From Victims to Leaders in Uganda


This story of change is the first in a five-part series exploring the role of transitional justice in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 16 on peace, justice, and inclusion and related goals on gender and inequality. For more information on our work to advance SDG 16 and related goals, see the recommendations of the Working Group on Transitional Justice and SDG 16+. 

Read the other stories in the series:

Working with civil society to support women victims as they become changemakers

When Janet Arach was still a schoolgirl, she was abducted by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda. During her eight years in captivity, she was forced to marry an LRA rebel and gave birth to two children. Janet and her children, like other women survivors and their children born in captivity, were stigmatized for their connection to the crimes the LRA had committed during the conflict, and suffered emotional and financial hardship as a result. Janet had difficulty meeting her children’s needs and her own, and the children themselves faced widespread scorn from the community.

Following their trauma, Janet found the strength to fight for justice for them and their children. They also inspired and supported other girls and women to do the same. Janet is one of the co-founders and co-directors of Watye Ki Gen, a nonprofit organization established by formerly abducted women who were concerned about their children born in captivity and the stigma they faced in their communities. Watye Ki Gen works alongside other groups founded by formerly abducted women, such as the Women’s Advocacy Network (WAN), which advocates for social justice and economic security for themselves and their children born of conflict and helps its members become self-sufficient and engaged citizens.

Janet’s story is featured in a powerful short film, “I Am Not Who They Think I Am,” exploring the experiences of children born of wartime sexual violence in northern Uganda, and their mothers. The film, produced by the ICTJ, has been used as a tool to increase awareness of, and empathy for, these women and children. In collaboration with Watye Ki Gen and WAN, the film was launched in emotional public events in Kampala and Gulu bringing together survivors, victims,  politicians, media, civil society representatives, professors, and students.

“We thought if we came together and shared our challenges with each other, then we would be able to share the burden among ourselves,” Stella, of WAN and also a protagonist of "I Am Not Who They Think I Am," explained. “When a woman has all the things she needs for her wellbeing, no man can fool her or take advantage of her. She will be empowered.”

PHOTO: Janet Arach, co-founder and co-director of Watye Ki Gen, a nonprofit organization in Uganda that works to support formerly abducted women and their children born in captivity (Marta Martinez/ICTJ).