The Hunger Project Uganda (THP-U) is a strategic non-profit International Organisation founded in 1977 with its Headquarters in New York, USA. The Hunger Project operates in 22 Countries around the globe with eight of them in Africa. In 1999, The Hunger Project Uganda Country office was opened and currently operates in nine Districts namely; Mpigi, Butambala, Wakiso, Kiboga, Kyankwazi, Mbarara, Kiruhura, Iganga and Mbale.
THP-U is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3Р Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, 4-Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all and 5-Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. We therefore, join child actors in Uganda and the global community to commemorate the Day of African Child (DAC) 2018 under the theme “Leave No Child Behind for Uganda’s Development’’.
This years’ DAC seeks to highlight issues specific to our national context, specifically focusing on the groups of children that are most vulnerable, and at greatest risk of being left behind. In implementation of development programmes in the 11 Epicenters across the Country (clusters of villages), The Hunger Project Uganda has strategically focused on identifying and empowering vulnerable children. These include children with disabilities, children without parental care, adolescent girls and children in rural areas. This directly contributes to attaining SDGs that focus on inequality, with a particular emphasis on reaching the poorest, most excluded, and most vulnerable in order to ensure that no child is left behind.
Since the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in Uganda, eight million children have been able to access primary education. Out of these, only 200,000 are children with disabilities. UNICEF (2015) Report estimates that on average, only 201,190 pupils with disabilities were in primary school during 2009 Р 2011. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 98 per cent of children living with disabilities in low and middle-income countries are not enrolled in school.
The Uganda Society for Disabled Children (USDC) estimates that one third of all children out of school in Uganda are children with disabilities. According to them, children with disabilities constitute the largest minority group that fail to complete primary school “even though about 60 per cent of all children with disabilities could attend school with no special adaptations”. This means that with the right systems in place, most children with disabilities should be able to fit and study in ordinary schools.
What THP-Uganda is doing
In the past decade, Government of Uganda has attained significant progress in responding to the sexual and reproductive health needs of Ugandan youth in general. But even then, THP-Uganda recognises that girls with hearing impairment in Uganda face a multitude of barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services and remaining in school. Girls with disabilities have largely been overlooked when it comes to their sexual and reproductive rights. Because of their often isolated and marginalised position in families and communities, girls with disabilities are more likely to be exposed to risks of sexual violence, rape, early pregnancy, forced marriage and HIV infection than girls without disabilities.
Since 2015, The Hunger Project Uganda has run a comprehensive child marriage prevention programme (‘Her Choice’, financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in several districts in Uganda. The programme is aimed at creating child marriage free communities where every girl is free to decide if, when and whom she marries. Child marriage, a serious human rights violation, upsets a girl’s life forever. She quits school, will likely get pregnant too early for her body to bear and she will have less opportunities to support herself and her family. An end of child marriage is one step closer to the end of hunger and poverty. An important component of the Her Choice programme is improving girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
In an effort to ensure that girls with hearing impairment are not left out from benefiting from the Her Choice programme and owing to the fact that they are more vulnerable to being victims of school dropout, poverty and child marriage.
THP-Uganda has sought partnership with the Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD) to do the following;
1. Empower girls with hearing impairment to make safe choices related to their sexuality and reproductive health (SRH) including menstrual hygiene management. This has increased the capacity of girls with hearing impairment to make safe choices regarding their sexuality and reproductive health which has been attained by training them as peer educators in school to reach out to their peers in and out-of school.
2. Equip health workers with basic sign language skills and knowledge of SRH needs of girls with hearing impairment. THP-U has also set-up and equipped youth-friendly corners to provide youth friendly and disability sensitive healthcare services.
3. Engage communities and local governments on the rights and needs of young people with hearing impairment. THP-U has also created a supportive environment for people with hearing impairment and girls in particular by ensuring their rights are protected and promoted at family and community level.
This Article Appeared in the Official Printed Ugandan Edition of The Day of the African Child 2018 Magazine – a publication of the National Children Council (Uganda Government), whose production is facilitated by Post Media Ltd (publishers of www.pmldaily.com).