After their first Community clean up campaign in Loco, Uganda, the Child Rights Club here have been inspiring and training hundreds of other children around Jinja.
Two more clubs have been launched in the last year, one in Masese I and the latest in Wandago. Clubs are given regular workshops on rights, responsibilities, how to work hand-in-hand with local Child Protection Teams and how to prevent instances of child labour, exploitation and abuse. They then take their training out to a wider audience of children in their communities.
Here’s four examples of the clubs in action and the kind of difference they are starting to make.
1. Training friends on staying safe
Loco and Masese I clubs have facilitated workshops for 260 children on what their rights are as children, but also their responsibilities (like helping at home, keeping their communities clean and reporting any instances of abuse to the Child Protection Teams).
After the workshop in Masese I, the community children felt more protected, as before no adult took time to listen to their views”.
Whereas children’s rights in the UK are guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children in Uganda are under the jurisdiction of The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
Whilst most articles express the same values, there are a few nuances, one of the most significant being that in the African charter, each right has a corresponding responsibility.
Many argue this represents a valuable addition to the international human rights agenda, encouraging children at age-appropriate levels to play a role at family, community, national and continental levels, developing their confidence, responsibility and citizenship as they mature.
One representative said, “We chose to talk about the children's responsibilities because they are about to have school holidays yet some children do not want to help their parents with chores thinking it's their rights”.
Nassali is a Child Rights Club member and helped with the workshops.
3. Working with schools and helping children to access education
Loco Child Rights Club have been working with their local primary school to address instances of physical punishment, creating a healthy working relationship with their teachers and suggesting more appropriate forms of discipline.
Umuru shared a story of how he and the club worked to enable a friend who had dropped out of school to return to education. This resulted not only in her return, but passing her primary exams and receiving a bursary to start secondary school.
“Whoever knew that my friend would do all these things! I am grateful that as a Child Rights Club member I have had a positive impact in someone’s life".
4. Campaigning for children
The keynote speech was delivered by a member of Masese I Child Rights Club (see video) who said:
“As we celebrate today, many children out there are going through different forms of abuse both physical and emotional.
It is estimated that 13.5 million African children have been displaced from their homes through conflicts, climate change and poverty. This figure does not capture orphans and vulnerable children. Meaning more effort is needed to address the issues affecting children...
....I would like to call upon all of us here present at Buwere primary school to become ambassadors of child rights in our respective communities. Let us put children’s rights first in whatever we do”.
Working with local organisation YIDA, we are supporting 30 communities to replicate our model of best practice, ensuring high quality, cost-effective Early Childhood Development provision for their children.
Our International Director Rachel Bentley spent some time with the team here in late June and said "It has only just started with training underway and centres that need upgrading but it shows such promise, with real community engagement and ownership already...Despite the many challenges including the potential risk of Ebola the people I met in Kyaka II still have hope for the future of their children".
In addition to the threat of Ebola, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is getting progressively worse with horrific reports of rape, kidnappings and violence displacing 300,000 people in a two week period. Consequently, Kyaka II (already hosting 94,000) is expecting another 30-40,000 arrivals in the next few months. There is already a shortage of funding and many organisations involved are even smaller than us.
Despite these challenges, the initial programme is running brilliantly with the impact of teacher training already making a difference and the Centre Management Committees (groups of local refugees taking ownership of the centres) almost fully trained. We will be starting community led refurbishments of the centres once the training has finished.
UNHCR and the Camp Commander (who represents the office of the Ugandan Prime Minister) are so impressed with what they have seen they have already asked us to double what we're doing. Whilst we are aiming to cover 30 communities, this is still only half of the need. At a multi agency coordination meeting our programme was held up as an example of how to engage and empower local people.
This is now a vital time for us to raise funds so we can provide quality and creative learning spaces for an estimated 4,000 young Congolese refugee children, who are lacking Early Childhood Development provision that is so crucial to any child, let alone those fleeing such violence and trauma.
We have full confidence in the programme, our partners and huge gratitude for those donors who have enabled this work to get off to a flying start. What we need now is a strong investment for the future, so we can extend our work into as many communities as possible in Kyaka II.
If you would like to donate towards our early years refugee work in Kyaka II one way to do this is through our appeal with The Big Give in December, the UK’s biggest online matched giving platform.
Every donation you make will be doubled through our Big Give appeal and we are hoping to raise £30,000.
Please get in touch with us at email@example.com and we will send you more details of when and how you can give as the appeal approaches.
Seeing investment in action inspires a month of record breaking fundraising from The Body Shop at Home
Ben, our Executive Director, visited Jinja with Suzanne, Jade, Louise and Lauren - supporters from The Body Shop at Home. They visited the five communities we work with , to see the difference that The Body Shop at Home are making through their dedicated, year round generosity of their consultants and customers.
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.
Children on the margins in Uganda
Despite reducing national poverty rates over the last decade, DFID estimate that 63% of Uganda’s population are either living in poverty or at risk of falling back below the poverty line. High population growth rates have a negative impact on economic growth and create challenges for education and health services. Over 700,000 young people enter the labour market each year with few job opportunities.
Only 13.4% of Ugandan children are enrolled in pre-primary education. This drops to 6.7% or children from the poorest households.
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.
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.
Despite their struggles, the bulk of international aid, development funding and media focus is concentrated on the refugee influx and areas of deprivation in the north. Many refugees entering over the country’s northern border have ended up migrating to the slums around Jinja, as well as a sizeable movement of Karamajong people into one of the poorer villages. Rural people are also migrating to these areas in high numbers, only to find there is a lack of the housing and income opportunities they hoped for. This has created a growing sprawl of unplanned settlements surrounding the city.
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.
Kyaka II refugee settlement, close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has approximately 700 new arrivals each week over 65% of which are children. Having fled armed conflict, ebola, and horrific human rights abuses, many suffer extreme trauma as a result of witnessing the brutality of war and displacement. They face serious child protection risks and have nowhere safe to go during the day.
The youngest refugee children need support
A number of NGOs are providing primary education in Kyaka II, but early years education provision is limited for the youngest children, at a vital time in their development. Our assessment showed a need for up to 30 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres across 30 communities within the settlement.
In these communities, local people are doing the best they can to provide early years learning, but provision and resources are variable at best. While some communities are doing well, with Centres in a relatively good state of repair, others have non-existent provision and broken down venues that are not fit for purpose. Many Centres lack consistent quality teacher training, or well established community ownership. Without this, trained teachers have no incentive to use their training locally, and leave to find jobs in other areas of Uganda, and communities have no support or resources to maintain provision.
Resourcing communities to provide early years education
Through training and targeted resourcing, we aim to support 30 refugee communities in Kyaka II camp, to replicate our model of best practice, ensuring high quality, cost effective ECD for their children.
A protracted civil war ending in 2003 gave way to sporadic bursts of fighting, mainly in the Eastern areas of the country. A new surge of violence then broke out from 2016 in the Kasai region, which covers huge areas in the south and centre of the DRC.
Armed political and ethnic conflicts continue in many areas and in 2019, OCHA estimate that 12.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. This figure represents 10% of the total worldwide humanitarian caseload.
4.5 million people have been internally displaced, with an additional 825,002 seeking refuge in other countries.
- Justine, Masese II
This time last year, we began a process where communities could come together and evaluate the changes that have happened in their lives that year. Each group spends time listening to each other's stories, then they vote for the one they feel is the most significant.
Last year, discussions focussed on the positive impact of the loans and savings groups. What came through was a sense of hope for the future and many individuals described feeling happier, gaining confidence and having pride.
In the last few months, these four communities (Masese I, II, III and Loco) have repeated the process, to evaluate how individuals and communities are being affected by the work of the Child Protection Teams (CPTs).
These are some of the highlights for 2018:
Better health and hygiene
Raymond from Masese III said, “There was human waste everywhere and using the latrine was a taboo because the majority of local people had so many traditional beliefs around it. Many believed that if Karamojong women used the latrine, they would become barren, or if children used it they would become poor performers in school. But now Children on the Edge Africa have helped in changing the mindset of community members, so they know the disadvantages of an unhygienic home”.
Harriet is 13 years old and lives in the same community, she described how, “As children we could never feel free while playing; no matter what we were doing, we had to make sure that our eyes were constantly looking at the ground because of the human waste that would always be dumped everywhere. Since last year though, we can play freely because the whole community has joined together to make the area clean”.
A safer environment for children, at home and in the community
Esther from Masese III says, “As a parent I had ignored my role and would just look away when it came to my children’s upbringing. They lacked parental love and care. But when I went to the workshop on child protection I realised that I was being unfair”.
Margeret from Masese I told how “My house was a battleground, but now things have changed. I now hear my husband cracking jokes with the children, something that was unheard of before. The CPT work to create peace and harmony where there isn’t any. It’s not just my house, There is positive change among the neighbours and the community at large”.
Education loans are having an impact
Barbara is 12 years old and explained how “We used to sleep like soldiers as we had nothing to cover ourselves. In the day we walked around Masese III almost naked and other children would always laugh at us. Since my mother started her charcoal business we now have some bedding, we are assured of a daily meal and through the little money that she earns, she has been able to send me and my brother to school”.
Small business loans go to the most vulnerable households across the four communities, along with business training, savings groups and ongoing support. This year we heard from Aida, a widowed mother of five, who found out not long after losing her husband that both she and her baby were HIV positive. She was supported by the CPT to get treatment, and given a business loan to help provide for her children. She said “I thought life had come to an end, but since the day I started my business, my life has never been the same, because I can now provide for the essential needs of my children”.
Children are leading and having a voice
Umuru from Loco Child Rights Club shared a story of how he and the club worked to enable a friend who had dropped out of school, to return to education. This resulted not only in her return, but passing her primary exams and receiving a bursary to start secondary school. He said “Whoever knew that my friend would do all these things! I am grateful that as a CRC member I have had a positive impact in someone’s life”.
These stories are a tiny reflection of an overwhelming amount of the examples shared and the hundreds of lives changed, all through the dedication of forty local volunteers, across four communities. To support this work further, just click the buttons below.
Our local partners in Uganda have a strong focus on ensuring opportunities for women. Many women, like Aisha, are involved in the running of our Child Protection Teams.
Aisha has been volunteering as the Chairperson of the Masese II Child Protection Team for over six years. Working with our local partners, Children on the Edge Africa, we support five slum communities around Jinja to create protective environments for their children through these Teams. They are made up of 10 elected and trained local volunteers work closely with their communities.
What do the Child Protection Teams do?
- Build relationships, identify problem areas and provide a link between people living in the slums and the local authorities to make sure they are aware of the services that are available to them.
- Facilitate workshops and training sessions on an extensive range of child protection and social issues, and offering individual support to vulnerable families. Workshops include family planning, women’s rights and domestic violence.
- Resource parents and carers to look after their families with sustainable, safe incomes. This is done primarily through a micro-loan programme for the most vulnerable households.
Child Protection Teams have become the ‘go-to’ for their communities because of the dedicated work they accomplish on behalf of vulnerable children. As a result, they have quickly become the first port of call not only with residents but also with the local authorities. Lost children are often brought to the teams by local people when found wandering, sometimes miles from home.
As Secretary for Women's Affairs, Aisha is now leading a team of five people and is confident that becoming the Secretary for Women’s Affairs will strengthen the work of the Child Protection Team in her community even further.
Aisha puts this knowledge down to working with Children on the Edge, saying “I have taken this office with lot of hands on experience of both women’s and children’s issues because Children on the Edge Africa embraced our Child Protection Teams as their very own right from the start. They gave us training and helped us with networking. There was a tremendous improvement in terms of our case management”.
We're delighted for Aisha and can't wait to hear about her progress in the role.
Read more about our work with slum communities in Uganda. and how we're bringing vital change.
The model we have created together with Children on the Edge Africa in Loco Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre, has been developed in partnership with Madrasa ECD Programme, who have over 25 years of experience in developing an approach that makes a real difference in children’s cognitive development and later success in school.
In conjunction with our own 28 years of experience working with vulnerable children and the use of our Child Protection Team model, this approach has produced a successful blueprint of best practice ECD, that is ready to replicate to new and different areas.
Supporting around 70 children aged 3-6 a year, the Centre is currently being considered for designation as a centre for excellence in the Eastern Region.
The model focusses on:
1. Community ownership
Loco Child Protection Team (CPT) work to identify the most vulnerable households, ensuring their children benefit from education. They encourage local families on the importance of education through a number of events (see photos above), meetings and celebrations, provide small business loans and support parents throughout the term, ensuring high retention rates.
2. Local culture
Teachers work to establish which language is most commonly used amongst Centre intake and adapt materials accordingly. They draw upon available local resources through all areas of teaching and learning, and focus on the strengths of local culture and values.
3. Quality child friendly curriculum
We use the Ugandan ECD Framework which was developed in consultation with UNICEF and Madrasa, which is a detailed curriculum of five core areas and an assessment framework to ensure children are learning and developing. Instead of rote learning, a regular day at the Centre will feature songs, dances, craft and games.
4. Health and socialisation
The Centre helps children to deal with routines, develop great friendships and improve behaviour so they can transition well to primary school. Regular health checks pick up concerns including malnutrition, which is addressed by the provision of high calorie porridge and nutritious snacks. Children arrive clean and washed and teachers focus on health and hygiene with songs, rhymes and regular hand washing routines.
It has resulted in improved:
1. Educational progress
We have seen core skills and learning improve significantly, with primary school teachers reporting that where young children previously started at primary school with no reading or writing knowledge and no means of coping within a classroom environment, now they arrive prepared to learn at the right level.
2. Valuing of education
The relationship between the teachers and the Loco CPT has yielded tremendous results in terms of attendance, with regular meetings encouraging parents on the importance of their children’s education.
3. Child Protection
Child Protection Teams have been key in ensuring that child protection cases are followed up, bridging the gap between the Centre and the parents. They follow up on cases identified by the teachers and often make home visits to ensure children are safe.
4. Health and Socialisation
After a few months of being at the Centre, children were visibly clean and healthy, despite being on the edge of malnutrition when they started. The external evaluation also identified huge progress with the socialisation of the children, with a teacher reporting that “Children’s discipline has changed. The way our children behave is not the way other children in the community who don’t access ECD or who attend other ECD Centres behave”.
We are hopeful that over time, this model Centre will become a training centre where Congolese teachers from this area can come to learn and develop their teaching skills, and improve the quality of early childhood education for refugee children across the region.
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