Child Displacement
Child displacement impacts children across all sectors and nations. As of 2020, more than 33 million children are living in forced displacement. This includes 11.8 million child refugees, 1.3 million asylum-seeking children, 20.4 million children displaced within their own country and 2.9 million children living in internal displacement as a result of natural disasters. Here is some information about child displacement in developing nations.

The Types of Child Displacement

A few types of child displacement exist. These include:

  • Internal Displacement: According to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the definition of an internally displaced individual is “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.”
  • Displacement on a Large Scale: An example of this is the Palestinian exodus in 1948 which resulted in the displacement of more than 750,000 people.
  • Separation From Family: This type of displacement uniquely relates to children in developing nations. When children are working away from family, they are susceptible to kidnapping, human trafficking and violence. For example, there are 10.1 million child laborers in India and one child is declared missing every 8 minutes.

Cognitive Harm

A study that Child Development published tested executive functions, which are the higher-order cognitive skills needed for decision making and complex thought, among Syrian refugees. The study found that the burden of house poverty affected displaced children’s working memory. This has a long-term impact on the ability to succeed in school and make correct decisions. These findings align and have a serious impact on the refugee crisis in Syria where 45% of Syrian refugees are children with more than a third without access to education.

Child Labor and Violence

Children comprise 25% of all human trafficking victims and are at higher risk for forced labor. After displacement, they can experience separation from family and traffickers can force them to work in fields such as agriculture, domestic services or factories. To date, an estimated 168 million children are in forced labor and more than 50% complete dangerous work.

Children who do not have access to safe and regular migration pathways often turn to irregular and dangerous routes, which further puts them at risk for violence and exploitation. According to the U.N., “around 1,600 migrant children between 2016 and 2018 were reported dead or missing, an average of almost one a day.”

A Lack of Data on Child Displacement

There is simply not enough data on child displacement which translates to inadequate information on the causes and long-term effects. For example, only 20% of countries with data on conflict-related internally displaced persons (IDP) break the statistics down by age.

Data disaggregation by age, sex and origin are essential as it will inform policymakers in the regions most directly impacted by child displacement on how severe the issue is. This will allow them to begin to construct resources to support all children. For example, children who cross borders may not receive services such as education and health care because the statistics regarding how many children are out of school and the long-lasting impact on child displacement are insufficient.

The Global Refugee Compact

In December 2018, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Global Refugee Compact. This is an international agreement amongst nonprofits, the private sector and international organizations to provide objectives to better include refugees in national systems, societies and economies and provide equal opportunity for them to contribute to communities. Through updated guidelines, the U.N. and partner organizations can craft effective modern solutions.

One of the unique features is the digital platform where partners and practitioners can share effective techniques, or Good Practices, to allow others to implement them in another location. The platform also builds a repository of overcoming humanitarian crises through good work that can be studied and implemented across a multitude of sectors.

There are various good practices targeting child displacement shared on the platform. For example, The BrightBox Initiative by the Simbi Foundation began in Uganda in July 2019 with the goal “to enhance access to education for students in UNHCR refugee settlements.” It transforms shipping containers into solar-powered classrooms to“provide access to literacy resources for a community of 6,000 simultaneous learners.” These types of resources are essential as Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa at about 1.5 million. Additionally, 60% of them are children.

Child displacement across the world exists for various humanitarian issues all rooted in poverty and are detrimental to the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable population. However, through large-scale global action, the world can address the causes of child displacement and begin crafting effective solutions.

– Imaan Chaudry
Photo: Flickr

Kimuli Fashionability
Kampala, Uganda generates 350,000 tons of waste every year, much of which goes uncollected. Sorting through glass, plastic and other trash is a dangerous job, but that does not stop Juliet Namujju from collecting waste for her sustainable clothing brand, Kimuli Fashionability, and teaching people with disabilities how to turn trash into treasure.

From Tragedy to Hope

Juliet Namujju’s father had his legs amputated after a terrible accident. Because of his disability, he was not able to find employment, lost hope and eventually died. At only 6 years old, Namujju became an orphan when her mother died shortly after. Her grandmother, a tailor with little income, took her in. Since her grandmother could not afford toys, she inspired Juliet to make and sew dolls using leftover fabric and waste. After high school, Namujju attended a fashion course and joined Social Innovation Academy, a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized youth realize their full potential.

At 20 years old, she founded her sustainable clothing brand with the hope of employing and empowering the people of her village. Kimuli Fashionability was born out of ingenuity in an environment of poverty. Namujju’s mission is to simultaneously promote inclusivity by hiring people with disabilities while also limiting the out-of-control waste in Uganda.

The Brand

Kimuli is the Luganda word for “flower.” Namujju named her sustainable clothing brand “Kimuli Fashionability” because she takes the trash and turns it into something elegant, like a flower. Not only are her fashions flowering treasures, but her budding students make her business flourish. The sustainable clothing brand has trained at least 75 people with disabilities, and these new trainers are now teaching others. Kimuli Fashionability also contracts with 120 underserved adolescents to collect waste.

The company’s slogan is “waste is only waste if you waste it.” According to its website, Kimuli Fashionability transformed 33 tons of waste into more than 9,000 products to date, proving her slogan and solidifying her contributions to sustainability in Uganda.

The Product Line

Namujju and her team makes fashionable and affordable bags, raincoats, wallets and dresses using upcycled waste from disposal sites. One of Namujju’s most recent designs is a transparent face mask to help people with hearing loss communicate effectively in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typical face masks cover the mouth with opaque material blocking people from reading lips. Because roughly half of Namujju’s staff is hearing impaired, she saw a need to design a mask that would alleviate the communication barrier. Her face mask design uses a clear, recycled plastic at the center of the mask. She has sold and donated more than 2,000 of these masks.

Upcycled sugar sacks and African fabric make up Kimuli Fashionability’s bright yellow and red rain jackets. The U.N. General Assembly in New York displayed them. The rain jackets also come in neutral colors and feature both children and adult sizes.

The brand also sells duffle bags made out of old cement bags with straps of colorful African fabric. It also sells earrings in different shapes made from vibrant and colorful recycled plastic.

An Inspirational Journey

Though Juliet Namujju creates lasting change in Kampala by employing people with disabilities at Kimuli Fashionability, many with disabilities are still impoverished in Uganda. These people count for over 12% of the population, and only 20% of them do not live in poverty. Namujju wants to continue growing her business and training more people with disabilities. By 2024, her goal is to train more than 1,000 people with disabilities and offer employment to at least half of them. She wants to expand her business and market her clothing in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya. By 2025, she wants Kimuli Fashionability to own its own production and training center. Throughout, Namujju will continue to teach her fellow Ugandans to look at waste differently and recruit them to solve the waste problem in Uganda.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

covid-19s-impact-on-uganda-and-what-other-countries-are-doing-about-it
With more than 126,000 cumulative cases overall, the coronavirus is spreading fast through Uganda. As a result, the East African country is exhausting its health and safety resources, impacting the livelihood of its people. However, hope may be on the horizon thanks to the U.S. embassy. One of its newest missions invites a roster of vendors to supply high-quality medical equipment to Kampala, the Ugandan capital, as a means of alleviating COVID-19’s impact on Uganda.

The Way COVID-19 Intensified Poverty in Uganda

An international psychogeriatric study interviewed dozens of older Ugandan adults in an effort to capture their post-COVID-19 struggles. Its analysis describes five overarching themes: economic impacts, lack of access to basic necessities, impact on health care utilization, social impacts and violent reinforcement of public health restrictions.

During the pandemic’s first eight weeks, 1.9 million Ugandans fell into poverty, increasing that rate by nearly 16%. Some would resort to self-started businesses in times of economic hardship, but this is no longer an option for many Ugandans due to heavy health restrictions.

“I used to work for myself,” one 82-year-old Ugandan told researchers backed by the University of Liverpool and the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast in December 2020.

“I could eat and drink because I used to make roasted g-nuts and I sell them in this area. But when (the coronavirus) came, there is no moving. People have no money.”

An estimated 60% of informal business owners lost their livelihoods in the first eight weeks of the pandemic, all while the overall unemployment rate in Uganda increased from 1.8% in 2019 to 2.4% in 2020.

The inability of older Ugandans to commute or work because of the heavy health regulations and curfews is pushing younger generations to stay home and take care of their elders. Many of the older adults participating in the Liverpool study stated they were no longer able to pay their grandchildren’s school fees.

Some 15 million Ugandan learners — and 600,000 refugee learners — are currently out of school, according to the country’s education ministry. Since learning serves as a ticket out of poverty for many Ugandan youth, poor access to that and health care have resulted in children possibly lacking vital elements to construct any sort of livable circumstance.

A Struggling Health Care System

Uganda has a dozen post-graduate medical colleges and 29 nursing schools. Even so, there remains a shortage of health care workers and tools.

One of COVID-19’s impacts on Uganda is that it is experiencing an influx of patients. As a result, Ugandan doctors have been turning to Indian laboratories, sending patients abroad and violating health and travel restrictions. Ugandan health experts assert that poor government investments in health care are the reason for hospital inadequacies. For example, the medical sector represented only 5% of national spending in Uganda during the first full fiscal year of the pandemic compared with about 8% the year before. That decrease is due to a 90% decline in on-budget external financing for health care—from $332 million to just under $28 million.

The deadly mix of COVID-19 and economic instability has left an impact via a “domino effect” of multiple large-scale problems. Wealthier countries with greater ability to mitigate the virus can salvage key economic sectors like income, transportation and other aspects of poverty. Thus, a crucial step in relieving the medley of issues Uganda is experiencing may be to address the root of it all — the coronavirus. This could lead to the lifting of public health restrictions, allowing businesses to recover. The first step in this direction could involve making health care more accessible.

New Tools for Ugandan Health Care

The embassy issued equipment and supply requests at the beginning of November 2021 to alleviate COVID-19’s impact on Uganda, allowing U.S. companies to bid on and deliver easy-to-use, cutting-edge items ranging from integrated wall systems — that include vital equipment like blood pressure cuffs, devices that check ears and thermometers — to laryngoscopes, which can examine a patient’s larynx. Just days after these requests, Uganda mission director Richard Nelson kickstarted the process by donating more than $2 million worth of safety necessities.

Another useful procurement is COVAX, a global initiative working to supply vaccines. COVAX raised more than $2 billion, ultimately distributing some 700 million vaccine doses worldwide. However, Uganda only administered eight vaccines shots for every 100 people as of April 2021. With COVAX, Uganda is guaranteed 3 million new doses by spring, already collecting some 196,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in October 2021.

However, this is not enough to ensure herd immunity — what public health experts say could be necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus overall. To seal such gaps, 49 countries and 51 organizations are donating to COVAX, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledging more than $200 million. TikTok, Google and the Coca-Cola Co. are some of the other significant names making donations. A German business delegation that H.E. Matthias Schauer led said it was directly donating 5.5 million new Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses in early November 2021.

COVID-19 has deeply impacted Ugandan businesses and stripped the livelihoods of young and old alike. However, the U.S. is helping reduce COVID-19’s impact on Uganda through a foreign aid program, especially as the pandemic’s mortality rate continues to grow.

Fidelia Gavrilenko
Photo: Flickr

Shares Uganda
Many know Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, for its conservation of mountain gorillas and agricultural exports of cash crops like coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco. The nation is also home to the highest refugee population in all of Africa. About 76% of citizens reside in rural locations and the agriculture industry is responsible for the employment of about 73% of the workforce. According to Opportunity International, 41% of Ugandans endure circumstances of poverty. The nation’s agriculture sector presents the most opportunities for low-income families, youth and refugees to avoid poverty. Shares Uganda has tapped into the natural resources and rich agriculture aspects of Uganda to help aid impoverished populations.

Shares Uganda

The company’s main business objective is to “develop, finance, process and export added value organic agricultural commodities in Uganda in direct cooperation with small scale farmers.” These farmers, who also receive support to obtain organic certification, undergo training “to enhance productivity and to ensure a profitable and fair income with guaranteed procurement.” According to its website, Share Uganda’s overall mission is to create “organic and fair trade added value production chains locally that are ecologically, socially and economically sound” while benefiting “all parties in the chain.”

The organization contracts farmers in Uganda to grow organic produce like bird’s eye chilies, chia and sesame seeds for export to Europe. Other produce like sunflower seeds, beans and fruit are a priority to produce because they are in high demand in Uganda.

Registered farmers go through training to “produce a sustainable market-driven product.” Once farmers produce their crops, Shares Uganda purchases the produce directly from farmers, negating the need for a middleman. Without a middleman, farmers are able to receive higher compensation for their produce. The company also runs “a training program to stimulate Village Loan and Saving Associations that help” farmers to increase productivity and rely less on costly microfinance loans.

At the marketing phase, field officers monitor “every organic store on organic conformities, documentation and aspects of quality.” Before the growing season is over, the officers then “provide marketing training to each store official on record keeping, marketing and accountability.” This ensures high-quality products aligned with international standards.

Positive Impacts

The efforts of Shares Uganda positively impact communities in Uganda. Shares Uganda’s initiatives have led to increased income for farmers, enabling them to improve their quality of life. With more income, farmers are able to afford improved housing, access adequate education and health care services as well as necessary medicines. With the ability to afford the costs of education, school enrollment rates are increasing. According to the World Bank, primary school enrollment rates in Uganda have risen over the years, standing at about 95% in 2013. Furthermore, from 2013 to 2017, poverty in the northern region of Uganda decreased from 44% to 33%.

Looking Ahead

Results of drought in recent years have pushed back individuals into poverty, though, making the resources and support available through outside organizations that much more essential for farmers in Uganda. Over the past decade, Uganda has made strides to mitigate poverty with the help of organizations like Shares Uganda making the most of agricultural opportunities.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

DataKind
People often say that this is the era of data; after all, data mining and extraction often prove essential for widescale business operations and more. Still, even as the demand for data analysts and data scientists rises every year, projects focusing on social change do not get the same advantages in this field as large private enterprises. Expansive tech corporations still hold most of the resources and information when using data analysis as a tool for operative efficiency.

However, many organizations seek to change this. One of them is DataKind, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to putting data in the service of others. The organization works on short and long-term projects addressing topics from poverty and access to services in developing countries to health care and education.

Why DataKind?

DataKind works with nonprofit organizations that have access to large quantities of gathered information and delivers high-quality analyses. These analyses help effectively streamline resources, creating new goals for NGOs and nonprofits so that more people can receive aid. In this way, DataKind has shifted the trends of big data and data analysis toward humanitarian projects.

CEO Jake Porway stated, “In 2010, we had the big-data boom, but the things that people would do with it seemed so frivolous — they would build apps to help them park their car or find a local bar. I just thought, ‘This is crazy, we need to do something more.’ ” After realizing that data analysis has a place in the nonprofit realm, Porway founded DataKind in 2010. Based in New York City, it originally had part-time data scientist volunteers working on short-term projects, but now the organization collaborates with more than a dozen international bodies such as the U.N.’s Global Pulse and the World Bank.

GiveDirect

GiveDirect is an organization that focuses on transferring money to the poorest communities in Kenya and Uganda. These funds can go into communities, helping individuals pursue their own goals. To identify which villages will benefit from this, DataKind stepped in to analyze data from satellite images. It identified which households and villages were the poorest in each region. A programmed algorithm detected the materials of individual homes; thatched or metal roofs can be an indicator of a community’s needs. This proved to be more efficient and less costly than a traditional census in these remote areas.

VotoMobile

This organization has a dedication to amplifying the voices of marginalized groups in West Africa by using mobile surveys in local languages. It targets remote communities’ main necessities, gathering insight on groups typically not represented in common censuses. DataKind enhanced data repositories and built interactive data models for VotoMobile to use for future data collection. With DataKind’s help, VotoMobile is now focussing on standardizing its surveys so they are easier to analyze and compare. When this stage is complete, VotoMobile will be able to take many more voices into account, prioritizing specific types of aid for rural villages in Uganda and Senegal.

The World Bank: Anti-Corruption Solutions

To effectively tackle poverty, it is necessary to root out corruption in development projects. In one of its most ambitious projects, DataKind collaborated with The World Bank, working with collected data from across the globe to identify possible corruption cases and create innovative solutions. It closely studied food prices, inflation rates, vis-a-vis surveys and phone data. Participants in this project have carefully mapped what variables are missing in the data. These strategies are not limited exclusively to future frameworks in data collection. They can also contribute to ingenious solutions for rampant corruption around the globe.

In the future, DataKind hopes to keep delivering new data-based solutions for international organizations and institutions, bringing new volunteers into the era of philanthropic data analysis.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Movement in Uganda
The women’s movement in Uganda has fought for women’s rights for nearly two decades. In 2021, it has reason to celebrate as two bills passed through Parliament that significantly improve the rights of Ugandan women. Even with this recent example of progress, the women’s movement in Uganda continues to strive for further rights.

Discrimination against Women in Uganda

Until 2021, women in Uganda faced discrimination in cases of inheritance and land ownership. The previous law granted preference to male children. Families of widows would often force them to leave their homes. Women could not possess land or income, leaving many women in Uganda poor and vulnerable to violence. More than a fifth of women aged 15 to 49 in Uganda experienced some form of sexual violence, according to the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. Furthermore, 13% of women in the same age group experience sexual violence annually.

In 2012, a policy to regulate marriage and divorce continued to make little headway; it was pending for more than 14 years. Without this law, there was little protection for women in marriage. Although the Ugandan Constitution “provides that the minimum legal age for marriage for both men and women is fixed at 18 years,” customary laws in rural areas allow early marriages for minors. As a result, girls have higher drop-out rates because of early marriage and pregnancy. In addition, these customary laws allowed polygamy, but women in polygamous relationships had no protection in the case of divorce.

History of Women’s Rights in Uganda

Despite historical discrimination against women in Uganda, significant progress has occurred for women’s rights and empowerment in Uganda. This year, women make up 34.9% of the Ugandan parliament. In addition, 75% of legal frameworks “promote[s], enforce[s] and monitor[s] gender equality, with a focus on violence against women.” Over the last 15 years specifically, legislation has passed to protect women from both gender discrimination and violence.

In terms of violence against women, Uganda has passed multiple laws. Uganda passed the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act in 2009, which works to eliminate human trafficking and contains multiple actions related to the issue. Meanwhile, in 2010, the country passed the Domestic Violence Act and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act. The Domestic Violence Act provides protection and relief services for victims of domestic violence and punishes the culprit.

The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation prohibits female genital mutilation and girls and women who are at threat of female genital mutilation. Additionally, Uganda passed the Equal Opportunities Act in 2007. The policy gives the government the power to punish discrimination against any individual or group including on the basis of gender. It further allows the state to take affirmative action in favor of marginalized groups in order to readdress the imbalances already held against them.

Women’s Movement in Uganda

After decades of lobbying for women’s rights, the women’s movement in Uganda has seen the passage of two bills that address better women’s rights and discrimination this year. In March, the passage of the Succession Bill addressed women facing discrimination in terms of inheritance and land ownership. The previous law had gaps and ownership of property was given through inheritance to the male child. The gaps are now addressed, and children, regardless of sex, receive the property. In April, the passage of the Employment Bill seeks to prohibit sexual harassment in workplaces.

The bill states that “all employers are now required to put in place measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and to prohibit abuse, harassment or violence against employees.” The bill also provides support for unpaid domestic workers as their work is now acknowledged as formal. In addition, these workers are to receive pay and the tools to report abuse.

Looking Ahead

While the women’s movement in Uganda has made significant strides in improving women’s rights and gender discrimination in the country, the movement will continue to strive for further rights and address the issue of gender-based violence. Furthermore, with recent momentum, there is a reason for the hope that the women’s movement in Uganda will continue to make a difference in the country.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr

Frauen Initiative Uganda and Sexual Violence VictimsFor developing countries, all forms of gender-based violence can be detrimental to socio-economic progress. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 43% of Ugandan women aged 25 to 29 were married before turning 18. About 20% of Ugandan women between 15 and 49 years of age had experienced sexual violence in their past compared to 10% of the men who have reported the same. In order to manage gender-based violence, countries need sustainable, funded and functional medical and gender justice institutions. According to data from UNWOMEN, Uganda still needs a lot of work in this area. Ugandan women between the ages of 15 and 49 often face obstacles when trying to access sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, the country lacks effective legal frameworks to promote gender equality with a focus on violence against women.

Frauen Initiative Uganda

Frauen Initiative Uganda is an organization of 22 women who help victims of sexual violence find safe spaces. It was created when young women in Uganda mobilized over social media to create an organization in response to the rising cases of sexual violence during Uganda’s first national COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Safina Virani, co-director of Frauen Initiative Uganda, told The Borgen Project in an interview that while reports of rape were swarming the media, there was little being done to help the rape victims. “The founders and I recognized that something had to be done for the rape victims. From that thought, we decided to create an organization that provides legal, medical and psychological aid for free to rape victims,” she explained.

Frauen Initiative Uganda offers three main services for free to victims of sexual violence in Uganda:

  1. Medical aid. The initiative provides rape kits and medication to protect victims from contracting HIV. This is the most basic of medical examinations recommended to rape victims but getting $5 is hard to come by for most Ugandan rape victims.
  2. Psychological aid. To deal with the trauma of gender-based violence, Frauen Initiative Uganda offers a way for victims to access psychological help. This proves to be the most costly as securing mental health requires ongoing therapy sessions.
  3. Legal aid. Frauen Initiative Uganda has partnered with the Women’s Probono Initiative, a non-profit that advances women’s legal representation through pro bono work. This has been important in ensuring justice is achieved.

The Shadow Pandemic in Uganda

The “shadow pandemic” is a phenomenon that recently occurred due to emerging data from all over the world showing all types of violence against women and girls amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 continues to strain health facilities across the world and as more infectious coronavirus variants spread through the developing world, domestic violence shelters and facilities have reached their capacities. Uganda is hardly an exception. The country became a statistic of the shadow pandemic with studies showing that about 46% of women faced a fear of violence as the COVID-19 crisis heightened. About 22% of the women experienced sexual or gender-based violence during the first national lockdown in 2020; such cases had increased by over 3,000 with a little over 1,000 being reported to the police.

Economic Challenges, Barrier to Justice

The economic impact of COVID-19 in Uganda has had implications on gender-based violence. It was cited in a UNDP report that women would face economic disadvantages due to the pandemic restrictions in Uganda. This would expose them to violence, especially women who live with abusive partners.

The economic downturn also has impacts on the work of Frauen Initiative Uganda. Safina Virani explained that due to the economic challenges in Uganda, it is difficult to carry out operations. While Frauen Initiative Uganda has a hard time reaching victims, it becomes more daunting in rural areas. In these areas, gender-based violence rates are highest and low incomes prevent women from accessing internet-enabled devices to seek help.

Even if victims of gender-based violence access internet devices, Uganda’s internet tax makes it difficult to benefit from internet services. Starting July 2021, all Ugandans are charged a levy to access the internet. The government claims it uses this levy to raise revenue for inclusive growth, development and industrialization. Before this new economic restriction, one had to pay a social media tax to use platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook.

Despite these economic obstacles, Frauen Initiative Uganda finds ways to maintain its operations. All members of the organization contribute a little over $1 monthly. “Our team members are usually generous enough to donate more than their allocated amount,” Safina Virani said.

Using Online Platforms to Achieve Success

Despite the digital divide between men and women in Uganda, fighting gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic can be successful. The digital gender gap in Uganda is around 43% with women having less access to internet services mostly due to economic reasons. However, Frauen Initiative Uganda has been able to achieve a few successes.

In a moving story, Frauen Initiative Uganda was able to apply pressure on online platforms controlled by the government. The organization did this to find a young teenage girl who was raped by a soldier, then subsequently kidnapped to force her to have an abortion. An active Twitter hashtag campaign was launched by members of the initiative. “Even though the soldier was never convicted, Frauen Initiative Uganda sees this as a life saved thanks to our actions,” Safina Virani added, explaining that the girl may have never been returned.

In response to fighting gender-based violence, it is important to recognize the role of NGOs such as Frauen Initiative Uganda.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

Education Field in UgandaBirungi Nabasanira lives in Kasasa, Uganda, a community becoming the site of the Tat Sat Community Academy. This will include a secondary school, savings and credit cooperative and performing arts facilities. All facilities will reach completion in 2021 as the TaSCA project aims to even the education field in Uganda. Also known simply as TaSCA, the project is part of the InteRoots Initiative. The InteRoots Initiative is a Denver, Colorado-based nonprofit that works on local, national and international projects. The communities where investment occurs have a prominent voice in InteRoots, making sure that community members direct project priorities, methodologies and timelines.

The Importance of Education

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Kasasa community member Nabasanira said that education is important to move ahead in life today. She believes TaSCA will help progress the education field in Uganda. Nabasanira said the question that many have proposed has always been how to best afford education. She also mentioned that TaSCA and InteRoots are implementing working relationships with community members.

Including the insights of local community members in the school curriculum through the Institute of Indigenous Cultures and Performing Arts (ICPA) aids the efforts of TaSCA and InteRoots greatly. The ICPA will engage the larger community in the cultivation and preservation of common heritage. Community members also receive support with access to micro-lending through the Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO), which will provide community financing, student/family financial support and economic education.

Putting Skills into Practice

Scott Frank, executive director and co-founder of the InteRoots Initiative, told The Borgen Project that one of the innovative programs of the TaSCA project is the Graduate Enterprise Fund. “A brilliant part of what the community has envisioned is that a majority of student tuition, which really is affordable, goes toward an account set up for each student at the credit union. Once they graduate, they are able to use the money that was put aside to continue studies, start a business or pursue other ventures.”

He says students will be able to use the skills they learned in school, which goes far beyond a traditional curriculum through the incorporation of skill-based training and financial literacy training. Additionally, students will have the resources necessary to apply these skills and follow their dreams after graduation.

The Return of Indigenous Traditions

Ronald Kibirige, the co-founder of the InteRoots Initiative and board chair, noted that Uganda has lost many indigenous traditions due to Western-style schooling. As such, TaSCA aims to incorporate local culture into secondary education. Furthermore, according to UNICEF, just one in four children in the country attend secondary school.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Kibirige said that most secondary schools in Uganda are private and they cost too much money to attend, making them off-limits for many families who lack the financial security for such endeavors. TaSCA aims to even the education field in Uganda by creating a model that not only supports students but also creates a net positive for the community’s investment.

Kristi Eaton
Photo: Flickr

Afro Fem CodersAs a recent Mastercard Foundation Scholar and computer science master’s graduate at UC Berkley, Gloria Tumushabe is acutely aware of the inequality between men and women in computer programming, especially in her home country of Uganda. Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, specifically in computer programming where “less than 5% of programmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women.” To address the impacts of the pandemic on girls’ education in Uganda, Tumushabe launched Afro Fem Coders: a remote program teaching young Ugandan women how to code.

COVID-19 and Heightened Gender Inequality

The COVID-19 pandemic arguably heightened education inequality for Ugandan girls. Once the pandemic hit, many students had to take a step back in their education due to school closures, economic hardships and health issues. The negative repercussions of COVID-19 disproportionately impact girls and women. The Malala Fund found that “marginalized girls are more at risk than boys of dropping out of school altogether following school closures and that women and girls are more vulnerable to the worst effects of the current pandemic.”

Afro Fem Coders

Afro Fem Coders began with Tumushabe spreading the word that she would teach Ugandan girls how to code. Once girls started expressing interest in the program, Tumushabe used part of her scholarship stipend to fund the girls’ access to laptops and the internet. Afro Fem Coders gained support through a GoFundMe and now includes a mentorship program with leaders from Silicon Valley.

The program aims to “create a space that gives women a chance to learn programming in an environment that makes them feel safe, empowered and inspired.” UNICEF asserts that a feeling of safety and empowerment is important for girls to develop digital skills, especially in spaces where gender norms undermine girls’ aspirations to pursue STEM careers.

Eight girls are currently enrolled in the program, with many of them aspiring to be engineers. Student Martha Toni Atwiine endeavors “to build technology for differently-abled people and create more inclusive technology.” Margaret Tendo hopes to “use her computer science knowledge to create applications that create safe travel options for women around the country.”

Revitalizing the Economy Through Women in STEM

Not only do programs like Afro Fem Coders dismantle gendered barriers to opportunity and education but they also tap into major growth opportunities. If empowered young women enter STEM fields in Uganda, they have the chance to transform their nation into a space of growth and opportunity, harnessing the power of technology within the economic sphere.

Coupled with economic empowerment, technological advancement provides new opportunities for careers and breakthroughs that can reduce poverty in a country. UNICEF’s report on girls’ STEM education expresses that “STEM education also has the potential to contribute to personal empowerment, transformation of communities and nations and building economies for the future.”

“The more of us women in this space, the better,” Tumushabe told Berkeley. Overall, the representation of young women in fields such as computer programming actively benefits the economy and combats global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Unsplash

Child Mortality in UgandaFatal diseases are taking the lives of children in Uganda, claiming the futures of the young generation. Approximately 8.2 million children younger than 5 die annually due to various illnesses and complications during childbirth. Roughly 40% of these deaths occur within the first 30 days of life, falling into the category of neonatal deaths. Rates of child mortality in Uganda have been on a decline since 1970 when there were 191 infant deaths among 1,000 births. Today, there are 45.8 deaths in 1,000 births. Although there is a marked decrease in numbers, under-five deaths still pose a problem for Uganda. Fortunately, many organizations recognize the issue and are implementing programs to effectively combat it.

Causes of Child Mortality in Uganda

Roughly 16% of child mortality cases in Uganda are caused by pneumonia. Symptoms of the illness include chest pain, persistent coughing, fever and low body temperature. About 99% of pneumonia cases occur in less-developed countries such as Uganda, making clear the correlation between poverty and pneumonia. In poverty-stricken areas, malnutrition, poor air quality and limited access to healthcare cause the development and dispersion of pneumonia among a population. Children in Uganda are vulnerable and quickly become victims of the illness.

Malaria also leads to child mortality in Uganda. Malaria is a fatal disease caused by parasites that spread from person to person. Symptoms include fever, headache and chills. Young children are especially susceptible to the disease, and in 2019, 67% of malaria cases affected children younger than 5. The illness can kill children within 30 seconds. Malaria is most common in Africa and costs the continent $12 billion each year. Access to treatment is difficult to obtain in the poverty-stricken areas of Uganda where malaria dissipates. The most impoverished areas of Africa are the ones most affected by malaria, with children younger than 5 at most risk.

Finally, diarrhea causes 10% of infant deaths in Uganda. Symptoms of the infection include cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. Studies have shown that in Pajule Subcounty and other rural areas of Uganda, the rates of diarrhea are higher. A lack of clean water and inadequate health education contribute to these health consequences.

Working Toward a Solution

Recognizing the issues that surround child mortality in Uganda, many organizations have taken the initiative to reduce the severity of the situation. One such organization is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is dedicated to the well-being and longevity of children worldwide. Among its many programs to address under-five deaths in Uganda, UNICEF has established a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program seeking to increase access to clean drinking water and teach healthy sanitation habits. Only 8% of mothers with children younger than 5 have access to soap and resources necessary for handwashing. Such habits lead to illnesses such as diarrhea. In tandem with the Government of Uganda, UNICEF is working to provide sanitation resources and increase awareness of healthy habits.

With similar intentions and efforts, Living Goods is a nonprofit organization collaborating with Bangladesh-based BRAC to help rural Ugandan mothers prevent infant mortality. Through its Community Health Promoters (CHP) program, the organization implements grassroots efforts to improve community health. CHPs are workers who go door-to-door to communicate healthy practices, relay important information, diagnose child illnesses and provide care to mothers and their newborns. This work has led to a 27% decrease in under-five child mortality in targeted regions. Ugandan villagers now take more precautions in order to maintain their own health and that of their young children.

Looking Ahead

Child mortality in Uganda is a problem that has not yet been eliminated. Many Ugandan families face unhealthy living conditions that are unfavorable to a child’s health. However, organizations such as UNICEF, Living Goods and BRAC are working to educate rural villages on the importance of sanitation and are giving families the resources to establish healthier lifestyles. Thanks to such efforts, under-five death rates are declining. If the work of these organizations continues, in the near future, more positive progress lies ahead.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash