Uganda

Protecting and educating children in Karamoja

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We’re helping to protect children and get them into schools in Karamoja – a remote and impoverished region in northern Uganda. Cattle have been an integral part of the nomadic pastoralist way of life for decades. But climate change and the proliferation of small arms has increased the violent competition among rival clans over the dwindling natural resources.

The area has suffered four consecutive years of drought which has left thousands of children suffering from malnutrition and the 90% of the population reliant on food aid. Most people live off the land and are involved in cattle-rearing.

Cattle are highly prized in Karamojong culture; it is traditional for a man to pay a bride price in the form of cattle to the bride's family upon marriage. For many poor families, marrying off their daughters young is a way out of poverty and starvation. Pressure for early marriage has forced many men into cattle raiding (stealing cows from rival clans) in order to gain enough cattle to secure a bride, which can be around 200 cows.

Cattle raids have turned increasingly violent with many clans carrying weapons. Conflict and insecurity have had a particularly bad effect on women and children in Karamoja who are often caught up in the raids.

There is a massive shortage of schools in Karamoja, which leaves children having to walk for miles to the nearest one. This, compounded with insecurity because of cattle raiding in their villages, means that many sleep in their classrooms in order to continue their education and get a decent meal.

What we're doing

Providing school materials

We’re providing 1,500 children with pens, books, uniforms etc to enable them to get an education. Our social workers conduct home visits to make sure they stay in school and have the support of their family.

Business grants

We’re providing start-up grants for their families to start small businesses so they can continue to afford to send their children to school.

Vocational Training

We’re training young men in vocational skills such as welding so they have an alternative to cattle raiding.

Adult literacy

We're setting up adult literacy groups so parents can learn basic skills and understand the importance of education for their children.

Child Protection Committees

We've established some Child Protection Committees that enable people in the local community to identify and help protect vulnerable children, and make sure that children have somewhere to turn if they themselves or one of their friends is concerned about their own protection.

Making Schools Safer

We’re training children on their rights and teachers on their responsibilities to protect children in schools. We’ve set up confidential monitoring systems so children can anonymously report any child protection incidents for themselves or their peers.

Improving care for survivors of gender based violence

We’re training police, local courts, and medical staff to improve their work for girls who have been raped. We’re also providing equipment so clinics can treat and prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

Encouraging people to report gender based violence

Rape is a taboo subject in Karamojong society, and many girls are reluctant to come forward for fear of being stigmatised. We’re carrying out community campaigns to encourage girls to come forward, and to prevent girls being stigmatised by their communities.