By Moses Wangadia, Uganda Programme Director at Hope for Justice
Football is a very attractive sport to both adults and children in Uganda. Many footballers have also become role models to many young people, not forgetting the amount of money that is in the sport.
With globalisation, children as well as adults, from all corners of the world – as long as they have access to television – are watching football and admiring the lifestyle of many footballers, particularly the stars in the Premier League.
In Uganda, we have many young people who dream of emulating their role models. But that innocent desire is sadly being capitalised on by human traffickers who are deceiving unsuspecting youths into moving away from their homes to fulfil their dreams.
In reality, they are trafficked into modern slavery.
Hope for Justice has helped children who have been targeted in this specific way. For example, a trafficker lured two boys from Mbale in eastern Uganda to the capital, Kampala, by telling them that they would be able to join a football academy and later go on to become professional footballers. These were false promises. The boys were told multiple lies. The trafficker had an ulterior motive. When the boys arrived in Kampala, there was no academy. Instead, the children were forced to beg on the streets, with the little money they earned being pocketed by the trafficker. Thankfully, the two boys were rescued as a result of Hope for Justice’s regular street outreach and given shelter at one of our Lighthouses.
Our Lighthouses are places of safety where children who have been, or who are at risk of being, trafficked can access holistic support. This transition period helps children to stabilise and recover from the abuse and trauma they have faced, before we then look at the next steps on the child’s journey to recovery and integration back into family setting, wherever possible.
Once we managed to trace the boys’ families, our social workers visited the homes of these children and it was clear that their families were struggling; they were living in poverty and incredibly vulnerable. Our team provided support to the family, providing vital information to prevent the risk of the children being re-trafficked. The boys have been reintegrated with their families and placed back in school, where they can continue with their studies. Now they can begin to dream again for a more hopeful future.
Uganda remains on the Tier 2 watch list of the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report which found that the “Government of Uganda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”
Find out more about our global work to prevent exploitation, rescue victims, restore lives and reform society: What we do | Hope for Justice.