Voices of Youth Digital Diaries are all about young people who want to know more…do more…and say more about the world. Our goal is to amplify their voices by inviting the world’s children to share UNICEF’s electronic podium. These reports are first-person/eyewitness accounts by young people from around the world.
20-year-old Edward and 21-year-old Stephen are concerned young people in Uganda, living in the central area of the country, just outside Kampala and in Mubende. Both young men are students, but both have found the time to travel to the northern region, through volunteer work they do with youth advocacy groups in Uganda. They have seen first-hand the violence that their contemporaries in the north face each day.
Villagers in the north have taken extreme measures to try and safeguard themselves and their children against nighttime attacks by the LRA forces. Those that live in the country, often walk into towns to spend the night. They are called “night commuters”, and Stephen has seen them walking by the thousands at the end of the day.
“What the young people do, is they get to the city center, and spend the night in the center, where at least there’s some little security,” says Stephen. “There are some soldiers around, and they think its better to sleep there and in the morning or during the day, that’s when they go back to their houses or go to school, those who can still go to school.”
Edward is studying civil engineering in a university six hours from where he grew up, and working with a group called GEM, Girls Education Movement, a UNICEF partner organization, to promote the importance of education for girls in Uganda. Stephen is also a student of Information Technology, who hopes to become a website designer when he finished school. He volunteers with a group called Straight Talk, another UNICEF partner organization, which promotes healthy sexual behavior among young people. They are also both active members of UNICEF’s Voices of Youth.
For Edward and some of his contemporaries in the relatively safe central part of Uganda, it is easy enough to temporarily forget that there are thousands of young people living in fear and experiencing trauma in the north.
“It is as if we are two countries within one country. The people in the north are suffering and people in other places are enjoying.”
For this reason, he and Stephen both feel it’s important to tell their stories, and the stories of the youth they’ve met in the north, to other young people around the world.