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February 2, 2022

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.

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