s beneficiaries participate in include; rehabilitation, improvement of life-saving community facilities and strengthening community-based facilities for women and children, tree planting and woodlot establishment; hygiene maintenance at social service centres like schools, health centres and markets; clearing and maintenance of community access roads among others. After thirty days’ work, beneficiaries receive 120 US dollars as payment.

Participants preparing to start work on a road maintenance activity in Imvepi refugee settlement, Arua district, Uganda (Photo Credit: Living Earth Uganda 2018).

Joyce was one of the 2,250 participants from Arua and Moyo districts who took part in the project’s ‘Cash for Work’ activities this year.

“I was thinking of going back to South Sudan because of the burden and depression. I was tired of the harassment from my husband while trying to raise my children alone with limited support. After I joined the project, I became motivated to restart life here,” Joyce said after her participation in the project.

She plans to use the daily wage she receives to buy clothes and food first, and a goat to boost her income in the future.

Launched in April 2018, the UNDP project is implemented in partnership with Living Earth Uganda, funded by the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Apart from providing employment opportunities to both the refugees and local communities, UNDP also contributes in strengthening referral system to support GBV survivors with other UN agencies.

As the world marks 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, UNDP works hard to provide women at risk with opportunities to rebuild their lives and communities. With the income and the small grants received, they can have the hope for the future.


Text & Photos by: Natsuki Matsumoto. Edited by: Doreen Kansiime, UNDP Uganda


UNDP Uganda is part of the global network to empower lives and build resilient nations. In Uganda, we work with Government and other actors to eliminate poverty, inequality & exclusion to achieve sustainable development. To learn more about us, please visit: http://www.ug.undp.org/