Western Uganda Bantwana Program (WUBP)
Children and adolescents in Western Uganda face many threats to their well-being, safety, and development, 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 in four underserved districts in Western Uganda. As we have built the trust of community members and expanded our reach in schools, the Western Uganda Bantwana Program has honed in on tackling the social norms and conditions at home and in schools that lead to violence against children.
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:
- We lead 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.
- We support teachers by creating safe spaces for reporting violence, and offer a Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response Training to teachers and social protection actors in local government.
- We lead savings groups with parents and caregivers at the community level become an important entry point to teach parenting skills and open dialogues about gender roles, child marriage, and how to protect their children from violence and sexual assault.
- We reach 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.
From the beginning, our support in Western Uganda has been comprehensive: Beginning in 2008, WUBP built the capacity of nine community-based partners in the four underserved districts of Kyenjojo, Kasese, Kabarole, and Kyegegwa to provide an integrated package of child protection, livelihoods, and psychosocial support (PSS). Evidence from case studies and evaluations has reinforced the efficacy of our approach:
- We equipped children with the knowledge and tools they needed to protect themselves from abuse and neglect—building self-confidence and empowerment through Child Rights Clubs in schools.
- We mobilized schools, communities, government officials, and others responsible for protecting children to act on their behalf.
- We led a campaign to educate teachers about the dangers of corporal punishment (see below).
- We worked with community volunteers, enabling them to develop skills to help families address critical needs—and link those families into a case management system.
- Finally, we set up savings groups to support families and expand their assets through a range of economic interventions.
“Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right” A Hang up the Stick Documentary
This short documentary highlights WUBP-supported schools actively championing the “Hang up the Stick” campaign and features positive change among teachers who have taken up alternative forms of discipline in schools. Bantwana engaged documentary filmmakers from NTV, a Ugandan national television channel, to develop “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right.” The piece aired on national television in July 2016 and featured perspectives of both children and teachers, exposing the contradictions and commonly held beliefs about the value of caning for discipline and the actual consequences and negative psychological effects of caning on children. WUBP capitalized on excitement and momentum generated by the documentary in WUBP districts to engage district officials to work more closely with schools. NTV also carried out a Facebook campaign (#hangupthestick) on the issue which generated rich discussion on social media by more than 200 Ugandan men, women and children. WUBP has shared the documentary with national and district stakeholders, schools and implementing partners and plans to share with caregivers and communities to facilitate deeper discussion and reflection around the impact of physical violence against children and shift social norms.