Children and adolescents face many threats to their well-being, safety, and development in Uganda, including a high incidence of forced marriage for girls, harmful labor practices, high rates of school drop out, child abuse, sexual abuse, and economic insecurity. Without proper nutrition, healthcare, education, psychosocial support, and legal protection, these children are unlikely to develop into healthy, productive adults. For the last 10 years, we have been working in schools and communities to combat these issues.
Now in its fourth phase, WUBP is focused on strengthening the prevention of and response to violence against children in schools and communities. We are currently working with 20 schools and their surrounding communities using tested, evidence-based approaches including:
- Organizing Child Rights Clubs and Girl Talk Sessions with boys and girls in schools to teach youth about their rights, build self-confidence and leadership skills, practice strategies for mitigating risk, and to learn how to report violence and abuse
- Training teachers and social protection actors in local government on Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response
- Leading savings groups with parents and caregivers at the community level with a layered curriculum to teach parenting skills and open dialogues about gender roles, child marriage, and how to protect their children from violence and sexual assault
- Reaching communities through child-led radio programming designed to spark discussion around sexual violence, teen pregnancy, and early marriage.
A social norms based approach
Focus group discussions with students, teachers, families, and other community members revealed that culturally bound themes of blame, gender roles, and power dynamics contribute to sexual violence against children. To address this, we are also working with a team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to design and incorporate social norms change approaches into our interventions. We built the capacity of nine community-based partners in the underserved districts of Kyenjojo, Kasese, Kabarole, and Kyegegwa to provide an integrated package of child protection, livelihoods, and psychosocial support (PSS) including:
- Mobilizing schools, communities, government officials, and others responsible for protecting children to act on their behalf
- Leading a campaign to educate teachers about the dangers of corporal punishment
- Working with community volunteers, enabling them to develop skills to help families address critical needs–and link those families into a case management system