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Blogs and Opinion Interviews from Uganda: risks after exploitation for women and girls

Interviews from Uganda: risks after exploitation for women and girls

To mark International Women’s Day, we have interviewed our team on the ground in Uganda to find out about the specific barriers that women and girls face to re-entering society after being exploited. Staff who work directly with survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking have shared their experiences with us.

In Uganda, we spoke with Clinical Psychologist Rebecca, who discussed how many women are denied education and have limited access to gain formal qualifications in Uganda. This means that they must work in the informal employment sector and are also more likely to enter into early and forced marriages as a way of getting financially secure. This makes the women more vulnerable to exploitation and at higher risk of trafficking.

Similar to those in Ethiopia, Rebecca highlights how in Uganda, many women develop complex trauma and disassociation (PTSD) from their exploitation, which can be furthered by psychological pain during their treatment. Female survivors in rural areas may not have access to mental health professionals and those who do receive limited support due to the expense of therapy.

In Uganda, a survivor’s trauma and mental health challenges after exploitation can be viewed by their community as being possessed by demons, which can cause social isolation and family abandonment. This is what happened to Afiya*. When Afiya came to one of our Lighthouses, she had severe PTSD from the sexual exploitation she endured. Staff at the Lighthouse rehabilitated and cared for her. Part of that care was attending her local school and educating the faculty and parents there on what had happened to Afiya. Most of the community thought that Afiya had been possessed by a demon and didn’t understand what PTSD was, so the Lighthouse staff had to work with the community to inform the teachers and educate the parents to help reintegrate Afiya safely back into her community.

Hope for Justice along with Uganda’s Ministry of Health and CATIP-U recently presented virtual training on ‘The effects of psychological trauma on child development’. Watch the webinar to learn more here.

Survivors can be forced to spend a lot of time in religious settings as families believe that they are cursed and must be healed through prayer. This can further harm a survivor’s healing process through victim-blaming and isolation. Instead, community education and awareness around trafficking need to be ensured so that survivors receive the appropriate care and reduce the risk of social isolation.

From interviewing our program specialists in Uganda, we’ve been able to delve into the barriers that exist for survivors of modern slavery, especially those that exist for women and girls.

Learn more about trafficking in Uganda.

Learn more about what improvements are needed to help survivors overcome these barriers: How to reduce barriers for women and girls after exploitation

*Name changed to protect survivor’s identity.

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