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Boys are being trafficked into football

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.

 

-Ends-

 

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.

Child sex trafficking survivor thrives: “I have a place to call home…I feel happy”

After being forced into prostitution for three years by her mother, 15-year-old Ritah* is now safe, and has become a role model who shines with confidence.

 

Ritah said: “Hope for Justice have helped me with ​counselling, and a place to call home. This has helped me to release the pain that I had inside me, and I started feeling good about myself.

 

“I also feel confident and strong to face the future. I feel happy. I want to become a fashion designer.”

 

Ritah, who grew up in a slum area near Uganda’s capital of Kampala, asked our local team to take her in after she participated in one of our life skills courses. She said that her mother had forced her into prostitution, and that she was her family’s sole bread winner.

 

When Ritah arrived at one of our Lighthouses around two months ago, she was shy, reserved, and showed signs of depression. But she gradually began to rediscover her confidence.

 

As well as participating in counselling, she took part in catch-up lessons, business skills and rights awareness training, as well as sports, arts and crafts.

 

She is now helpful to our team, and was recently elected by the other children as their entertainment leader. The children said that Ritah listens to them, loves them, and is calm and polite.

 

Once she is ready, we will ensure that Ritah moves into family-based care, in a safe home. We will also support her with vocational training, to empower her with skills and knowledge to build a happy and secure future.

 

*Name and image have been changed to protect survivor’s identity

Uganda: 14-year-old girl reunited with family after 12 years

Thanks to Hope for Justice, Becky* is now happily living with her aunt and cousins, who had been looking for Becky since her mother died when she was just two.

 

Becky told us: “I am so grateful for what Hope for Justice has done for me while staying at the Lighthouse. I want to work so hard in school, succeed and make them proud. I will forever be grateful for the love and care they have given me.”

 

After Becky’s mother died, her aunt and cousins on her mother’s side searched for Becky, but with no contact details for her father, they lost hope. Meanwhile, Becky’s alcoholic father allegedly sexually abused his daughter.

 

Eventually the father was arrested, and Becky was taken in by a children’s home, where she lived for around ten years. When Covid-19 hit Uganda, most of the children were returned to their biological families. The police brought Becky to one of Hope for Justice’s Lighthouses.

 

Becky showed signs of depression when she first arrived. Our team introduced her to cognitive behavioural therapy, as well as group counselling. Gradually, Becky began to recover, and rediscover her confidence.

 

Over the next two months, Becky enjoyed a host of different activities at the Lighthouse, including lessons, sports, crafts, and life skills sessions. She began to think further about her future after participating in business skills training.

 

Meanwhile, our team searched for Becky’s family, through their local network. They discovered that Becky’s aunt had always wanted Becky to live with her. We were then able to reunite a delighted Becky with her aunt, and her cousins.

 

Becky’s aunt said: ‘‘Thank you very much for taking care of Becky, I thought that I would never see her again.”

 

Becky is now at school, and dreams of becoming a doctor. We continue to support her, to ensure she settles well in her new family, and are also supporting with school fees.

 

*Name has been changed to protect survivor’s identity 

Five Ugandan girls reclaim their futures after abuse

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.

Teenage trafficking survivor’s courage brings about justice in Uganda

A 15-year-old Ugandan girl has helped make her rapist accountable for his actions, and he will now serve 18 years in prison. Shannel*’s trafficker has also been fined and forced to pay her six months’ wages.

 

When Shannel was 14, she had to leave school when her father became ill and was unable to buy food, let alone pay school fees. A neighbour took advantage of the family’s desperation, suggesting that Shannel come to the city to be a domestic worker for her daughter.

 

Shannel worked for eight months, but was only paid for two. She was also raped twice by her employer’s brother. Shannel bravely reported the abuse to a neighbour, who alerted the police.

 

The police station reached out to Hope for Justice to provide specialized support to Shannel. With support from Hope for Justice and its partners through the Addressing Child Trafficking and Slavery (ACTS) project in Uganda, made possible by Global Fund To End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) and the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Shannel is now safe and happy.

 

Shannel participated in comprehensive trauma-informed care services while at one of Hope for Justice’s Lighthouse shelters, which provide temporary care and support to vulnerable and exploited children. She also received legal aid support from ACTS partner, Platform for Labour Action (PLA). Shannel was prepared as a principal witness in her case through a series of confidence-building and legal awareness-raising sessions.

 

Shannel was then able to provide evidence at the High Court of Uganda with confidence, and the perpetrator was subsequently found guilty of aggravated child trafficking and sexual exploitation. The success of this case has been attributed to the active participation of Shannel.

 

Over the last year, Shannel has accessed ongoing support from Hope for Justice, including medical care and therapy for depression and anxiety, provided by trained counsellors and a clinical psychologist. Gradually, she has healed physically and emotionally. She became more confident and began to participate in activities. Shannel began providing peer-to-peer counseling, and many children told Hope for Justice that she made a very positive impact on them.

 

Shannel also successfully completed a life skills course at the Lighthouse, which empowered her with knowledge to keep herself safe and well. Over the last six months, Shannel has been participating in vocational training to become a beautician. She has become a role model to her peers, and looks forward to living on her own after completing her training.

 

Shannel told Hope for Justice: “Thanks so much for being there for me when I needed help. I now have hope that my future is bright. With the skills training, I will be able to start a business and support my family.

 

“I am very happy that my abusers have been sentenced. This should be a lesson to all the people that torment the girl child!”

 

Hope for Justice is also working with Shannel’s family to provide support and to reduce the risk of further exploitation. The charity provided the family with a grant to enable them to start a business in pig farming.

 

*Name and image have been changed to protect survivor’s identity

 

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.

Ugandan trafficking survivor and aspiring teacher says: “I want to inspire young children, especially girls.”

16-year-old Ketra* has transformed her future after being trafficked into labor exploitation. She recently received excellent exam results, and is looking forward to returning to school.

 

Ketra has been supported by the Addressing Child Trafficking and Slavery (ACTS) project, made possible by support from the Global Fund To End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) and the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

 

After the pandemic forced schoolchildren to stay home, Ketra’s relationship with her mother deteriorated and her father left the family. Ketra began to have suicidal feelings and ran away from home, when she was approached by someone who offered her a job as a maid.

 

Ketra was then forced to work unpaid for a month and a half, before she managed to use her employer’s phone to call her mother and explain what had happened.

 

Law enforcement then arrested the employer, and Ketra was referred to the organization Hope for Justice, which is leading ACTS. The project aims to provide and transform care and support for child trafficking survivors, raise awareness of child trafficking, and contribute to reducing its prevalence in Uganda.

 

Over four months, with support from Hope for Justice, Ketra was able to recover and heal in one of the organization’s Lighthouse shelters, which provides temporary care and support for vulnerable and exploited children.

 

Ketra showed signs of severe depression and anxiety upon arrival. She was withdrawn and would not participate in activities. Hope for Justice provided Ketra with medical care and counseling, which helped Ketra begin to look forward to her future. She was introduced to arts and sports therapy to help her express herself. Ketra continues to participate in life skills sessions, and is working hard to catch up on missed schoolwork.

 

Ketra started to join in and made friends. She now supports other survivors, providing peer-to-peer counselling.

 

The empowering, trauma-informed care and support, and education on rights and risks that children and their families receive through this project are vital for promoting individual recovery and reducing the likelihood of (re-)trafficking.

 

Ketra said: “I want to become a role model for children in the village. I want to…urge them to be vigilant and focus on their studies, so that they don’t end up in trouble like I did.”

 

Meanwhile, Hope for Justice contacted and visited Ketra’s mother, updating her on her daughter’s progress. At this time, she began to actively participate in positive parenting skills sessions with the ACTS project.

 

Ketra is now looking forward to going home. Hope for Justice will continue to work proactively with her mother to ensure that the family unit is a positive one for her to return to.

 

*Name and image have been changed to protect survivor’s identity

 

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.

 

 

16-year-old trafficking survivor safely home and looking forward to baby’s arrival

Noem* was raped and became pregnant while trapped in domestic servitude, but she is now reunited with her family and feels ready for motherhood.

 

With support from the Addressing Child Trafficking and Slavery (ACTS) project in Uganda, made possible by support from the Global Fund To End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) and the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Noem is coping with the trauma of her experience.

 

When Noem’s uncle said he would teach her at his home in the city while schools were closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it seemed like an offer Noem and her parents couldn’t refuse. But after she arrived, her uncle forced her into domestic labor in a family home.

 

While there, Noem was raped by one of the family’s children, who was later arrested. Law enforcement referred Noem to the organization Hope for Justice, which is leading ACTS. The ACTS project aims to provide and transform care and support for child survivors of trafficking, raise awareness of child trafficking, and contribute to reducing its prevalence in Uganda.

 

Hope for Justice supported Noem at one of the charity’s Lighthouse shelters, which provides temporary care and support for vulnerable and exploited children. Noem received comprehensive care from the Hope for Justice team, including prenatal support and counseling.

 

The trauma-informed care and support that children and their families receive through this project, as well as information on rights and risks, are vital for promoting individual recovery and reducing the likelihood of re-trafficking.

 

With the continuous support of the Hope for Justice team, Noem gradually began to rediscover her confidence. She began to take part in activities and sport at the Lighthouse, and made friends with the other children.

 

Meanwhile, Hope for Justice contacted Noem’s parents. They were shocked to hear of what had happened, but relieved to learn their daughter was safe.

 

Once she felt ready, the Hope for Justice reunited Noem with her parents. Noem wishes to become a hairdresser, and she is set to begin vocational training when her baby is a year old.

 

Noem said: “When I found out I was pregnant, I was disappointed and worried about how I would carry the pregnancy, but after talking with the staff… I’m now ready to have my baby. I regained my happiness.

 

“Hope for Justice said that…at the right time, I’ll be able to continue my studies. My biggest joy now is that Hope for Justice has kept in touch…and they make sure I get the medical care I need.”

 

Hope for Justice will continue to support Noem and her family in the future.

 

*Name and image have been changed to protect survivor’s identity

 

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.