The 2018 theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress, with the organisers of the movement describing how “While we know that gender parity won't happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day…there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support”.
The UNDP Gender Assessment in Uganda states that “Attitudes, beliefs and practices that serve to exclude women are still deeply entrenched throughout the country. This means that unbalanced power relations between men and women continue to have a negative impact on women's agency, their human capital development, and their ability to contribute equitably to Uganda's growth and prosperity”.
Our local partners in Uganda have a strong focus on ensuring opportunities for women. Many women are involved in the running of the Child Protection Teams, which form the foundation of the work here, in a number of slum communities, mainly around Jinja. The teams deliver training on a myriad of issues, enabling local people to create a protective environment for their children. Workshops also include family planning, women’s rights and domestic violence.
COTE Africa Team member Winnie Biira says “The women and girls have become aware of their rights and have built up their self esteem and confidence to the point that they are bold enough to report domestic violence cases and child abuse cases to the authorities. This boldness I am certain will bring change to the communities and the world at large”. Social worker Nandawula Babra adds how “For battered women, I link them to different public offices which support women in need and train them on their rights. I know they can stand up for their rights if they are properly empowered”.
A recent report by UN Women stated that only 49% of women in Uganda make their own decisions about regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care. In Loco slum, Project Manager Edwin Wannabe describes how “…there can be a cycle of poverty and problems that follow families from one generation to the next. A child of a child mother is therefore more likely to become a child mother as well, and experience issues similar to the ones their mothers had. Additionally, once a girl is a child mother, she is more likely to experience more unplanned pregnancies since many child mothers are not financially independent and rely on relationships for support”.
Children on the Edge Africa has enabled 16 young mothers to attend a pilot programme that trains these them in hairdressing skills and financial management, whilst teaching on reproductive health and family planning. With these components, those involved are able to learn about finance and business, be encouraged in empowering themselves and other women and girls in the community, as well as becoming aware of preventative measures for unplanned pregnancies.
The majority of our hundreds of small business loans in Uganda go to women who are able to build a solid income and consequently afford to send their children to school. Winnie Mutesi is 25, and had finished senior level four at school, and completed a course in pharmacy and production before she moved to Nkere. After moving she was unable to find a job and her husband was often away fishing, leaving her unable to provide for herself and her two children.
After receiving a loan from Children on the Edge Africa, Winnie was able to begin her own pharmacy business in her home. She started by purchasing tablets, injections and some basic first aid equipment from the main pharmacy in Jinja, and now effectively treats up to five clients a week for illnesses such as malaria and typhoid. She also offers first aid to those who need it, and charges a small fee for treatment, which enables her to invest in further items.
Winnie loves helping people and has become well known in her community. Her fees are far cheaper than treatment would cost at the health centre, people respect her and are grateful and appreciative of her work. She recently spoke to the drug inspector who told her to find somewhere permanent to work from, so she is currently saving any extra money she makes to try and rent a small shop in a nearby market community. With time, she would like to do more training and gain further certification. Winnie’s ultimate dream is to become a nurse.
Children from the Child Rights Club we support in Loco slum, Uganda have recently organised a clean up day in their area, inspiring the adults to join in and attracting other children to the club.
30 children from the Club, based in the Ugandan Railways Primary School and supported by Children on the Edge Africa, came up with the idea when they created their Club’s work plan at the start of the year.
After they decided they wanted to have a day to spruce the area, Children on the Edge provided some equipment, and the Loco Child Protection Team also bought shovels along, with a few of the team members helping out on the day. The area was swept and tidied, with rubbish being gathered and burnt.
Ashwin Ndlovu, who is currently out in Uganda supporting the development of the team’s Monitoring and Evaluation said ‘They were so organised and enthusiastic. They all put on their child rights T-shirts, and the girl that was leading it was brilliant. She was very confident, and went around to people’s houses, talking to adults about children’s rights and what the Child Rights Club does”.
One member of the Child Rights Club lives in a neighbouring community, but he came to Loco to help his team members clean their community and share information with parents about child rights. He said “I don’t live here, but I came to help as children have the right to live in a clean environment”. A few more children followed along, asking how they could join as they were inspired by what the other children were sharing.
After the cleaning was done, they went back to the Primary School for some porridge and a workshop led by the children themselves. They sat outside and talked about how to stay safe from abuse, chatting about situations they have been through and what they find difficult.
They talked freely with our social worker Babra, and the patron of the Child Rights Club, saying that they find it harder to talk to their teachers. One girl said ‘My Stepmother gives me all the clothes and I do the laundry by myself. She doesn’t ask her own children to do this, and I have to wait until the other children finish their meal each day and eat the leftovers”.
The children were glad to be able to talk, and also shared some positive comments about the project. They talked about how much they like to play in the new Loco playground outside the Early Childhood Development Centre, when all they used to do was go to Jinja town to pick up scrap.
Watch this space to see what new ideas the Child Rights Club comes up with this year, and find out more about the wider project here.
Children from Wandago have been telling us about the challenges they face in their area. Read about what needs to change, and how you can help.
16 mothers in Loco slum, Uganda have been part of a new scheme to help them generate income to look after themselves and their children, and learn for the future.
Despite progress being made in Loco to improve the lives of vulnerable children, ‘child mothers’ (those under 18 years old) struggle with the responsibilities of being a parent whilst having to care for themselves. Programme Director of Children on the Edge Africa, Edwin Wanabe says “When they became pregnant, these girls were still children in their own right, they are consequently ill-prepared for a life of motherhood while they are still growing up”.
Children on the Edge Africa have started a pilot programme that trains these young mothers in hairdressing skills and financial management, whilst teaching on reproductive health and family planning. With these components, those involved are able to learn about finance and business, be encouraged in empowering themselves and other women and girls in the community, as well as becoming aware of preventative measures for unplanned pregnancies.
Edwin describes how, when these issues go unaddressed, …”there can be a cycle of poverty and problems that follow families from one generation to the next. A child of a child mother is therefore more likely to become a child mother as well, and experience issues similar to the ones their mothers had. Additionally, once a girl is a child mother, she is more likely to experience more unplanned pregnancies since many child mothers are not financially independent and rely on relationships for support”.
Of the 32 young mothers that were identified as needing support in Loco, only half of them can currently afford to attend the course, and those that do attend rely on others to help them pay the fee. With funding and a free venue enabling a low fee, it costs only 60 pence per training session, but the extent of poverty in the area still makes this a struggle for some. An entire six month course to train as a hairdresser and receive all the additional support and advice costs around £40.
Training sessions are held in our Early Childhood Development Centre and, in addition to the hairdressing programme, our Child Protection Teams (CPTs) in the community also support these mothers through their focus on preventing childhood abuse and neglect. The CPT also work in partnership with the local Village Health Team who monitor the overall health of the community.
The scheme serves as a source of restoring hope and dignity, especially where abuse has occurred. When interviewed, all of the participants said they enjoy the program and would like to work in a salon one day or manage a salon of their own.
Find out more about our work in Uganda, and if you would like to support it, simply click the donate button below.
20 children from Uganda Railways Primary School in Loco community have volunteered to be part of a Child Rights Club, to learn about their rights (as laid out in the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child), how to promote them and how to advocate for both themselves and the other children in their area.
“They will be the eyes, ears and mouths of the voiceless children in their school and community” said COTE Africa social worker Nandawula Babra.
The Headteacher from the Primary School helped to form the group and also appointed a ‘patron’ from the teaching staff to guide and support them as they train and plan their activities.
The group, (consisting of 14 girls and 6 boys) had their first workshop last month, which was facilitated by Noah Namwano from Child Restoration Outreach in Jinja. The session covered a broad understanding of what a child rights are, what the Convention for the Rights of the Child is and what kind of activities the club will be involved with.
The children will be choosing these activities based on the four themes of survival, development, protection and participation. Through these activities they will be contributing to the reduction of violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking in the community.
The day after this workshop, another Child Rights Club session was held, together with teachers, to focus on child protection. The children were invited to discuss the issue of corporal punishment at school, giving examples of their experiences, feelings and opinions on how discipline could be improved.
The teachers were very responsive to these ideas, and the session went on to discuss child exploitation. Children were asked to identify perpetrators and came up with a full list of those they feel pose a danger. Facilitator Noah Namwano said “I am so pleased with the participation from the children. It just shows they have something to say, and they are just looking for the opportunity to express their concerns”.
They went on to look at different forms of exploitation and what can be done to stop it. Many of the children were surprised, as some realised through this discussion that are regularly subjected to exploitative activities in the areas. The Child Rights Club will be meeting again in the next few weeks to look at leadership and planning.
Watch this space to see their progress and find out more about our work in Uganda!
As we near the end of our first year of Loco’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre in Uganda, we’re delighted to hear that Haileybury Youth Trust (HYT) who constructed the building to such a high standard last summer, has been awarded an Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.
This time last year, we'd just returned from our first ever playscheme in Loco slum, Uganda. We began working with this community in January 2016 and last years' playscheme was a way for us to introduce ourselves to the local community. We organised a week of activities with the COTE Africa team for local children, and we returned in May 2017 to do the same again.
Our staff and volunteers have just returned from this years' playscheme and were blown away by the transformation from last year. Sarah Collinson who ran the playscheme with the help of three The Body Shop at Home volunteers, said:
"This years playscheme showed us how much progress is happening week by week in Loco. The work of our Child Protection Teams, the new Early Childhood Development Centre offering education to the most vulnerable young children, and the work of all the COTE Africa staff has made such a huge difference compared to just a year ago. This was particularly clear in how quickly the children adapted to games and lessons; treated each other with kindness; and showed vital awareness about keeping safe and clean. This is a testament to all the training and support that is going on behind the scenes for the past year".
In January 2016, the people in Loco said they had no hope. Unemployment and income poverty had left households vulnerable and their children were prone to exploitation, malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse. The Chairman of our Child Protection Team (CPT) in Loco, said “People here have had many organisations come and start things and then go, promise things and then disappoint, they didn’t believe things could change”.
But ten local people were trained up to work in their area as part of the CPT, to educate people about child protection and support them to create a protective environment. A year on we have the full participation of local people, not only the CPT volunteers but also parents getting involved with education, mothers creating new businesses to pay for their children to go to school and local services engaging with the Loco community to create a better environment for children. We also built a brand new Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD) to offer early years education for some of the most vulnerable children in the community.
The Chairman of the CPT now describes how “People see workshops, they see a team that deals with their problems, they see a drop in domestic violence and crime, they see their children on a playscheme and a new Early Childhood Development Centre being built, and it gives them hope. These things have never happened in Loco. Hope is knowing things can change”.
The transformation in the community was obvious at this year's playscheme. For example, the children were much better behaved than last year, where we saw a lot of competition for toys and activities between the children. But this year, the older children were looking out for the younger children on the playscheme, ensuring they were safe and able to take part in the activities fairly.
Last year, serious health problems emerged in the community during the playscheme, and our team adapted the activities to include a full day’s training on health and hygiene with songs about hand washing and puppet shows on keeping clean and safe from illness. This year, it was clear that health and hygiene are now fully engrained with the children who understand why this is so important. The children are now quick to wash their hands before eating their daily porridge; running to the queue at the tap to wash meticulously with soap whilst singing "this is the way we wash our hands" song.
Other aspects of sanitation had also vastly improved this year. All the children understood the importance of using the bathroom facilities and made sure they washed their hands after going to the toilet. This is something that ECD Centre staff take very seriously, checking the children as they leave the toilet and sending them back to wash their hands if they aren't wet!
Sarah said: "The COTE Africa Team are running another playscheme in December, and I know they are going to see more signs of transformation with the children. Things change so quickly when the community work together and as our other work, like the education loans get more and more established, everyone is looking forward to see the difference made in Loco".
Read more about our work in Uganda
Read more about this years' playscheme
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