APRIL 12, 2024 —

 Click here to read the Situational Analysis

The Situational Analysis is the result of many months of research of acid attack survivors across Uganda!  We are so appreciative of everyone who donated to support the research, to Julie and Daniel for their interviews, and to the survivors who shared their stories to help us better understand acid attack survivors in Uganda and make a strong case to the government of Uganda about why a law is needed.  You’ll notice the discussion & recommendations sections are missing.  That’s because these were discussed among participants during the 3 day event.  We will be summarizing their feedback and completing these sections of the report soon!

 

 

 


APRIL 4, 2024 —

Watch Julie & Daniel dancing at the end of three days of hard work!

Ellen’s comments:

Good morning everyone.  I would like to thank the BTSI team: Arnold, Belinda, Sibo, Johnson, Julie, Daniel.  These people are superheroes! They conducted the research that demonstrates the need for strong laws against acid violence, made sense of the data the team gathered, and are presenting it here to you, people who can, and I am sure, WILL, help BTSI pass a law that better serves people attacked with acid. Without the BTSI team, none of us would be here this morning. What an amazing group of people dedicated to ridding the world of acid violence! 

People often ask me if working on the problem of acid violence is depressing. They say, “the wounds are so horrible,” “how could anyone do that to another human being?” “how can survivors go on after such a traumatic change in their lives?” And these are good questions and comments, but I have to tell you that the work so inherently rewarding that it is not depressing at all. We do it because it feels like the right thing to do. We do it because we believe that everyday human beings can make a difference. And we do it for friendship and love because we have become a family. A family of people who want to do something about acid violence.

RISE, BTSI’s partner here in the US, is a small organization. And we personally know most of the survivors we work with. On the occasions when we are able to be in the same place at the same time, we laugh, tell stories, tease each other, gossip, and talk about our children and our lives, just as any group of friends would do. And in addition…we work together to create a kinder world. We work toward a world where problems are resolved through civil discussion, not through violence. We work toward a world where human rights are respected no matter who we are or what our faces look like. A world where people are treated with the dignity that their humanity deserves.

I’d like to take a moment to reassure you if you’ve never heard of acid violence or didn’t know that it occurs in Uganda. You’re not alone! In my 10 years with RISE I have encountered very few people who knew exactly what I was referring to when I mention acid attack or acid violence. And please don’t think Uganda is the only country where acid attack occurs. It happens in industrialized countries, middle income countries, developing countries. It happens in the US, Sweden, Mexico, China, Colombia, many, many places. One article I read in my research stated that acid attacks had been reported in 37 countries around the world. I know that there are many more attacks in more countries that never got reported. A while back a survivor said to me, “I never heard of acid attack until it happened to me.”

I invite you to look around the room today. Don’t be shy…look around for a moment. There are a number of people who have survived acid attacks in the group. When you see them, you will see intelligent, skilled, valuable people who have something to offer society. Ask them what they want. You know what they’ll say? Work that earns me enough money to take care of my family. A decent place to live. School fees and uniforms for my kids. Enough food for everyone in my home. Sound familiar? Of course it does! These are the things everyone wants wherever we happen to live: Uganda, Nepal, the United States, Latin America, Cambodia, India. Everywhere. Our shared humanity makes more alike than different. 

The agenda today includes a couple of breaks and lunch. I hope you will take these opportunities to reach out to at least one survivor before you leave today. Don’t be shy! They are happy and willing to talk with you about acid violence; that’s why they’re here today, to be seen, heard, and understood. Open your mind and your heart to a fellow human being!

My opening remarks would not be complete without a shout-out to my friend, collaborator, and hero, Angie Vredeveld. Angie can’t be here in the middle of the night, so I will tell you about this incredible human being with whom I have shared a 10-year journey of struggle, reward, frustration, accomplishment, caring, begging for money, explaining acid violence, and so much more.

She could tell it better, but in her absence, here’s the essence of the story: In 2014, Angie went to Uganda as part of a group of people who went to work for several weeks with refugees from all over.

After she had been there a while, the fact that she’s a clinical psychologist became known. A local person approached her: “You’re a counselor, right? I know someone who needs counseling. Can you meet with her?” Angie agreed, and went to meet Christine, a young woman who after being attacked with acid, had not stepped outside her house for 2 years. She and Angie talked, and eventually Christine walked through the front door. At a later meeting, she approached the street she lived on. Later, Christine and Angie walked together down that street. It was all very gradual and patient, a little at a time. Eventually, Christine asked Angie to go with her to the shopping mall! 

Angie didn’t set out to save the world, only to help one person. She wasn’t looking for a cause or something to do in her free time. Everything that she, we, have achieved flowed naturally from one person-to-person act of kindness.  

When Angie reached the end of her stay in Uganda, Christine had one request: “Angie, please don’t forget about me.” And Angie didn’t forget about her new friend. She went on to organize a yearlong stay with a family in the US for Christine. During that year, Christine underwent numerous surgeries, both functional and cosmetic. All of them were pro bono, provided by surgeons who were willing to donate their time to help one person.

It was a tremendous undertaking, and all the while, Angie kept thinking about how she could scale it so she could help more people, because Christine had told Angie about other acid attack survivors she had met while in the hospital in Uganda. Angie wanted to do more but knew that helping everyone at the same level as she had helped Christine was not realistic. In the spring of 2015, I hadn’t seen Angie for a while, so we met at a coffee shop in my neighborhood to talk and get caught up. She told me about how she had been spending her time and asked me if I wanted to help with a fundraiser to raise money for acid attack survivors. I said yes, one thing led to another, and 9 years later here I am in the middle of the night, talking to all of you about helping us realize a dream about passing a law that will help decrease the prevalence of acid attack in Uganda and provide help for survivors. 

I invite you to listen today. And talk. And approach this problem with open and creative minds. Help your fellow human beings. 

Thank you coming today and for joining our small family of people who care about acid attack survivors and the problems they face. Help us find solutions.

 

APRIL 2, 2024 —

Acid attack coverage starts at minute 35

 


 

MARCH 5, 2024 —

Please join us for another zoom call- Thursday, March 14 12pm-2pm EST where you will have the opportunity to hear more from Julie & Daniel about their experience with the law after being attacked with acid.  During our last zoom call, participants told us hearing from the survivors was the most meaningful part of the presentation, so we’re doing it again!  This will be an open-house, Q&A style presentation, so feel free to jump on & off the call when you are available.  (Zoom link & additional details coming soon.)

Here’s a clip from Daniel’s talk during the last presentation:


FEBRUARY 26, 2024 —

We are so excited to share that the launch of the report and stakeholder meetings are happening at Victoria Travel Hotel in Kampala, Uganda April 2-4!

April 2 will be the launch of the report, the situational analysis detailing results of our  research on acid violence in Uganda.  Johnson Owonda, the statistician who led the research, will present the results, along with Julie Bukirwa and Daniel Kasolo, acid attack survivors and co-founders of Beyond the Scars Initiative, who conducted most of the interviews.

April 3 & 4 will be the stakeholder meetings.  In these, Arnold Agaba, RISE’s Legal Advisor and Sibongile Phiri, RISE’s Legal Representative, will present the bill they have drafted to key stakeholders.  These stakeholders include members of the Ugandan parliament, police, medical personnel, and community leaders.  Stakeholders will provide feedback and help hone the bill prior to Arnold and Sibo officially presenting the bill to parliament.

This is a very exciting stage in the process for RISE!  We are so grateful to everyone at change.org who has supported us through this process.  We are going to need your continued support to pull this off, but more on that later.  For now, let’s celebrate our team in Uganda who has worked hard to organize and schedule these important meetings!

Please leave us a comment or question.  We’d love to hear from you!

Watch the recorded zoom presentation!

HTTPS://UCINCINNATI.ZOOM.US/REC/SHARE/MAO0USN0ZA-S9HNXORXJ9VNOZFB4WYOTPBZUJHRH9FZK5BT42MJ0PHCLYMIXKZJ_.OPJRKUXO4KRGN7ZU
PASSCODE: 464&$FE!

Hear from Bert Lockwood at the start

Hear from Angie Vredeveld at 7:15

Hear from Ellen Galloway at 14:00

Hear from Arnold Agaba at 22:19

Hear from Julie Bukirwa & Daniel Kasolo at 1:03:10

Hear from Sibo Phiri at 1:13:20


FEBRUARY 1, 2024–

 

 

TO JOIN VIA ZOOM:
The Meeting ID is: 979 1233 8151
The passcode is: 863758

JANUARY 12, 2024–

We are very excited to be gearing up for the launch of the Situational Analysis (the big report we’ve been working on that summarizes our findings from the data collection with interviews of acid attack survivors.)  The launch will involve the presentation of our findings to members of Parliament in Uganda and we’re planning to live stream the event so you all can attend!

As we move into this next phase of getting a law against acid attacks in Uganda, we want to introduce you to members of the RISE team who have been working so hard to make this a reality!

Arnold Agaba (pictured left) is a doctoral candidate at McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law.  After his undergraduate training in Uganda, he received an LLM with a focus on international law and human rights from the University of Cincinnati’s LLM (master of laws) program in 2016.  It was while living in Cincinnati and attending UC’s LLM program that Arnold first met Angie.  He previously headed the department of law and jurisprudence at Kampala International University and taught law in several institutions, including his alma mater Uganda Christian University.  Arnold will be spearheading the launch of the report and meetings with members of the Ugandan Parliament.

Dr. Angie Vredeveld (pictured middle) is a clinical psychologist who founded Immigration Psychology Services in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Although she had been to Uganda twice before, it was her work with immigrants and refugees that took her to Uganda in 2014, and this is when she first met an acid attack survivor.  After getting back to the US, Angie was contacted by many other Ugandan acid attack survivors to ask for assistance.  Angie then reached out to her friend, Ellen, for help.  Together, they formed RISE.

Ellen Galloway (pictured right) is a professional writer-editor.  She retired from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ellen has done healthcare-related work in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Uganda. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Miami University and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Cincinnati.

There’s one other key person in this equation:

Dr. Bert Lockwood (pictured above) is the Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the renowned Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.  Founded in 1979, the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the University of Cincinnati College of Law is the oldest program for the study of international human rights law.  Well-known for its editing of Human Rights Quarterly (The John Hopkins University Press), the Morgan Institute places law students in summer human rights externships with human rights organizations around the world.  Through the law college’s LLM program, a number of highly talented lawyers spend a year studying at Cincinnati and have the opportunity to engage with the Morgan Institute. 

After Angie let Professor Lockwood know about her work with acid attack survivors, he invited her to give a presentation to the LLM students that year (2016,) knowing that several were Ugandan born and may be interested in this work.  It was through this presentation that Angie and Arnold first met.  Since that time, Professor Lockwood and the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights has advised Arnold and Angie in the important work they are doing in Uganda.  Pictured below is Professor Lockwood meeting up with Angie, Arnold, and acid attack survivors in Uganda in 2017.

As you can see, this project has been in the works for a long time!  We are so pleased that this group of wonderful people have been able to team up to do our best to make a law against acid attacks in Uganda a reality!


DECEMBER 30, 2023–

Law as an agent for social change

During the last three decades, values of justice, equality as well as dignity and sanctity of human life have been entrenched within legislative framework of Uganda. Particularly since the 1995 Constitution and associated generation of laws, judicial bodies of Uganda have progressively established social and welfare reforms like the right of women to own land (Best Kemigishga v Mable Komuntale), the duty of government to provide access to health care (CEHURD v Attorney General of Uganda), or the empowerment of at-risk communities like minors and persons with disability (Perez Mwase v Buyede District Local Government) among others.

Law is most effective in transforming social relations when it:

  • Specifies the scope of the problem
  • Targets the root of the problem
  • Articulates its reforms

Research from countries like Bangladesh indicate that the rate of vitriolage will significantly reduce if legislation criminalizes the use of acid to inflict pain, suffering or damage; stiffens penalties for illegal use of acid; and/or requires commercial vendors and users to apply stricter processes and standards of sale, acquisition and storage of acid.

India, Cambodia and Pakistan have passed anti-vitriolage legislation but have not recorded the same success as Bangladesh.  This appears to be because Bangladesh’s law addressed the above mentioned factors.  Therefore, the legislation we are proposing seeks to: (1)
introduce the specific criminal offense of, and penalties for, attack with acid, (2)
create a system for licensing commercial vendors to sale acid, (3) create regulations
for the sale, storage and tracking of distribution of acid, (4) create a Victims
Compensation Fund for the victims of acid attacks paid for through penalties paid by
the perpetrators or vendors and consumers that do not follow the regulations on sale
and storage of acid, and (5) require all public and private hospitals to provide free
first aid or medical treatment to acid attack victims and to immediately report the
incident to the police.

References
1. Welsh, J. (2009). “It was like burning in hell”: a comparative exploration of
acid attack violence, (Doctoral dissertation, The University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill).
2. Young, R.C., Ho, W.S., Ying, S.Y. & Burd, A. (2002). Chemical assaults in Hong
Kong: a 10 year review. Burns, 28(7), 651-3.
3. Best Kemigishga v Mable Komuntale [HCSS NO 5 OF 1998]
4. CEHURD v Attorney General of Uganda (Constitutional Petition No 16 of
2011).
5. CEHURD, Perez Mwase & 2 ors v Buyede District Local Government &
Attorney General of Uganda (HCT Civil Suit No 135 of 2017).


OCTOBER 10, 2023–

Our teams have been working hard to complete the Situational Analysis, a comprehensive report on the situation of acid violence in Uganda.  As we work to complete it, we wanted to share some more information with you so you are kept up to speed on our progress!

Results obtained from interviews with survivors are split into four categories: Basic Demographic Information, Medical, Legal and Vocational. The report addresses services survivors have received and services which survivors reported are lacking.  Results from the report will help inform the bill we propose to Parliament regarding a specific law against acid attacks in Uganda.  Results will also inform decisions regarding ways to improve medical care and vocational rehabilitation services for survivors in Uganda.  The report will also address how laws against acid attacks have impacted rates of acid violence in other countries and why we think a law against acid attacks is key to prevention of acid violence in Uganda.

The lead researcher/PI for the project is Johnson Owonda Komagum.  He led research teams of acid attack survivors, coordinating the interviewing of more than 150 survivors across Uganda.  Johnson is a statistician and monitoring and evaluation officer with several years of experience working with NGO’s in Uganda.  He wrote the situational analysis which is currently under revision.

Read the full newsletter

 

 


Learn more here: Why Uganda needs a law against acid attacks

 

 

5 thoughts on “Legal Initiatives

  1. God bless all those who helping Acid Attack survivors. It was good to watch Daniel and Julie dance. I hope your fight for a law against acid attacks be successful. It is hard to understand how such a thing can happen. Acid attacks are so cruel.

    1. I am so proud to be a supporter of RISE! I am thrilled that all went well at the 3 day event, and to see Daniel and Julie dancing warmed my heart! It was beautiful to see!
      God bless all of you for your love, hard work, and perseverance in making your dream come true! I am in awe of you and your passion for helping the victims of such cruel attacks.

  2. God is good! The ultimate victory is ahead for all your hard work! The power of prayer is at work as well! My thoughts and prayers go out to you all every day! God bless!!

  3. Thank you for this!
    Very happy to see the people who are behind this wonderful organization. Thank you for all of your hard work, and keeping the public updated on all that you do and who you’ve help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *