The project “Freedom is being Present” is proposed to serve a community of Structurally Excluded women in Malaba, Eastern Uganda – border of Uganda and Kenya. ArtVism has a regional art studio in this place and from our experience working here, the structurally excluded women we serve will benefit from having space to reflect on their lives and experiences, and contemplate what needs to be done to challenge their undesirable status quo. Many of the women in this area grapple with issues of rape, sexual exploitation, belittling, and discrimination at health facilities among others. All these cause them mental distress which they need to unload. We thus propose creation of re-affirmation spaces where women can come, relax and reflect individually. The spaces will be with affirming words, a mirror, and a couch for the much-needed rest that such women never get. These spaces will also have a professional therapist in case any issues arise from self-reflection and meditation from the re-affirmation spaces. We propose a mental health camping retreat for 5 days for 15 women for sharing of experiences and rebooting. We also propose Yoga at our Malaba art studio. At the end of the two years, we expect to have had at least 50 women participate in the re-affirmation spaces, at least 150 women participate in Yoga and 15 women participate in the mental health camping retreat.

Organization implementing the project

ArtVism is an arts’ organization for structurally excluded women in Uganda that was founded by a feminist woman, after consultations with other like-minded women about the shrinking space for women’s organizing at the time. The organisation was registered in June 2017. Most of the structurally excluded women then organized within “mainstream men’s organisations. The challenges they encountered in such spaces were insurmountable. Women needed a space for them to meaningfully engage and advocate for gender equality with minimal – if any – limitations to do with power struggles and structures. The organisation is based in Kampala (Uganda) but works with women in many other districts in the country. ArtVism uses art forms including poetry, photography, painting, short stories, and crafts to advance the rights of women in Uganda. We consider art, in addition to its aesthetic quality, to be a powerful advocacy tool because of its ability to subtly pass on message(s) that would otherwise be resented. ArtVism is a feminist organisation, and all members if the organisation are artists working to use their art for
the social justice cause.

The organisation works under four main thematic areas (as per the strategic plan 2019-2023); Women, art and human rights, Economic Justice, Mental Health and SRHR, Art and Climate Justice, and Research and documentation.