Since its foundation ChildHope and its partners have been challenging violence against children around the world. And on the 11th October 2012, ChildHope is joining organizations around the world to observe the first International Day of the Girl Child. With the focus of this inaugural day being child marriages, we join the UN and others to stress the importance of raising awareness of the challenges faced by millions of girls every day.
With over two decades experience, ChildHope is aware of the unique challenges faced by girls around the world and acknowledges that girls and boys experience different types and levels of violence. That is why ChildHope works closely with partners on projects that specifically address the issues faced by girls, including forced early marriage and sexual abuse and exploitation, in countries such as Uganda, Peru and Ethiopia.
In Uganda, we are working with our partner ANPPCAN (African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect) to tackle the major problem of abuse of girls within the country, which is exacerbated by new dimensions including child sex trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography. They have observed that abuse takes many forms and often results in early forced marriages and teenage pregnancies, further denying girls access to the opportunities they deserve. Together, ChildHope and ANPPCAN are working closely to combat these issues and transform the lives of girls like Ritah.
A story that has to endAt just seven years old Ritah's mother left home and she was left in the care of her abusive father. She endured constant physical and sexual abuse from her father and by the age of 13 had already had two aborted pregnancies as a result of her father's abuse.
Teachers observed Ritah's withdrawn behaviour and, on earning her trust, learnt of the abuse she had faced. ANPPCAN was brought in to offer further support to Ritah, who reported the case and her father was arrested. ANPPCAN also provided her with the psychosocial support she needed, temporary shelter, and ultimately resettled her with her maternal grandmother where she is now enjoying the love and care she deserves.
ChildHope and ANPPCAN Uganda working to end violence against childrenThe story of Ritah could be the story of millions of children, especially girls, who continue to live and learn in an environment which is largely ruled by fear and abuse. In Uganda, violence against children is a growing social problem; child sexual abuse was reported second among the top 10 leading crimes reported to police in 2011 with 7,690 children abused (Uganda Police Crime Report,2011) with 66% of victims being girls (recent study commissioned by ANPPCAN Uganda Chapter). Girls experience more sexual abuse than boys, both in and out of school, and therefore ChildHope in partnership with ANPPCAN is prioritizing girls as key participants to advocate for their rights and to highlight gender inequalities.
"We aim to break through the culture of silence, examine children's role in setting standards and establishing laws, and create a safer environment at home and school, particularly amongst girls"
Allan Kiwanuka, ChildHope Programme Manager for East AfricaThanks to the intervention of ANPPCAN, Ritah and many more girls throughout Uganda now have the support they need and the prospect of a brighter future.
In our partner's wordsThrough its Child Protection department ANPPCAN Uganda has rescued and supported hundreds of young teenage mothers and victims of abuse by providing support services, carrying out advocacy and research to strengthen child protection laws, and empowering child protection institutions like the police and directorate of public prosecution to respond more effectively to children's needs.
Although change is happening there is a lot still to be done to improve the situation. ANPPCAN is encouraging the government to work together with civil society organization to raise awareness on issues affecting girls and to amend the Children's Act cap 59 to address issues of child pornography, commercial sex, child trafficking and other forms of child abuse that are not catered for in the current constitution.
ANPPCAN is urging the judiciary to create a conducive environment under which child justice is administered to ensure safety of children and their active participation in justice and also to avoid delays in receiving justice especially on issues of defilement. They are also pressing for cases involving children to be expeditiously handled to avoid secondary abuse.
Throughout the ten countries we work in ChildHope is supporting projects which, as in Uganda, are working to strengthen child protection, educate communities and reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse. In this way we hope to see an end to child marriage and in increase in the numbers of girls being able to fulfil their potential.
Names in this article have been changed and photos included are not directly connected to the story, in order to protect the identity of the children.