Our Project Coordinator, Kessia Lum, returned to School for Life's Katuuso campus with Raising Voices for the second round of outreach programs on child abuse. The results from the first round have been life changing for many of the Katuuso community members and their children…
In Uganda, child abuse is unfortunately a big problem. Because 50% of the Ugandan population is under 14 years old, we know protecting and educating the youth will be the change this country needs.
We’re so proud to say the School for Life communities are open to change and, more importantly, they’re ready for it. Parents don’t want their children to suffer in the same way many of them did.
Our two-day outreach in August with Raising Voices (RV) was met with an overwhelmingly positive response from the people of Katuuso and surrounding villages. In the weeks to follow, person after person, parent after parent, shared stories with our school staff members about how the outreach had affected them and opened their minds to change. We were fortunate to witness first-hand the ripple effect which comes from affecting just ONE person. That one girl who now goes to school because her father learned about the importance of education will grow up with an education and a sense of self-worth. It might even influence what she'll look for in a partner, and she might settle for a person who respects her and won't cause her harm. We hope the cycle will also continue and she will make a choice to educate her children because she knows the importance of education. Her children will have children who will prioritise their education, and their children will do the same, and so on and so on.
We can also never underestimate the power of persistence. We invited RV back for a second outreach day and they agreed. This time, we had two objectives: the first, to facilitate a technical training session with our ten-person child protection committee, formed as a result of Raising Voices’ first outreach program last month; and the second, to facilitate another outreach program, this time with an even bigger audience in Katuuso.
Child Protection Committee Training
The day began with the technical training session for the committee. The committee includes two teachers, our Head Teacher, our School Director, the Vice Chairperson, parents and community members from neighbouring villages. The committee’s sole objective is to protect our children against violence.
Katuuso Community Outreach Program
After our five hour committee training session, we relocated to the Katuuso Trading Centre where a crowd had already gathered waiting for us. People who had attended the last session had shown up again, this time with their friends, anxious to have their questions answered. Many of their questions were about what to do if they know someone in their community is doing the wrong thing and how do they report these issues without causing problems with their neighbours.
The answers to their questions may seem simple to anyone who hasn’t grown up in Uganda – seek help from a professional, call someone who works in child protective services or the most obvious answer, call the police. Here in Uganda, many of these services are either not accessible, or the existing services are wrought with corruption. RV asked the community what the cost is for the police to come, expecting their answer to be free. Instead, the resounding response was 50,000 shillings ($18 AUD) for the police to respond to an emergency. When rent for a MONTH costs between 30,000 to 50,000 shillings, it’s easy to see why paying the same for a police officer is near impossible.
Having open and honest discussions with the community about their rights, their futures and their children’s futures is one way to protect against violence, abuse and corruption and provide answers to the community’s questions. School for Life is also implementing a Child Protection Committee. This outreach workshop taught the community about the chain of command – who they can go to if the police are unresponsive and what resources are available to them for assistance. Most importantly, it empowered them to be the change agents in their villages.
Our motto is to 'provide a hand up, not a hand out.’ This is how to make lasting change in the community. We have a long way to go, but we continue to see positive steps in the right direction. One of our teachers summed it up best when he said...
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