Children on the Edge Africa is at the forefront of efforts to lobby the Ugandan parliament to tackle child sacrifice through the legal system. We ask CEO Winnie Biira about progress so far...
I didn’t think this happened any more?
Child sacrifice has emerged as a horrifying form of child abuse in Uganda. In the past decade, sacrifice of children in Uganda has been cited by the media, police and Government of Uganda as a major child protection concern. Police records continue to highlight numerous cases of child sacrifice in the country. The media in Uganda is also awash with stories of gruesome murders on young, innocent children committed for various reasons.
Why does it happen?
A study carried out by Uganda Child Rights NGO Network (UCRNN) with support from Children on the Edge, showed how the practice is rooted in a number of socio-economic and cultural factors as well as traditional beliefs that the ritual murder or mutilation of children can bring health, wealth and good fortune. Children are more likely to fall victims to sacrifice compared to adults, because they are more easily lured and believed to be “pure”. Adults drawn to the practice are tricked into believing that the purity of child makes the ritual more powerful.
Why is the law not working?
Currently, human sacrifice cases in Uganda are prosecuted as murder under the Penal Code Act. These cases have a very unique nature, so the offence of murder is not sufficient to deal with the practice. For example a child could be kidnapped for sacrifice but get away, or could be mutilated but still live, and there is no law to deal with the severity of that crime. Sadly this results in perpetrators committing crimes with relative impunity. A statement from Uganda Police Force in 2015 showed how 87 cases of child sacrifice were registered over eight years nationwide, but only 23 were put before the High Court and only two people were convicted!
What needs to change?
This crime needs to be represented as an offence within its own right and sentences need to be strict, stringent and non-negotiable. Associated crimes need to be explicitly identified and processes put in place to facilitate effective investigation. This will lead to an increase in successful prosecutions and should deter those involved in the crime. Our work is consequently geared at strengthening legislation to prevent and prohibit human sacrifice and harmful practices.
What has been achieved so far?
It’s been a lot of work and a hugely complex journey, but I will describe some of the milestones…
At the start, Children on the Edge Africa worked with a group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to engage the ‘Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children’ to draft a Bill to end Human Sacrifice in Uganda. It’s called ‘The Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice and other Traditional Harmful Practices Bill, 2017’.
Through 2016 we worked with the police, the media and traditional healers, looking at how cases are dealt with and promoting a petition to ensure witch doctors do not advertise through the media. In 2017, through work with UCRNN, we focussed on gaining testimonies from survivors and families and Honorable Atiku Bernard introduced a private members bill for the Act.
In 2018, World Vision Uganda spearheaded community consultative meetings in the law making process in Nakasongola, Buikwe, Busia and Rakai and by September 2018 with support from Children on The Edge Africa and Save the Children, a benchmark trip was made to Tanzania to research their legal approach to tackling human sacrifice. Shortly after this further consultations were facilitated, aiding in the improvement and momentum of the bill with MPs.
What is happening with the bill now?
Further refinements have been made this year and currently the bill is being reviewed by the Director of the Legal department of Parliament to make it ready for a Judges meeting in July. It has been a busy few years but we feel now we are very close to the first reading and the Bill making its way through parliament to become law.
Running concurrently with this national work, Children on the Edge Africa is rolling out of a community based model of eradicating child sacrifice incidents. Through voluntary Child Protection Teams, a simple method of community safety and awareness is established. After a pilot scheme stopped all abductions in Masese II slum, this model has been replicated in four further communities surrounding Jinja with excellent results.
Find out more about our work in Uganda.
On the 20th June each year, the world commemorates the strength, courage, and resilience of millions of refugees. Around the world more than 50 million people have fled their homes, and over half of these are children.
The refugee children we work with in Lebanon, Bangladesh and Myanmar all show great strength, courage and resilience every day, surviving in some of the toughest places around the world. On World Refugee Day 2019, we wanted to take the time to share some of their thoughts and experiences.
Each year, our flagship fundraising event, the Chichester Half Marathon Event raises thousands of pounds for our work with vulnerable children around the world.
We organise the event in partnership with Everyone Active and it's only possible with the kind support of our local sponsors Store Property and Montezuma's Chocolate. We've been running the event for the past seven years, and all proceeds from the race go to support our work. The event has raised over £120,000 so far!
All our runners, just by entering the race, are supporting Children on the Edge. But for those who want to go the extra mile, we encourage them to raise money for us as they run.
This year, we're looking for 100 runners to raise £100 for our work with refugee children as part of our Run for Refugees Team. Could you join our Team?
Only 13.4% of Ugandan children are enrolled in pre-primary education. This drops to 6.7% or children from the poorest households. Primary completion rate has declined from 60 per cent in 2001–2005 to about 55 per cent in 2011–2015. Save the Children state that one in four families cannot afford to visit a health facility or buy medication and 29% of children under five suffer stunting.
Half the population in Uganda are under 15 years old (the world average is 27%). Human Rights Watch estimate that over 56% of Uganda’s 37 million people are under the age of 18 and are the single largest demographic group living in poverty. UNICEF Uganda estimate that 55% of children aged 0–4 in Uganda live in poverty and 24% live in extreme poverty.
Why work in Jinja?
Slum communities surrounding Jinja in Eastern Uganda face a myriad of challenges. Located on the eastern bank of the Nile, around 20,000 people are crowded into eight slum areas.
As a result of the construction of the Owen Falls Dam (a hydroelectric power station) the presence of a railway line to Kenya (Uganda Railways Corporation) and the access to lake waters, Jinja initially grew into a premier industrial hub. However, during the political instability under the presidency of Idi Amin (1971-79) much of its economic base collapsed and the area was left with widespread unemployment and poverty.
Like all local governments in Uganda, Jinja depends heavily on the central government for revenues, but the funds are rarely enough to pay for the staff and services necessary to keep up with growth. In the slum areas, this has resulted in endemic poverty, destructive livelihoods, poor hygiene and sanitation. Crime rates are high and there is a lack of access to rights and services.
Women around Jinja are particularly at risk, with a prevalence of HIV/AIDS resulting in single mother, child and grandparent headed households. High levels of alcoholism often lead to domestic violence and abuse.
Child sacrifice has become a growing problem in Uganda. The practice is rooted in traditional beliefs, and a number of socio-economic and cultural factors (poverty, weak legislation and poor parenting) have been put forth by analysts to explain the sudden increase in its occurrence. Specific legislation and grassroots awareness and training is needed to eradicate the problem.
All these challenges have led to unsafe environments for children, leaving them vulnerable to maltreatment, neglect, exploitation and child sacrifice. Facing these problems for years, the hard-pressed communities around Jinja have struggled against a growing sense of apathy and a lack of hope to see change.
We talk to four teachers working in Kutupalong refugee camp about how they tackle three of the hardest teaching challenges. Meet Tajina, Toslina, Panua Dey and Sanjil.
Challenge 1: Engaging children through child friendly learning
Challenge 2: Encouraging confidence and creativity
Challenge 3: Dealing with trauma and a tough living situation