In Uganda, we work in partnership with six slum communities in and around Jinja to ensure that children are safer and better protected. Through this work with local communities, children are able to have a better start in life and their prospects for the future are greatly improved.
We now support six Child Protection Teams in six different communities (Loco, Masese I, Masese II, Masese III, Mafubira and Wandago) who serve to protect children living in their local areas. These teams of volunteers, trained and supported by our sister organisation Children on the Edge Africa, make a huge positive difference, not just to the children, but to the whole community.
Read on to see some recent success stories….
LATRINES FOR EVERYONE IN MASESE I
In Masese I, the Child Protection Team has been working to ensure that every household in the area has a working toilet. While running a workshop on the effects of poor waste disposal, they heard from participants that the landlords were ignoring their requests to provide latrines.
The team set up a meeting with community leaders and landlords and made a plan to ensure that every home has a latrine, ensuring the landlords agreed on deadlines agreed to make this happen. Now at least 90% of the homes in Masese I have latrines. A working toilet obviously has huge community benefits on sanitation and health; creating a better environment for everyone.
SUPPORTING FAMILIES TO CREATE PROTECTIVE ENVIRONMENTS
One of the areas that has a huge impact on the safety and well being of a child is their home life. It’s why our Child Protection Teams work to support families and parents, which in turn, creates a safer environment for children.
In recent months, the Child Protection Teams have been running couples counselling sessions. By working with couples to improve and manage their relationships better; levels of domestic violence have reduced and families are better able to work through the tensions and pressures of life; creating a much happier and safer home life for their children.
The teams have also been working with parents who were struggling to support their children with home learning during lockdown. Children in Uganda have only just been able to go back to school after nearly two years of closures as a result of the pandemic.
We have been supporting children to learn at home with education packs, outdoor classes and home visits from teachers; but without parental support, many children have been falling behind. Parents who were not getting involved were encouraged to engage in their childs’ learning; showing them that when they help and support their children, they progress much faster and learn better.
REDUCING TEEN PREGNANCY AND CRIME
The pressures of lockdown have exacerbated many problems in the slum communities we work with. With schools closed and movement restricted, the Child Protection Teams were noticing a rise in teen pregnancies, the formation of teenage gangs and a rise in crime across the communities we work with.
To combat this issue, the Child Protection Teams in Masese I, Masese II, Masese III and Loco recently conducted workshops for over 150 young people (aged 10 - 17) across these four communities. The sessions talked through their rights and responsibilities, how to prevent pregnancy, and encouraged them to change behaviours that might result in crime. Since the workshops took place, the number of children forming gangs in those communities has significantly decreased.
In Wandago and Mafubira (where our newest Child Protection Team is based); they have been working to identify parents in the community who weren’t taking proper care of their children and exposing them to risks. The Team decided to invest in some parenting skills training and hosted community workshops with the help of local police. In total, 111 parents voluntarily attended and were given help on how best to look after their children and prevent them getting influenced by gangs or involved in crime.
STOPPING SEXUAL ASSAULT
When we began to work in Masese III, the rate of sexual abuse and assault against young girls was very high. Sadly, cases were kept quiet, allowing impunity for perpetrators and a lack of support for victims.
In one of the early community workshops facilitated here, community members said they thought it was fine for a man to marry anyone he liked, regardless of their age, and many men informed us that it was simply their culture to grab (assault forcefully) any girl of their choice. In our first workshop about assault, people also felt it was funny when the facilitator described that boys could also be victims of sexual abuse.
Since then the Child Protection Team in Masese III has held many workshops on the issue within the community and the residents' attitudes and mindsets have begun to change. At the moment, although there are still incidents happening, community members now report cases to the Child Protection Team or go straight to police. Consequently, the habit of grabbing and forcing assault on girls has currently stopped.
Recently there was a case of a 46 year old woman who behaved inappropriately with a 16 year old boy. When neighbours realised what was happening, they alerted the Child Protection Team immediately, who were able to involve the police and arrest the woman. This case shows how workshops can change community attitudes, and better protect the children living there.
PROTECTING CHILDREN & REPORTING CASES OF ABUSE
Child Protection Teams are able to deal with incidents in their community involving the mistreatment or abuse of children. They refer cases to the police where necessary or work with families to come up with solutions.
In the past few months the teams have handled 44 cases of domestic abuse, 18 cases of child abuse, 14 of child neglect, eight of indecent assault, five child labour cases and supported 26 missing children to return home. Among these cases, 12 were referred to police, four to the Community Development Officers and six to the Local Council Court.
CHILD RIGHTS CLUBS
We support three Child Rights Clubs in Loco, Wandago and Masese I. These groups give children the opportunity to express themselves and play an active role in their communities. They work closely with the Child Protection Teams and as a result their focus over the past few months has been around the issues of sexual abuse, child abuse and teen pregnancy.
All three Child Rights Clubs were recently invited to workshops, teaching them how to advocate with their peers and encourage them to stay safe.
In Loco, Child Rights Club members have been using their new skills to put on training for their peers about discipline and children’s rights and along with Masese I Club, want to visit schools and speak with classes to get their message out to more children.
Wandago Child Rights Club had the great idea of organising a netball match between themselves and the local community team. After the match they spoke with the other team about the current issues. They are planning more netball matches with other teams to attract more people so they can have fun before talking to them about the issues affecting them. They are also keen to carry on using their skills in drama to highlight their messages.
Despite schools closures and lockdown restrictions; the Child Protection Teams and Child Rights Clubs we support in Uganda continue to transform their communities and create safer environments for children.
We are thrilled to say that as of January 2022, schools in Uganda have been able to reopen. The children are overjoyed to be back in class.