Empowering Women Through Local Libraries
Digital literacy, career training and access to the internet are all becoming more commonplace throughout the developing world. While the majority of the population reaps the benefits of these programs, however, some certain groups, particularly women, are staggering behind. In order to combat this, various organizations have taken a unique and innovative approach in sharing these essential resources and empowering women through local libraries.

READ Centers in Nepal

In countries like Nepal, the men in women’s lives often control their level of education, knowledge of finance and mobility. These men expect women to ask permission to leave their own homes and women must always have male accompaniment when they do. This lack of personal freedom makes it hard for these women to know how to go about making their own decisions. Luckily, organizations like READ Global aim to circumvent such barriers with innovative programs with the hope of empowering women through local libraries.

READ Global, a nonprofit organization in South Asia, achieves this by creating safe centers for women through local libraries in Nepal. Known as READ Centers, these places not only provide free educational and financial programs, but they also provide a safe, public spot for women to gather and learn.

Livelihood skills training and other offered lessons enable women to pursue careers like beekeeping, sewing and vegetable farming. When women have the opportunity to earn and save for themselves, they become empowered to distribute their money in ways they see fit. A 2010 study indicated that the ability to earn their own income positively affects women’s autonomy and READ Centers programs have supported this finding.

Eighty-six percent of women who participated in the center’s skills-training programs reported that they were able to increase their income after taking the training classes. In the same survey, 73 percent of participants reported being able to buy their own food, 68 percent reported easier access to health care and an amazing 63 percent of all participants could afford to send their children off to school after completing one of the training programs. READ Centers are a striking model of empowering women through local libraries with innovative and affordable programs.

The National Library of Uganda (ICT) Project

A case study indicated that 83 percent of Ugandan women work in the farming and agricultural industry. This means that women alone contribute 70 to 75 percent of farm produce in the country. Since women are responsible for such a large chunk of the farming industry, it is quite alarming that most of these women have extremely limited access to modern farming resources. One library in Uganda saw the need for these resources and made empowering women through local libraries a top priority.

Kyangatto, a rural village in Uganda, serves as a hub for the farming community of the Nakaseke district. In this particular village, women carry the majority of the farming workload and must depend on traditional farming techniques. The women’s reliance on less effective farming methods stems from limited access to information about modern farming, plant and animal disease, and knowledge of market prices.

To combat this deficit in information, The NLU (National Library of Uganda) collaborated with the Nakaseke district’s multi-purpose community telecenter on a project that could provide proper resources and offer solutions for these challenges. In 2012, the partnering organizations launched The Electronic Information Empowering Women Farmers Service (EIFL). Through this service, women could participate in an information and communication course, which included computer/internet researching skills training, and a feature that sends farmers educational messages to mobile devices via SMS in various languages, including Luganda, a native language to a majority of participants.

The partner organizations also benefited greatly from a generous grant of $15,000 from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme. Through the grant, they were able to purchase four new computers and 15 mobile phones for trainees. Among other accomplishments, the program developed the first-ever women’s ICT training course in the Nakaseke district and trained 64 female farmers in digital literacy for the first time. The service has also expanded to Bulkalabi Primary School in Kyangatto, has successfully organized follow-up courses for 60 previous participants and recently registered 15 men in the program due to community demand.

While there is a lot of work necessary to improve life for women in the developing world, local libraries and the innovative programs they are launching have made a huge impact already. In fact, empowering women through local libraries has become a global trend that continues to grow.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

App to Help Refugees in Uganda
Uganda has been accepting refugees for many years. Unfortunately, these refugees have limited access to economic opportunity. That is where LevelApp comes in. The nonprofit Refunite created the app to help refugees in Uganda. The program creates small tasks for refugees to complete in exchange for payment. It is not a substitute for a regular income, but it provides some money on the side that refugees can save for the future. The work pays well too; a refugee may normally make around $1 a day, but the app gives them the potential to make up to $20 a day.

Uganda’s Refugee Crisis

Refugees have been seeking shelter in Uganda for many years now. Here are some facts about refugees in Uganda.

  • The refugee population in Uganda rose by 48 percent in the past year.
  • There are over 1.3 million refugees in Uganda.
  • Over 60 percent of those refugees are from South Sudan.
  • The South Sudanese are coming to Uganda to escape an oppressive government.
  • Many South Sudanese refugees are between 15 and 25 years old.
  • Almost 30 percent of refugees come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The Congolese are escaping ethnic violence and an Ebola outbreak.

How LevelApp is Helping Refugees

Refugees need to be able to save money if they are to lift themselves out of poverty. The app helps women, who are important in local economies, by giving them tasks they can do from home. Almost 30 percent of users are women and they can use extra money in many beneficial ways. Some ways are to send kids to school, buy livestock and access health care, which might make them less dependent on foreign aid. Another important benefit is that by using this new technology, refugees learn new skills that they can use when they return home.

How LevelApp Works?

Refugees complete simple tasks like categorizing images and datasets. The more tasks they complete, the more money they make. They can download tasks and complete offline, which is important because many refugees do not have access to a consistent internet connection. Refugees can make almost $200 a month with this simple work. As of July 2019, LevelApp had around 1,500 users and the hope is that this number will grow.

The tasks are to help Refunite develop artificial intelligence. The basic tasks refugees complete, like labeling and mapping, help the AI learn. For Refunite, this is a win-win scenario because it is helping refugees climb out of poverty while developing AI.

Unexpected Benefits of LevelApp

While LevelApp is helping to lift refugees out of poverty, there are also some other positive effects. Using the app, refugees are beginning to learn English, which is an incredibly useful language to know. Also, through LevelApp, young people can new people. This is beneficial because a high number of refugees are young, and they are often stuck in limbo socially and economically. The youth often have difficulty making friends and progressing their careers. The app has also benefited the careers of young people by teaching them 21st-century skills that they can use when they return home.

LevelApp is helping refugees by providing an income that they normally would not have. It is a unique economic opportunity that greatly benefits refugees by providing them with 21st-century technological skills to use to access higher-paying jobs when they return home. The creator, Refunite, is also benefitting because the work refugees do for the company helps develop its artificial intelligence program. The company could easily develop this technology at home in the United States, but giving this opportunity to refugees is beneficial to combatting poverty. This app to help refugees in Uganda has created benefits that stretch beyond just poverty reduction and display the need for innovative solutions to global poverty.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Obstetric Fistula in Uganda

Obstetric fistula is an injury that is caused by a prolonged labor. Obstetric relates to childbirth and the postpartum period, and fistula is Latin for hole. The hole occurs between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. The side effects of the injury commonly result in uncontrollable leakage of urine and feces.

Uganda’s fertility rate is ranked 11th in the world. Although there has been a decrease in the fertility rate, maternal mortality remains high. Much of this is attributed to mothers suffering from obstetric fistula. There are an estimated 140,000 women living with obstetric fistula in Uganda. Ugandan women are at high risk due to limited access to quality maternal care, and transportation costs to the repair facilities also contribute to the prevalence of the pregnancy-related injury.

Hidden Costs of Repair

In 2015, USAID supported a research study to better understand the financial barriers that Ugandan women face when seeking fistula repair surgery. Aside from medical expenses for fistula care, Ugandan women struggle with the cost of food and water during their recovery period at the facilities. In addition, the cost of child care or hiring employees to manage businesses create a larger financial burden. Thus, this injury has a direct impact on women living in poverty.

Most of the mothers both interviewed and in focus groups struggled with loss of income, lack of quality health services and transportation expenses. The non-medical costs of care like transportation, food and lodging become expensive for surgical patients. Ugandan women spend up to $25 on one-way transportation to a fistula repair facility. For these reasons, even free surgery is rarely actually free.

Care for Repair

In 2004, the USAID created the Fistula Care Plus Project, which has supported more than 51,124 fistula repair surgeries around the world. A total of 3,534 of these repair surgeries were for women with obstetric fistula in Uganda. Along with providing care, Fistula Care Plus trained 26 doctors and 761 nurses to perform fistula repair surgery in the country.

The project focuses on expanding efforts for community awareness, family planning services and maternal health care. Fistula Care Plus is working with three private, faith-based hospitals: Hoima Hospital, Kitovu Mission Hospital and Kagando Mission Hospital. It also works with two government-run hospitals: Kamuli Mission Hospital and Jinja Hospital. There are also other projects that work to provide care for Ugandan women.

As an international nonprofit organization, the Uganda Village Project works directly with community based organizations and local government. This project educates the community and maximizes public health. The Uganda Village Project collaborates with Uganda Childbirth Injuries Fund to repair women with the injury.

Through village outreach, health center referrals, radio shows, and word-of-mouth communication, the Project is able to identify women with obstetric fistula in Uganda. After gathering groups of women, the Uganda Village Project transports them to repair camps at the Kamuli Mission Hospital. Once the women arrive, they are repaired by surgeons from the Uganda Childbirth Injuries Fund. These organizations are making an effort to maximize the aid and services that Ugandan women need.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

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 Uganda

Education 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

Africa Water Solutions
John Ochieng knew his people deserved better. After all, access to water, the world’s most basic need, should not be this difficult. Now, Ochieng has been with Africa Water Solutions (AWS) for eight years working as the Operations Director. The nonprofit organization focuses on helping communities have access to safe water in their homes. This year alone they have their sights set on nearly 200 villages.

John Ochieng

A native of eastern Uganda, Ochieng’s parents passed away when he was young resulting in the loss of their property. Through the experience with the legal system, Ochieng found “justice was not for the poor” which inspired him to pursue a law degree. Ochieng graduated from Makerere University with a law degree in 2007 and practiced as a judge for six months before resigning. Ochieng noted the justice system in Uganda is not as effective as it is in the United States. After returning to his hometown, Ochieng found a hole being utilized as a latrine behind several homes. This discovery is what led to his involvement with Africa Water Solutions, and how he ultimately found himself doing what he is doing today.

Uganda’s Struggles with Water

Despite recent steady economic growth, more than 23 million Ugandans still do not have clean water. Even though the small country is home to the world’s largest lake and longest river, the open water is undrinkable. The high demand for clean water and poor management of sanitation systems has led to these shortages. Uganda suffers from erratic rains, deforestation, environmental degradation and pollution. This water crisis affects education, health and poverty, as well as women and children.

A 2016 World Bank Poverty Assessment shows Uganda has reduced monetary poverty faster than any other sub-Saharan African country, decreasing from 31.1 percent in 2003 to 19.7 percent in 2013. However, Uganda lags behind on non-monetary areas like sanitation and education.

The United Nations found Ugandans lose nearly 40 billion hours a year fetching clean drinking water, leaving little time for other things throughout the day. Further, Oeching stated Ugandans walk between three to four hours a day for clean drinking water, “wasting time to fetch 20 liters of water.” Women and children carry the heaviest burden as they are responsible for retrieving water for the family. This responsibility then places them at increased risk for assault and injury.

Children often miss school because they are collecting water or are sick from a water-borne illness. Females are kept home when menstruating because there is no private place to attend to their hygiene needs. Because children are unable to attend school and get an education, the entire nation is affected as it becomes more difficult to emerge from the cycle of poverty.

In Uganda, 20 percent of the population lives in urban centers while the remaining 80 percent reside in rural areas. The 80 percent often lack clean water, washrooms and electricity. Africa Water Solutions helps these communities have those amenities by encouraging self-sustaining practices.

Africa Water Solution’s Impact

Africa Water Solutions aims to “trigger people’s minds to think they can solve their own problems.” Each village has between 100-150 homes. Ochieng said the process begins by mobilizing the leaders to mobilize their people. To do so, they first identify key brokers, government and kingships, and meet with local leaders who then call for a village meeting. At the village meeting, conversations are started as pictures of houses in that village are displayed. Africa Water Solutions is then able to share what they have done with other villages. Once the villagers begin to realize “they have been drinking feces,” people begin to ask, “how can we do this?” Ochieng commented they transform homes to show them they can have something different and do not have to wait for aid.

Africa Water Solutions provides a range of solutions. For areas with rainfall but few sources of water, they construct 6,000-liter tanks to reduce the time spent fetching water, which also decreases the risks faced by women and children. Africa Water Solutions also teaches communities how to build simple household infrastructure and how to clean up waste in and around their homes. Additionally, the nonprofit organization teaches Ugandans Solar Water Disinfection, a simple water purification technique using a water bottle and the sun’s UV rays.

The Results

In response to their efforts, Africa Water Solutions has seen a 23 percent increase in school attendance because children are not sick from waterborne illness or retrieving water. Through menstrual hygiene management training at schools, teachers are better equipped to help female students who are menstruating, so they do not have to miss out on their education.

Outside media presents the need of the nation, not the opportunity Ochieng mentioned. “As a country, we are blessed with so many resources,” said Ochieng. “There is life, happiness, and people doing great things, but the struggles are what is represented.” The country is on track to transformation and Africa Water Solutions is helping them get there.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Women with Disabilities in Uganda
Four 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 Uganda

Uganda 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