Keep Children Safe
© UNICEF Uganda
More than half of Uganda’s children live in vulnerable situations: they are orphans, or children living in a household headed by another child; they are homeless and living on the street; they are child labourers; they are girls who are mothers before they’ve had a chance to grow up.
Children in Uganda, especially the most vulnerable, suffer violence, exploitation, and sexual abuse. They endure daily acts of violence at an alarming rate in homes, schools, the justice system, and in other spaces of daily life. And in homes and communities where violence against women is accepted and prevalent, invariably the rights of children are also violated.
Without shared action to safeguard children from violence and exploitation, the cycle of vulnerability and resulting human rights abuses will continue to rob them of the right to experience their childhood in dignity; to learn, grow, play, and be healthy.
To keep Ugandan children safe, UNICEF is working with the Government and partners to prevent and respond to violence against children and women; significantly increase birth registrations for children under 5; and strengthen child protection policies and planning.
Currently less than a third of children are registered at birth in Uganda. UNICEF is working to increase this number to four out of five children by 2014.
Without birth registration, a person’s existence, age, and citizenship can be called into question. Children who aren’t registered face childhood-robbing problems like child labour, underage military service, child marriage, and being unfairly treated as an adult when in conflict with the law.
In a groundbreaking move to keep children safe, the Government with support from UNICEF and our partner, Uganda Telecom, is implementing a solution called MobileVRS that uses mobile phone technology to complete birth registration procedures in minutes, a process that normally takes months. By using MobileVRS and engaging with community-level ‘notifiers’, UNICEF Uganda aims to ensure up to 80 per cent of children under 5 are registered at birth by 2014.
Preventing and Responding to Violence
Keep Children Safe aims to both prevent and respond to the problem of violence in homes, schools, urban streets, the justice system, and other spaces of daily life. Our prevention efforts include raising awareness of violence and reducing the social acceptance of practices harmful to children, such as through a national ZERO tolerance to violence campaign. Part of this work includes raising community dialogue on sensitive issues like Female Genital Mutilation and child defilement, and increasing local demand for accountability on child protection.
Through solid partnerships with major faith-based organizations, we are increasing our shared reach to prevent and respond to violence, and raise awareness on other child protection issues.
We are mobilizing youth groups to contribute to the protection of children, helping them take action on these sensitive issues affecting their lives. Through this participatory effort, youth have a hand in changing their communities. Through innovations that combine mobile phone technology with training to become social monitors, Girls’ Education Movement clubs, Girl and Boy Scouts, school management committees and others will have a more effective and instrumental role in keeping schools and communities safe.
Shared action to prevent and respond to violence must reach homes and local communities, but also effect change at district and national levels. At the national level, we are supporting efforts like the adoption of legislation addressing violence, and helping the Government weave child protection into teaching curricula for those working in education, law enforcement, and social welfare.
Strengthening Child Protection Policies and Planning
Without legislation that protects children, the Government is unable to provide adequate and gender-appropriate care and protection of girls and boys harmed or at risk of exploitation, violence and abuse. Keep Children Safe works to strengthen and harmonize Uganda’s child protection policy framework, so the Government is able to effectively coordinate services and advance the protection of children, especially the most vulnerable.
With UNICEF support, a Justice for Children Programme was recently launched with a call for systematic and consistent response to children’s needs in the justice system. Also, UNICEF helped support the launch of a new national strategic plan to identify and protect orphans and vulnerable children.