Rescued Child Soldiers
At the age of seven, Judith became an accomplice to a murder. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided her village and forced Judith to participate in the killing of her mother. The LRA then kidnapped Judith and her siblings and forced them to serve Joseph Kony. Thousands of children share Judith’s story. Today, the rescued child soldiers in Africa are finding healing and restoration through art.

The Rise of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The World Economic Forum found that poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement were fertilizers for extremist groups to take root and grow. In the 1980s, poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement hit Uganda hard. Estimates determined that one-third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Uganda government officials did little to improve the dire situation. As a result, rebel groups and organizations began to pop up throughout the country. The Holy Spirit Movement, a militaristic and spiritual rebel group, formed to fight against the oppression of the people in northern Uganda. Joseph Kony joined the movement in the mid-1980s. After the Holy Spirit Movement’s defeat in 1988, Kony kept the organization. He renamed the group the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony used religion and traditional beliefs to continue the support of the people living in northern Uganda. His operation expanded to the nearby countries of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The tactics Kony and the LRA used became more violent over time.

Kony and the LRA caused the displacement of more than 1.9 million people. Authorities issued a number of arrest warrants for Kony and leaders of the LRA on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The LRA raided villages, burned down homes and murdered or mutilated thousands of people.

Child Soldiers in Africa

Kony lacked support for his cause and army. As a result, he abducted children and forced them into his service. Estimates state that the LRA kidnapped between 30,000 and 60,000 children. The LRA trained males to be child soldiers and females to be sex slaves. Fear was a major driver for children to remain in the LRA. Many children, like Judith, had to kill their parents and other loved ones for survival.

Art Is Restoring Peace to Rescued Child Soldiers

The U.N. called the LRA crisis the “most forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.” A 29-minute film became the most effective tool in mobilizing the world into taking action against Kony and the LRA.

Art and social media were the key components of the success of the film “KONY 2012.” The U.S. advocacy group, Invisible Children, launched a digital campaign with the release of the film. The campaign’s goal was to make the infamous warlord famous in order to mobilize world leaders to stop him. The film garnered over 100 million views in six days. Public outcry and celebrity support increased the pressure for global leaders to take action against Kony. Eventually, authorities sanctioned a universal manhunt to capture Kony and put an end to the LRA. People have rescued many of the child soldiers in Africa but Kony still remains at-large. Today, the LRA has reduced to a group of fewer than 300 members.

Art has also been an effective tool for healing and restoration for the child victims of the LRA crisis. For many of the rescued child soldiers in Africa, there were some elements in their story that were too painful to put into words. Art became an avenue for those children to confront the past and face the future. Exile International, a nonprofit organization, has been providing healing to war-affected children through art-focused trauma care since 2008.

Recently, Exile International partnered with award-winning photographer and artist Jeremy Cowart to share the faces and powerful stories of child survivors. The Poza Project utilized the children’s art and Cowart’s talent to create a healing opportunity for the children to tell their own story of survival. Unique photographs and mixed art media created by the children were available for purchase. All the proceeds helped provide art therapy and holistic rehabilitation to children survivors of war. The Poza Project showcased a dozen children including Judith.

Judith spent nearly two years in captivity before being rescued. Today, she is back in school and working to become a psychiatric doctor. With the help of The Poza Project, Judith is one step closer to her dream of helping the other victims of Kony and the LRA.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene for RefugeesWhen looking at menstrual hygiene for refugees, imagine for a moment, having a period while fleeing political violence or natural disaster when sanitary products and private sanitation facilities are scarce. In the Syrian refugee crisis alone, there are more than one million girls and women between the ages of 12 and 59 in need of access to menstrual hygiene. This means that 29 percent of the more than four million Syrian refugees are in need of access to menstrual hygiene.

While refugee camps make sure to provide food, shelter and clean water, many personal items are not provided. Too often, menstrual hygiene for refugees such as disposable products and private facilities not given adequate attention. In turn, many women and girls often have to rely on reusing rags or garbage, which can lead to infections. However, there are organizations working to improve access to menstrual hygiene for refugees.

Rwanda

In refugee settlements in Rwanda, more than 10,000 women and girls from Burundi struggle with maintaining menstrual hygiene. Plan International Rwanda is working to improve access to menstrual hygiene for refugees by providing 3,668 women and girls with underwear and sanitary pads. By providing them access to sanitary products, Plan International Rwanda allows girls to go to school, play with other children and feel more confident.

Uganda

The nation of Uganda has been attacking the problem of menstrual hygiene for refugees from multiple angles. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), for example, has been distributing menstrual hygiene supplies such as reusable pads, buckets, soap, towels and undergarments. In addition, they are building latrines and carrying out community sensitization activities to destigmatize menstruation.

Reusable menstrual hygiene products have proven to be an important option for refugees. Just four reusable pads provided by the DRC can last a refugee a year. Another reusable option that has grown in popularity thanks to the NGO WoMena is the use of menstrual cups. These medical-grade silicone cups can be worn up to 12 hours at a time and are less likely to leak. One cup can also be reused for up to a decade. The organization provides training to teach refugees how to use them. This aids in destigmatizing misconceptions around its use and losing one’s virginity. Of those who decided to try these reusable cups, 81 percent reported satisfaction with the product.

Jordan

In Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp, the U.K.-based non-profit, Loving Humanity has been working to not only provide sanitary products but also job opportunities. Jobs are being created by implementing 12 machines that assemble low-cost sanitary products in 2016. These machines were pioneered in India by Arunachalam Muruganantham after seeing his wife hoarding rags because she could not afford menstrual hygiene supplies. His design creates inexpensive pads by breaking down tree bark cellulose. It is very popular among rural women in India because it costs approximately 30 cents for a 10-pack of pads.

The cost of one machine is $2,000 and a month’s worth of materials is $360. This will produce 30,000 pads. In Zaatari, these machines aim to employ women in the community. This gives them a sense of empowerment and control over their bodies as well as a paycheck.

When it comes to disaster management, it is vital to include menstrual hygiene for refugees. While these methods have helped improve access to menstrual hygiene products, many refugees still have to choose between food and hygiene. Access to these supplies, though, opens a world of opportunities for girls. They can play with other kids and pursue their educations without the anxiety of stigmatization.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Irene's School in UgandaEducation outcomes, a lack of funding, rapid expansion and inadequate management have led to low and declining education outcomes for girls and boys in Uganda. Since 2000, initial primary enrollment and attendance rates have increased; however, only one-third of students will finish their primary education.

The Problem

Only 20 percent of students reach O-level, which is four years of lower secondary education, and only 10 percent reach A-level, which is finishing secondary education and two years of upper secondary education. Furthermore, less than half of primary students meet the minimum level of literacy and numeracy in the National Assessments of Performance in Education.

Girls living in sub-Saharan Africa face some of the greatest disadvantages when it comes to gaps in education. Globally, over half of the out-of-school children live in this region, and nearly 40 percent of adolescent girls are out of school.

The reasons for this vary, however one of the most tenacious reasons is harassment from men. There is a lack of private bathroom facilities and it is very common for boys at school to target girls for consensual or forced sexual encounters which can harm the girl’s reputation. If she becomes pregnant, she’s forced out, while the father of the baby can continue with school.

Irene’s Story

Irene’s school in Uganda is a success story that stands above the rest and gives girls in sub-Saharan Africa hope. Irene Kamyuka, the youngest of four kids, was forced to drop out of her sixth year of primary school in 2012 because her father ran short of money. Kamyuka’s father told her that she could go back to school when her siblings were finished and he had saved up enough money.

However, because of her dedication and the generosity of others such as the Plan International Program, the 15-year-old is now in her first year at Kamuli Progressive College and stands as an inspiration to girls aspiring to stay in school. The international development charity is paying her term fees, which work out to about 20 U.S. dollars every three months.

Stories like Irene’s are not uncommon. Ugandans who live in rural areas, like in Kamyuka’s town Kamuli, make their living as subsistence farmers and run into difficulties paying for their children’s schooling. Though this East African nation’s government-run schools are free, parents who cannot afford to pay for uniforms, books and supplies cannot send their child to school.

According to preliminary statistics from Uganda’s Ministry of Education for the 2012 school year, the number of girls who qualify to attend secondary school stood at 343,000 in contrast to 408,000 boys. As in Kamyuka’s case, the outcome of their education is often interrupted or canceled completely.

How is the world helping?

Despite it being unusual for girls to attend school as far as the seventh grade in Uganda, the country is receiving support. UNICEF has been supporting Irene’s school in Uganda since 2015 by providing school supplies, as well as training teachers and building a new classroom block and latrines.

Similarly, the Plan International Program continues to help those in need to pay dues for school, and the Irene Children’s Support Organization (LICSOU) was formed in 2012. They work to respond to the overwhelming number of children who are dropping out of schools within rural communities like Irene’s school in Uganda. In order to accomplish their goals and help the greatest number of children, they plan on lobbying, advocating and improving community networking and collaboration.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Unsplash

Women with Disabilities in UgandaFour out of every 25 people in Uganda have a disability, meaning that roughly seven million people are suffering from a disability. Women with disabilities in Uganda face lives of abuse, fear and longterm poverty, such as employers excluding them from employment opportunities, communities harassing them and the state neglecting them. Send a Cow’s program, Agriculture for Women with Disabilities Activity (AWDA), is giving women with disabilities in Uganda the resources they need to build hopeful futures.

A History of Disability in Uganda

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15 percent of the global population are persons with disabilities (PWD), with that number rising drastically for people living in poverty and for post-conflict countries. Since the late 1980s, Uganda has endured multiple civil wars and violent conflicts, primarily against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the north. Not surprisingly, the incidence rate of disabilities is highest in Northern Uganda, with the region reporting over 16 percent of its population suffering from disabilities compared to only 12.5 percent in other regions. This history of conflict coupled with poverty has left a population suffering from loss and limited use of limbs, hearing difficulties and malnutrition-related disabilities like stunting and learning difficulties.

Trapped in Poverty

With very little access to education, suitable housing or employment, roughly 80 percent of disabled people in Uganda live in conditions of longterm poverty. The situation is even worse for women with disabilities in Uganda. As one of the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups in the country, disabled women in Uganda not only struggle to survive financially but their communities often ostracize them, their families do not always support them and they often endure frequent abuse and discrimination from strangers and neighbors.

One woman with a disability from Northern Uganda shared with Human Rights Watch that her community told her, “You are useless. You are a waste of food. You should just die so that others can eat the food.”

This type of discrimination coupled with gender inequality keeps women with disabilities in Uganda from understanding their basic rights, gaining the skills and education necessary to get jobs and from accessing resources like land for agricultural production.

The Importance of Agriculture

The number of people living in poverty in Uganda has dropped substantially over the last fifteen years, with only 21.4 percent in poverty in 2016 compared to over 31 percent in 2005. The World Bank reports agriculture is to thank for this progress, with 79 percent of national poverty reduction occurring in households working in agriculture.

Knowing the critical role agriculture plays in lifting people out of poverty in Uganda, Send a Cow, a U.K.-based organization that works throughout Africa to end rural poverty by helping people grow their own futures “on their own land, on their own terms,” launched the Agriculture for Women with Disabilities Activities project (AWDA) in Uganda in 2016. With roughly 80 percent of women with disabilities in Uganda unemployed and the majority suffering from discrimination and abuse, Send a Cow designed its program to not only give women with disabilities the skills and resources they need to access land and grow food but also teach them about their rights and give them the training and confidence they need to occupy places in their communities.

“One of the major benefits of AWDA is being trained in our rights as people with disabilities. We are confident and know that we are people and can achieve whatever we set ourselves to,” shares Alice, a 47-year-old partially blinded woman from Luuka District, Uganda.

AWDA’s Impact

“We were people nobody bothered about. Now we are very happy! As people with disabilities, others thought we couldn’t dig, but Send a Cow believed in us and gave us knowledge. I can crawl and dig!” ~ Joy Nabirye (45)

Before Send a Cow’s AWDA program, Joy Nabirye, who cannot use her legs, let the community’s views of women with disabilities dictate her life. Now, thanks to AWDA, she knows the unique capabilities she possesses as a woman with disabilities and is able to work her own land, providing for herself and her family. Joy also uses the AWDA training to teach other women and farmers in Uganda about agriculture and disabilities.

“I am chair of the sub county – an instructor on disability issues and I spoke at council level with officials. This community needs more enlightenment on disability – other farmers need to know about the issues,” she shares.

Send a Cow projects that AWDA will help 1,500 women and girls with disabilities. This will happen by women gaining access to land and increasing their income, while also creating a much larger impact through the formation of community groups and teaching rural communities about gender, land and human rights.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in UgandaUganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose central location makes it an important destination for trade and tourism. However, large economic disparities and high unemployment levels have led to a rise in the crime of human trafficking. Inadequate funding of law enforcement units and high levels of poverty make the general population of Uganda vulnerable to human trafficking, including children. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Uganda.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Uganda

  1. Sex trafficking: According to the United States Bureau of International Labor Affairs, children in Uganda are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sex trafficking. Minors from the Karamoja region are trafficked to Kampala and other large urban areas where demand for child labor and sex slavery is high. Children from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also exploited in forced agricultural labor and sex trafficking in Uganda.
  2. Education: Limited access to education makes children particularly vulnerable to forced labor. The law provides free public education; however, the cost of school materials such as uniforms and writing utensils make access to education a challenge for many. In addition to the barriers to accessing education, children often experience physical and sexual abuse at school by teachers and peers.
  3. Rural areas: Children from rural areas are about three times more likely to be trafficked into child labor than city children. The child employment rate in rural areas is 34 percent while in urban areas it is 11 percent. In Kampala, only three percent of children are employed illegally, while 45 percent of children in the central region are employed.
  4. Sectors of child labor: In Uganda, child labor is broken up into four categories:
    • Industry sector: Children are forced to mine, work in quarries or make bricks.
    • Service sector: Children work in the streets selling products and collecting and selling scrap metal.
    • Agriculture sector: Children work in industries of tobacco, coffee and sugar cane.
    • Worst forms: Children are sold into commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking or forced to labor in agriculture. Sometimes minors are used for illegal activities such as smuggling and stealing as well.
  5. Lord’s Resistance Army: The “worst forms” category is mainly related to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in northern Uganda, founded by Joseph Kony. The group has been active since 1987 and has been known to kidnap children and force girls into sex slavery. The group also trafficks boys as child soldiers and uses brainwashing techniques to ensure their loyalty. Eighty percent of the LRA members are children. From 1987 to 2009, approximately 38,000 children were kidnapped. Girls were employed as cooks and sex slaves for the LRA soldiers, while boys must learn to kill or be killed.
  6. Fighting child labor: In 2012, the government took the first steps in creating legislation to get rid of the worst forms of child labor. The Ugandan government started the National Action Plan (NAP) and created a Counter-Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) office and an inter-ministerial Task Force to organize anti-trafficking strategies.
  7. Legal work age: Ugandan law prohibits the labor of children under 12 years of age. National labor legislation forbids the involvement of children aged 12–13 in any form of employment except for light work that is supervised by an adult older than 18 years of age. “Light work” must not get in the way of the child’s education.
  8. Ensuring education: Right now children in Uganda are only required to attend school up until age 13, however, in 2016, the government passed the Children (Amendment) Act which establishes the age of 16 as the minimum age for work. The act also criminalizes the sex trafficking of children. The act is meant to encourage children to stay in school since they legally cannot work until 16 years of age.
  9. Humanium: The international non-governmental organization, Humanium, works in Uganda to combat the abuse of children’s rights. They have set out six policies that must be implemented to combat child labor. These include:
    • Education and second chance learning: These are essential for reintegrating adults into society who have been harmed through forced child labor.
    • Expand social protection: Serve to prevent vulnerable households from having to resort to child labor to support their families.
    • Promote greater public awareness: Providing information on child labor can increase public outrage and support for child protective legislation.
    • Promote social mobilization against child labor.
    • Strengthen child labor inspections and monitoring.
    • Advocacy of political commitment: This is essential to ensure that child labor reduction policies occur.
  10. The Human Trafficking Institute: The Human Trafficking Institute is working closely with the Ugandan government. So far they have approved the creation of a specialized Human Trafficking Department in the Ugandan police force. The department is supposed to have over 250 staff members as well as specialized human trafficking officers posted across the country. The department will support the rehabilitation of trafficking victims and a crackdown on other forms of child labor.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Better Coffee Farms Can Help World PovertyCoffee is the world’s second favorite drink, the first being water. In the United States, Americans drink more than 580 million cups of coffee per day. More than three million cups are consumed worldwide. To support the world’s coffee addiction, many developing countries rely on the coffee-growing industry. Most of these coffee growers are small farmers, and the majority live in impoverished conditions. With the popularity of the coffee market, better coffee farms reduce world poverty.

Small farmers produce about 80 percent of the global coffee supply. These farmers, known as smallholders, are defined as, “owning small-based plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops and one or two cash crops relying almost exclusively on family labor.” An estimated 25 million smallholder farmers produce the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, they earn less than ten percent per pound of the sale value of their coffee. Combined with the added costs of production, fertilizer, pesticides, workers, etc., this creates an unprofitable business.

Without profit, many coffee farmers have left the industry because they are unable to sustain themselves. Additionally, the past few years have brought drought and an increase in crop diseases such as “coffee rust.” Coffee prices have dropped to a 12 year low this year.

Not only are coffee farmers unable to support themselves and their families, but a number of other challenges have pushed them out of the coffee growing business. Coffee grows best at a high altitude, usually in remote and mountainous areas. This limits access to markets and adds to the cost of transportation and labor. A lack of environmentally sustainable practices along with weak management and poor training have led to the inefficiency of coffee production.

Despite the current situation of coffee production, demand for the drink is increasing. If the current trend continues, there is a predicted shortage by 2050. In order to help small farmers and the coffee business, many companies are turning to fair-trade. However, fair-trade can create problems around business costs and artificially raised sale prices. Fair-trade targets production but does not always reduce poverty.

Other initiatives that focus on coffee farmer operations and management have shown more success. The National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises works to facilitate services for Ugandan coffee farmers while maintaining their ownership of their crops. In Colombia, coffee farms reduce world poverty, as farmers are investing in digital tools to better manage their farms and transactions.

Small coffee farmers have been exploited for their work for too long. Coffee is a popular product, and with better management tools and ownership over their product, small farmers can influence the market to benefit themselves. No longer will the industry be unprofitable with increased management and training. When farmers are able to gain the tools they need for a profitable business, coffee farms reduce world poverty.

– Margarita Orozco
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa are emerging, aiming to improve sanitary conditions and facilitate access to medical care, directly combatting some of the region’s most prominent health crises. Due to health and sanitation concerns being a primary factor in high rates of illness and morbidity, advances in technology are progressively bettering the quality of life of many citizens in these regions.

7 Health Care Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa

  1. The Mamaope Jacket
    In Uganda, a leading cause of infant mortality is pneumonia. In its early stages, pneumonia can be difficult to distinguish from malaria. As a result, misdiagnosis is the leading cause of infant and toddler deaths attributed to pneumonia. One of the innovations of sub-Saharan Africa became the solution to reducing the impacted community. The Mamaope Jacket was created by a Ugandan engineer, Brian Turyabagye. This Mamope Jacket records audio of a child’s breathing via a modified stethoscope inserted into a vest. Analyzing this data aids in detecting key signs of pneumonia. It is estimated that the Mamaope Jacket’s diagnostic rate is three to four times faster than a traditional doctor, and also greatly reduces the risk of human error.
  2. SafariSeat
    Access to wheelchairs and other assisted mobility devices is severely limited in rural regions of developing nations. However, the SafariSeat is changing this; the SafariSeat is an inexpensive, durable wheelchair. This offers both a solution to individuals living with limited mobility in rural areas and is environmentally sustainable. SafariSeat is both produced and maintained using bicycle parts to create a wheelchair suitable for use in all terrain types.
  3. NIFTY Cup
    The NIFTY cup is lowering the rate of infant deaths from malnourishment by providing a cost-effective, convenient way to feed newborns unable to breastfeed. Some causes of not being able to breastfeed include birth defects such as a cleft palate or premature birth. Amongst the other innovations of Sub-Saharan Africa, the NIFTY cup funnels breast milk from the main cup into a small reservoir that a baby can sip from easily without choking or spilling. The creator, a mother herself, Trish Coffey, created the NIFTY cup after giving birth to her daughter prematurely. Manufacturing a NIFTY cup costs just $1, a viable alternative to breastfeeding for impoverished rural communities such as Tanzania and Malawi. In addition, it is reusable.
  4. Flo
    In developing African nations such as Kenya, on average, girls miss a week of school per month due to menstruating. This is because of the stigma associated with periods and limited sanitation resources. That being said, Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit equipped. Within this kit, are reusable pads, a discreet carrying pouch, and a container used while washing clothes to avoid soiling other garments. This offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly method for women lacking disposable alternatives. Flo opens the door for greater educational and occupational opportunities. It also lowers the rate of reproductive diseases resulting from poor menstrual hygiene.
  5. LifeStraw
    With more than 10 percent of the global population lacking access to sources of clean drinking water, diseases resulting from consuming contaminated water are a major contributor to high child mortality rates. Approximately, illnesses from drinking contaminated water kill a child every 90 seconds. The high temperatures and unpredictable climate shifts in the sub-Saharan region make potable water extremely valuable, but can also cause availability to fluctuate. Innovations in sub-Saharan African, such as LifeStraw is a simple, portable device that uses a mesh fiber to filter out bacteria and parasites commonly found in contaminated water. The LifeStraw corporation works with major humanitarian organizations such as World Health Organization and the United Nations to provide both individual LifeStraw filtration devices and larger filtration systems to developing communities in need.
  6. Speaking Books
    There is a lack of information about mental illness available to impoverished communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, there is a higher rate of suicide among younger populations. Just a decade ago, more than 15 percent of South Africans afflicted with mental illness had little to no access to any kind of treatment. Zane Wilson, the founder of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, created a range of free audio pamphlets on mental health. Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa like Speaking Books have a goal to combat the lack of access to treatment, which in many rural areas, also reflects high rates of illiteracy. The Speaking Books series now offers 48 different booklets explaining and destigmatizing mental health disorders. Furthermore, these pamphlets are available in 24 languages and distribution spans among 20 African countries.
  7. Tutu Tester Van
    Although HIV is a global epidemic, South Africa has especially high rates of infection. As a result, the country’s rate of tuberculosis has dramatically spiked over the last two decades. However, because of the stigma surrounding HIV, very few communities have access to effective counseling, testing and treatment methods. The Tutu Tester van, introduced by the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, is a fully-staffed clinic on wheels. They visit rural and impoverished communities to provide health screenings using modern equipment – including tests for HIV and TB. As a result, this reduces the stigma attached to these diseases, as patients retain anonymity once they enter the van. Globally, increasing availability to testing is a primary goal of the United Nation’s plan to eliminate the epidemic of HIV by 2030.

Access to these health care innovations in sub-Saharan Africa is having numerous impactful effects: reducing mortality rates, advancing mental health awareness, contributing to greater longevity and improving quality of life for people in impoverished communities across the region. With improved healthcare and sanitation access,  communities have greater chances of reducing poverty and increasing economic and cultural growth.

– Emmitt Kussrow

Photo: Flickr

New Industries UgandaThe Ugandan government recently announced the decision to draft a new national policy that will aid the country’s economic growth and assist in the creation of new industries in Uganda. Such development could draw more investment into the country and bolster the nation as a whole, and the silk industry might be the best way to achieve economic prosperity.

A New National Industrial Policy

In 2008, Uganda’s parliament passed the National Industrial Policy to combat the country’s slow economic growth. The policy was highly anticipated as it aimed to transform the structure of the country as a whole rather than just one specific industry. The National Industrial Policy was not only meant to lead to the creation of new industries in Uganda but it also to lead to the cooperation of the state by providing a plan of action.

Fast forward 10 years and many Ugandan citizens are disappointed with the policy’s impact. By 2018, only 30 percent of the policy has been realized. The main reason for this underachievement is the fact that the policy was not properly implemented. The plan and prediction were that GDP in Uganda would grow to 30 percent, but between 2008 and 2017, it only grew by 18.5 percent. The new policy seeks to rectify this situation by making investment easier, increasing funding to the industrial sector and strengthening existing laws that help industrial development.

Focus on Industrialization

Many economists and politicians believe that industrialization is a key component in lifting countries out of poverty and into a modern, industrial economy. The far-reaching goal of industrialization is to change the system, and such widespread aims can help lead to nationwide development.

One aim of the new industrial policy is the silk industry. Due to the high demand for silk, Uganda is looking to farm silkworms in a process called sericulture to produce more silk. Many hope to expand the silk industry through this new policy. China and India are the ultimate silk producers at this moment, but both are currently experiencing declines. Estimates state that Uganda could make almost $94 million and create up to 50,000 jobs every year in the silk industry; time will tell if such potential can be realized.

The Ugandan government is set to put in about $102 million into this endeavor over the course of five years with the hopes of making about $340 million. While the new national policy seeks the creation of new industries in Uganda, the silk industry has existed in the country before and had been implemented in the 2008 National Industrial Policy. Uganda has grown and produced silk since the 1920s and had had silkworm farms up until the late 1990s. Now, the nation seeks to revitalize the product and its process.

What’s Next?

While this new national policy has yet to be implemented in the Ugandan government, there is still the hope that this policy will create more domestic growth within the nation. It is necessary to wait and see the effects of the policy since the same problems that the 2008 policy faced could still exist. The effects are unknown, but now there is hope that the creation of new industries in Uganda is the start that the country needs.

Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr
OVERPOPULATION IN UGANDA

Overpopulation is often one of the major causes of poverty. A lack of educational resources along with high death rates often go hand in hand with higher birth rates, resulting in large booms in population growth. The United Nations predicted that the poorest countries in the world are the biggest contributors to population growth. Uganda is one of the poorest developing countries in the world. There are many problems associated with overpopulation In Uganda.

High Fertility Rates

The poorest developing countries are usually the ones with the highest fertility rates and the ones with the least amount of resources to support their population growth. It has been proven that fertility rates in African nations are higher than in Western nations. One of the problems is that more developed nations are the ones that consume most of the resources, leaving the least possible amount to support the populations in African nations.

In addition to this, the lack of sexual education and family planning is a major cause of overpopulation in this region. Only 20 percent of Uganda’s women have access to contraception. Women in Uganda have an average of 7 children, which is higher the African average of 5.1 but more than double that of the global average of 2.7. Ugandan government’s lack of responsibility in improving family planning is a major reason for the country’s exponential population growth.

Population Increases

Presently there are 27.7 million people living in Uganda. By 2025, this number is estimated to double to 56 million people, making Uganda the nation with the world’s biggest population growth (at a rate of 3.3 percent). This kind of growth definitely continues to make resources more scarce in this region of the world. With already 19.5 percent of Uganda’s population living in poverty, efforts to decrease poverty rates will fail unless measures are taken.

As much as 78 percent of the population in Uganda are under the age of 30. Experts say that such big population will be a burden to the economy unless it is transformed into a working force. One major reason for the vast increase in the youth population was a need for family security, often to help with labor. There is minimal industrialization in many developing countries, so people have kids in order to have more help on the farm.

Unemployment and Overpopulation

Currently, 83 percent of young people have no formal employment. This is partly due to low economic growth, slow labor markets, high population growth rates, the rigid education system, rural-urban migration and limited access to capital. This boom in population growth is bound to put pressure on the economy by straining resources if the high birth rates are not controlled.

The major problem of Uganda’s young population is an increasing dependency burden at the household level with a related increase in demand for social services like health and education, which are not growing at the same pace as its population.  For example, classrooms in public schools are overcrowded due to growth in school populations. One cause for the growth in the population has been an increase in unwanted births, leading back to the idea that family planning is an essential part of reducing overpopulation in Uganda.

Solutions to Overpopulation in Uganda

There are many possible solutions to overcoming the overpopulation crisis in Uganda. Experts highlight the need for a long-term plan that focuses on the role of the family, the government, the private sector and society in helping young people to become productive. By reducing the problems with overpopulation in Uganda, the economy will benefit through taxes and more sustained production of goods and services.

Family planning services would reduce fertility levels and increase the proportion of employed adults to young dependents.  Furthermore, promoting family planning by educating men and women about contraception will play a key role in reducing fertility rates. A reduction in “fertility was achieved in the West over the course of a century of female education, national family planning services and the introduction of job opportunities for women.” Therefore, it is important to empower women by giving them access to reproductive health services as well as better economic options. The United Nations aims to tackle this issue by running microcredit projects to turn young women into advocates for reproductive health.

Another solution is government incentives. Governments must promote responsible parenthood and limit subsidies to the first two children unless the family is living in poverty. This can also be accomplished by promoting child spacing and having fewer children. In certain urban regions of the country, there are ads showing happy couples with just one or two children.

Cutting exponential population growth will give Uganda’s natural resources a higher chance of supporting the human burden. Government intervention through family planning by educating people on contraception methods and empowering women by enhancing female education are important steps towards reducing problems associated with overpopulation in Uganda and decreasing poverty.

Mayra Vega

Photo: Google

education Uganda
Education is crucial in the fight to eventually end world poverty. Around the world, there is a correlation between areas of high poverty rates and the low education rates in those areas. In Uganda specifically, more than 80 percent of children attend primary school. However, these numbers plummet to less than 20 percent when it is time for secondary schooling. It has been proven that when children continue on to secondary school, their earning potential as adults dramatically increases, which holistically affects their community as well as lifts them from poverty. But, it is even simpler than that; 171 million people could escape the grasp of poverty by simply providing basic reading skills to children in low-income countries. Such is the power of education in ending world poverty.

One School at a Time

At an organization based in Colorado, Bay Roberts and Patty Gilbert have been working tirelessly to improve education in Uganda, a country where poverty strikes hardest and education rates appear high, but the quality is severely lacking. The organization is called “One School at a Time,” and its goal is to provide better educational opportunities for impoverished areas in Uganda. They currently partner with five different schools in Uganda, working with more than 2,250 students using their unique model to invite entire communities to come together.

The main areas of focus include: teaching the existing schools to identify their own needs and develop and implement a five-year plan; securing water, sanitation and menstrual pads for older girls; starting community gardens; providing school lunch programs; training teachers in nonviolent communication and helping first-generation girls avoid early marriage and pregnancy. They have been working to end education poverty in Uganda for 13 years.

Bay Roberts of One School at a Time

The Borgen Project interviewed Bay Roberts about the current situation of “One School.” When asked about the importance of education in the fight against world poverty, Roberts said, “Educated students learn to read and write and do basic math, they learn why it’s so important to wash your hands, they learn how to prevent disease and take care of their bodies, they learn how to plan for their futures and hopefully how to problem solve and how to think […] Current data indicates that in Sub-Saharan Africa, every extra year of schooling can equate to a 10 percent increase in wages throughout life.” Education is not just about reading, writing and math. For these children, it is about teaching them the basics of taking care of themselves as human beings. These skills stay with them throughout their whole lives.

Roberts then spoke specifically about the education of young girls, “Girls who do not have the chance to go to school are the ones that are hurt the most. They are sold early into marriage as parents often do not see the value in educating their daughters. These young women never have the chance to meet their potential, work a paying job, have access to their own money, etc.” Not only are young girls less likely to receive an education, but the impact that they have when they do is larger.

Roberts continued, “Girls who go to school are more likely to enter the workforce, earn higher incomes, delay marriage, plan their families and seek an education for their own children […] Women put 90 percent of their earnings into their families, compared to men’s 40 percent […] The World Bank has found that when a country improves education for girls, its overall per-capita income increases. Improvements in girls’ education lead to higher crop yields, lower HIV infection rates and reduced infant mortality.” In fact, a woman’s income has the potential to increase by 20 percent for every year of school she completes.

Building on Uganda’s Existing Education System

With that being said, the main goal of “One School” is not to provide access to education for children in Uganda. In 1997, Uganda implemented Universal Primary Education, presumably providing access for all children to receive primary education. However, due to woeful underfunding, the schools had almost no resources, direction or ability to educate properly. Therefore, the goal of “One School” is to partner with these underfunded schools and help provide them with tools, resources, and techniques to properly educate their students.  

When speaking about this process, Roberts said, “One School at a Time addresses this situation by working with stakeholders of a selected Ugandan government school to create a 5-year strategic plan to improve their school and then providing support to that school to implement their plan. Typically, in the early stages of the partnership, schools focus on infrastructure improvements: clean on-site water at school, latrines, health and sanitation, new classrooms and teachers quarters. Towards the end of the partnership, schools focus on programs to support older girls to stay in school, teacher training, small income-generating projects and farm and school lunch projects. The overall results are that these schools are markedly improved, stakeholders are energized and happy and students are having a vastly improved educational experience.”

As for the future, “One School at a Time” has plans to expand their programs further throughout Uganda, providing even more students with education and the opportunity for a better life. “Our plan is to expand this network to 10 schools and then replicate this process in another Ugandan district.” It is the hope of the organization that this program, with its capacity for growth, can be used throughout the world, giving every child a chance for success and ending world poverty through education.

– Zachary Farrin
Photo: Flickr