On 1st December 2017, a team of 35 members from 15 Organisations set off to Kalangala Island to touch lives of girls in different ways. This was in respect for the #16DaysOfActivism against Gender Based Violence that are celebrated world wide every year from 25th-10th December. This year Girls Not Brides Uganda Alliance- A Ugandan Partnership to End Child Marriage led by Raising Teenagers Uganda so it fit to reach out to girls on the island so that we share some love, talk to them about life, meet their parents and talk to them about why they must keep their children in school until they complete their education. meet and talk to the law enforcement officers and local leaders about why they must attend to cases of sexual violence that are rampant on the island.
These amazing people chose to cross Lake Victoria and touch lives of the girls on the island.
Out of 14 organisations that participated in this outreach, 11 are Girls Not Brides Uganda member organisations namely; Raising Teenagers Uganda, Joy for Children Uganda, Child Aid Uganda, Pick Your Dream Uganda, Amani Initiative against Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy, Unbound Kampala Limited, African Women Service Trust, FAWE Uganda, Universal Health Development Foundation, People in Need Agency, Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and Adolescent Health, Trailblazers Mentoring Foundation and Center for Participatory Research and Development.
At the Island we reached out to boys and girls at Bihanga Primary school where we interacted and shared words of encouragement and wisdom with the students. we had a counseling session with girls and boys separately and we also gave out gifts to them that include clothes, shoes and sanitary pads to the girls.
A discussion with girls at Bihanga Primary School
Boys and Girls were given tips on how to report violence so that they receive help from government and one of the ways is to call TOLL FREE 116 . They were encouraged to break the silence and report cases of abuse since most of the abusers always threaten them not to say anything to anyone. Some of the girls were able to forward some names of the men that are sexually abusing them which we shared with the authorities and we intend to follow up for action.
Girls were happy to receive sanitary pads and it was well brought out by many of them that they always miss school due to lack of sanitary pads which affects their performance in academics. This affects girls in other parts of the country as well and its very important that we do whatever we can so that the less advantaged girls do not drop out of school and become victims of child marriage due to lack of sanitary pads.
A visit to Bery’s Place
We met with a victims of sexual violence that are being looked after by Bery, a very generous old man that has been on this island for 10 years now. The home is called Bery’s Place &Ssese Humanitarian Services and he currently takes care of 47 girls. His home is the only Children’s home on the island and he is currently struggling with cancer. As he shared his story with us, we realized that he is worried about what will happen to these girls when he is no longer alive and he called upon us and everyone out there to join hands with him and support these girls. He takes care of their education, feeding, medical bills and everything esle. We were humbled by his love for Uganda and specifically for choosing to support these girls because on the island, sexual exploitation is a common practice as men believe that once they sleep with young girls, they will catch more fish the next morning.
Bery Glazer shares his story with us at his home where he takes care of 47 victims of sexual violence.
We supported the girls with exercise books and mathematical sets so that we relieve Bery part of what he has to spend on next year as the girls go back to school. The youngest girls at Bery’s home is 6 years old and most of these girls have been abused by their own family members and fishermen.
The girls shared their different stories with us and request for prayers and support as they expressed their worry of what will happen to them if their Bery is no more. Are you out there and you would like to offer any kind of support to these girls, you can connect directly with Bery via https://web.facebook.com/berysplace/ . This is their facebook page that can give you more details. Share some love and help a girl to attend school for a brighter future.
The Youth Camp
We had an opportunity to meet with the youth that had come to the island for a camp organised by Red Cross Uganda. As we shared with them, we realised that not only girls are abused sexually but also boys by sugar mummyz. The boys requested that we also think about them and reach out to them because they equally need support to deal with the challenges they are faced with.
The young people at the camp had a lot to share and requested that we should always go to their schools and give them counseling services because sometimes its hard to deal with their challenges with out help.
They received books with information on Ending violence in schools and Communities.
We spoke to the about child marriage the dangers associated with it so that they can become ambassadors back in their communities which they promised to do.
We spoke to boys about their role in ending child marriage and explained why they must stand up to support the girl child so that we together build up a world free of child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
Dialogues with Parents and other stakeholders.
We met with Fathers and fishermen and had a discussion on why they must support, educate and protect their daughters. They however expressed concern showing that the government has given a lot of freedom to children to the extent that they no longer listen to their own parents even when they are trying to guide the to the right paths. They requested that such organisations should always reach out to them and offer some guidance. The men also indicated the the mothers have neglected their role of talking and guiding the girl child however these concern came from the women as well, that men have neglected their roles as fathers and heads of families.
Children were also met separately and they too had their own concerns among which include parental neglect. This explains how much work needs to be done in as far as sensitizing the parents about their role in raising children.
Boys were also met separately as well and they too had their challenges to share one of which was parental neglect and lack of access to counseling services. The also expressed concern about the increasing rates of domestic violence that happens amongst their parents which they have no control over and called upon us to always find time and talk to their parents about building up stable families free from violence.
The girls were also met separately and we and some time with them as they shared their challenges with top on the list- Sexual exploitation from men and lack of parental care. They informed us that some of their own parents sell them off to men in exchange for just little money. They are seeking protection services and also calling upon the police to respond instantly once they report cases of sexual abuse.
A meeting with the mothers was also arranged and we had a chance to listen to their challenges. They mainly say that men have abandoned their responsibilities at home and that makes life difficult for these mothers. They want more and regular sensitization program.
It was a SUCCESSFUL out outreach and we appreciate everyone that joined us to the Island. We thank everyone that made donations of all kinds. Touching lives of these people adds a lot of difference and we are glad to have done our part in this year’s 16 Days Of Activism.