Safety nets and skills training

Victoria Price looks back on a year full of child protection projects by our partner network CRANE in Uganda, highlighting three exciting ways in which children’s lives have been transformed.

Many children in the city of Kampala do not receive the level of protection they should have. Due to widespread poverty and inequality, children are engaged in the worst forms of child labour putting themselves at risk on the streets or in hazardous work environments.

Pervasive attitudes that ward against reporting perpetrators also play a very strong role in maintaining a culture of violence against children. Deep-rooted issues within the city such as poor law enforcement, lack of training of professionals to handle cases of abuse and barriers to accessing services also contribute to the fragile web of abuse within the city, which can often be within family homes.

It is into this situation that our partner network CRANE operates in Uganda. The network brings together childcare workers, duty bearers and other stakeholders from 150 churches and organisations to collaborate in transforming the lives of over 70,000 children at risk.

1  Trained and mentored adults are able to have an influence on the culture of the city.

Church leaders are encouraged to regularly remind their congregations that families should always have children’s best interests at heart. Messages such as discouraging the separation of parents or sending children to work have established safety nets for children, despite the circumstances poverty creates.

152 church leaders have been trained through six workshops, organised on a quarterly basis, to help them to promote a child-focused message and nurture families into being safe places for children.

One church pastor testifies of the impact the training has had: “Through the pastors’ training, I have been helped to understand children and to relate to them and have also been equipped to build strong families – at my home, in the church and in my community.”

Professionals such as local council members, family coaches and police officers have also participated in training workshops on family therapy, child protection, positive parenting and conflict resolution.

2  Equipped and empowered Child Protection Committees change communities.

Family and child protection issues are dealt with by committees who regularly discuss current cases and brief children and parents about the specific risks of abuse in their area, and strategies to ensure child safety and wellbeing.

There are at least 80 committees overseen by CRANE, with each group carrying out needs assessments and running particular projects to deal with identified problems. With CRANE’s support, the committees carry out community mapping exercises in order to identify child-focused services, black spots and safe spaces. Together, they make suggestions about how to improve the situation for children.

Ten year-old Sarah’s story is a perfect example of the community identifying a need and working together to overcome it.

Sarah’s mother died of AIDS and her father is living with HIV, unable to provide a regular income. When the church discovered the problem, they found Sarah a foster mother from their church. Then, together with the Child Protection Committee, they lobbied for school fees support. They were successful, and Sarah was taken to school, where she sat her primary examinations last year and achieved a high grade.

3  Village Saving and Loans Associations: the unsung heroes of promoting child protection!

Although perhaps not the most obvious way to ensure children are safe, 37 Village Savings and Loans Associations give members the opportunities to improve skills and knowledge on topics such as becoming better parents and spouses, protecting their children, and boosting their income in the various small businesses they run.

There is an increased social network within the communities by joining the associations and, over the last year, 695 members have been regularly saving, borrowing and paying back their loans.

The Odoki family had two children who had to drop out of school to help increase the family’s income. The eldest daughter wanted to commit suicide because she missed her friends at school so much. But, after the Child Protection Committee visited their home, they encouraged her mother to join the Village Saving and Loans Association. She joined and borrowed money that she used to start a second-hand clothes business.

She was able to pay back the loan in time and now both children are thriving back in school.

Victoria Price is Viva’s Fundraising Officer. Photos: CRANE

This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 9