Building on the success of the current project in Soweto Slum, Uganda, we have been invited to work alongside our current local partner, implementing similar schemes in two larger neighbouring communities, where children are enduring extreme hardship. Like Soweto was three years ago, Wandago is caught in cycles of poverty compounded by destructive livelihoods and alcohol dependency.
Wandago is deemed to be one of the poorest villages in the region with the worst health and education records. The area has extremely poor hygiene levels, malnutrition, infant deaths and a high mortality rate.
The village is positioned between two sugar cane plantations and eight out of every ten households are engaged in the expansive illegal alcohol distilling business. Workers at the plantations are exploited, paid a very low wage and forced to work long hours doing heavy work. Child labour here is rife as children are used to cut and carry the heavy sugar cane.
Children in this area are at huge risk. A high rate of HIV (including many infected children) has resulted in a large number of orphans and grandmother headed households. 60% of children are out of school and, largely because of a busy main road running through the centre of Wandago, these children are vulnerable to child trafficking and child sacrifice.
With no safe places to go in the community, another issue here is the number of young girls getting pregnant. As they wander around with nothing to do and no parental care, they are extremely vulnerable to the approaches of men and sexual abuse. Even for those attending school, a high proportion fall pregnant before they complete primary level seven and most community members simply view this as a normal practice.
Unsurprisingly, due to the amount of abuse, young girls here have increasingly low self esteem, further heightening the danger of their exploitation. A group of men from Kampala regularly visit the community and take young girls to Kampala, trafficking them as sex slaves.
What we’ve done so far
In the community of Wandago we will be working with our local partners to further establish the Community Child Protection Committee. We will then move on to the development of a Child Friendly Space providing education, nutrition and play in each area. Finally we will then focus on agriculture, sustainable livelihood schemes and vocational training for young people. All these activities will have an overarching focus on early childhood development, child protection and empowering women.
These projects will enable communities to take responsibility for their own environment, creating a safer place for children where their needs are met and rights protected. All the components will work together to provide children in Wandago with the opportunities, skills and support that will enable them to develop into healthy adults that can enter into constructive livelihoods and achieve their potential.
We look forward to updating you on our progress.
Photo courtesy of AJ Heath Photography