Children are a gift from God – fragile, delicate and, above all, a blessing to every African community.
Failing to have a child, a family is deemed accursed. Such couples will give their all in search of a child through different ways, such as prayer and medical consultations. This serves to portray the value of a child to African communities. Raising a child is not a simple task, and requires love, patience and commitment, as well as feeding, clothing, nursing, healthcare, shelter and education. This is naturally expected of parents, but it is also required by the state, which informs of children’s rights. Failure to perform is deemed abuse and is punishable by law.
The Constitution of The Republic of Uganda emphasizes the right to family and also obliges parents to provide basic needs for their children. The Children’s Act also defines Child Abuse as a situation where any adult who is responsible for a child willfully assaults, ill treats, neglects, abandons or exposes the child to injury or suffering. It provides for a penalty of not less than 10 years imprisonment for anyone guilty of such abuse.
This implies that the potential perpetrators of child abuse are none other than the children’s own parents, guardians and caretakers who are naturally expected to protect them from all sorts of danger. Such a fact has however not barred child abuse. Research clearly shows that children are not only neglected and abandoned but also grossly abused sexually, physically and emotionally.
Bududa district, which is one of the most rural but densely populated districts on the slopes of Mt Elgon, has the highest percentage of its population as children between the ages of 0 to18 years, these constitute 56%. It is also characterized by landslides, malnutrition, poor infrastructure and a high HIV prevalence rate of 6.1%. This implies a very high dependency ratio, low productivity and a high number of orphans. Child headed homes where there is no parent exposes such children to all sorts of abuse. This also accounted for the rampant cases of abuse in the district as observed by the 2007 district analysis report which found 22 cases of child desertion, 38 of child neglect, 4 cases of abandoned children and 211 cases of defilement.
It is absurd that with the high rate at which children are abused in this district, only the above cases where reported. This is basically due to fear of the perpetrators who not only threaten the children but also go ahead to bribe those in authority to neglect such cases. Some victims are ignorant of their rights yet they have no one to turn to. Others are too embarrassed or ashamed to speak out.
Many are quick to blame abuse on the poverty that overwhelms the Bududa district. One may wonder if this is a genuine cause or merely an excuse to foster this behavior. Is it worth staking the lives of our children? Should we keep watching as the children’s lives get wasted. Identifying the cause is the first and basic step towards a solution, but how long shall we go on with this blame game?
Hands of Action Uganda answers the questions in the negative. We are firm in our decision because we believe that it is all an issue of the mindset. Since one’s attitude determines their altitude, we have embarked on mobilizing members for meetings. We also go door to door to create awareness on abuse. We encourage members to value the children as the future of this nation. We have embarked on a rescue mission to identify the victims of abuse. We give them hope by putting several abandoned children in school, and providing them with food and shelter, and settling conflicts in homes to check violence that occurs to mothers and children.
To reduce poverty, we have a strategy of teaching the locals “how to fish”. This is simply empowering them to fend for themselves. Our program includes the Vegetable Growing project, African Paper bead project, and Headband project, where we teach mothers to make beads and export them to our US friends for sale. Funds are returned to women in Uganda for their living. The children also paint pictures that we export to our friends in Hong kong http://handsofactionchildrensartproject.blogspot.hk/ for auction.
As a result of the above generosity, many children have been able to go to school and now have a hope for the future. For example, Dorcus Nambozo – abandoned by her boyfriend and seeing no hope for a future – had once attempted to abandon her baby. She is now one of the proud mothers benefitting from the bead project. She hopes to go back to school as soon as she gets the funds.
Despite this generosity, we are terribly limited by the inadequacy of funds. This has limited our area of operation and the many projects we would love to engage in.
We call upon everyone to join us in putting an end to the horror that has endangered lives of the most vulnerable yet very important members of our community. Please support us spiritually, financially and materially to nurture these children.
In the same vein, we call upon the government to take extensive measures to eradicate poverty by ensuring that development projects such as NAADS, are directed to the intended beneficiaries as these have been misused by the authority at the top.