Sisters Mercy (12) and Fina (12), and their neighbours Penninah (12), Vivian (12), and Joy (15), are now happily reunited with their families, after being trafficked, abused, and held captive by a man who had promised them a brighter future.
Passionate and committed students, they are all looking forward to returning to school. The girls have transformed their futures with support from the Addressing Child Trafficking and Slavery (ACTS) project in Uganda, made possible by Global Fund To End Modern Slavery (GFEMS), through the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
After the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to close, a pastor who lived in the girls’ village persuaded their families to give him money and food in exchange for caring for their daughters and providing them with an education.
After leaving their homes, the girls were kept locked up for around a month and a half. Some were repeatedly raped by the pastor. Eventually, one of the girls courageously managed to escape and went to the police.
The pastor was arrested and the girls were referred to Hope for Justice, the organization that is leading ACTS. The ACTS project aims to transform care and support for child trafficking survivors, raise awareness of child trafficking, and reduce its prevalence in Uganda.
Hope for Justice supported the five girls at one of its Lighthouse shelters, which provide temporary care for vulnerable and exploited children.
At the Lighthouse, the girls accessed ongoing support including medical care, and individual and group counseling, provided by trained counselors and a clinical psychologist. This empowered them to heal from their experiences and rebuild their self-esteem.
Due to the nature of their trafficking experience, the information sessions that the girls participated in covered the dangers of staying with strangers. As a result, these children were empowered to become anti-trafficking champions in their families and communities.
Hope for Justice introduced the girls to art and sports therapy, and the group also completed a life skills training course, and took part in catch-up education classes. In time, all five girls rediscovered their confidence and made friends, enjoying many activities at the Lighthouse.
Hope for Justice contacted the girls’ parents, who were relieved to know their children were safe and well. Once the girls had recovered, Hope for Justice reunited them with their families. The organization also took their parents through positive parenting skills training, and empowered them with information about the risks of trafficking.
*Names have been changed to protect survivors’ identities
This blog post was made possible through support provided by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery under a grant from the U.S. Department of State. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of GFEMS or the U.S. Department of State.