KAMPALA – A total of 3,000 vulnerable in and out-of-school girls in Kampala have every reason to smile after the government of Belgium announced financial assistance through UNICEF.
The Government of Belgium has announced a financial contribution of EUR 4.2 million (approx. 16bn Ugandan shillings) to UNICEF that will see then vulnerable in and out-of-school girls in Kampala.
The financial assistance is meant to support the girls through mentorship, linkages to essential social services and a cash transfer to enable them to transition safely into adulthood.
The four-year Belgian contribution to UNICEF will support its ongoing GirlsEmpoweringGirls (GEG) social protection programme implemented in partnership with Kampala Capital City Authority in the five divisions of Kampala.
The GirlsEmpoweringGirls (GEG) programme launched in 2019, is the first programme providing social protection to adolescent girls in Uganda and represents an important milestone in the government’s efforts to achieve comprehensive social protection that is gender and age-sensitive. The programme is also aligned with the Government of Uganda’s Vision 2040, National Development Plan III, and the National Social Protection Policy.
“With our support, Belgium aims to demonstrate the impact of innovative financing modalities such as cash assistance in order to help inform the establishment of social protection mechanisms in Uganda,” said H.E Rudi Veestraeten, Ambassador of Belgium in Uganda and South-Sudan.
Mr Rudi Veestraeten said this 22 March at the formal signing for the Belgian support towards the GirlsEmpoweringGirls programme in Kampala Unicef offices.
Uganda National Bureau of Statistics indicate that In Uganda, adolescent girls living in urban areas bear the burdens of poverty and exclusion, while remaining vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Worse still, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated deprivations while posing new challenges for children and young people and adolescent girls, in particular, are vulnerable to a host of challenges, including teenage pregnancies, which contribute to school dropouts and reduce income-generating opportunities.
And interventions like the GirlsEmpoweringGirls programme, which target the most vulnerable, are some of the most effective ways of addressing these vulnerabilities.
Dr Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative in Uganda, said global evidence has shown that social protection programmes that include cash transfers have had a positive impact on vulnerable children and young people.
He added that such programmes require concerted efforts by all stakeholders, under the leadership of the government, to ensure they are well planned and effectively rolled out.
He expressed gratitude to the Government of Belgium for supporting one of UNICEF’s most innovative approaches to social protection in Uganda; the GirlsEmpoweringGirls programme is Uganda’s first social protection programme that is specifically designed to support adolescent girls in urban communities.
Dr Munir Safieldin said adolescent girls are one of Uganda’s most at-risk groups and that in Kampala; more than half of all girls live in low-income communities with inadequate housing, sanitation, and limited access to social services.
“And while girls in these communities are often considered better off than their rural counterparts—with greater access to schools and income-generating opportunities—they are also vulnerable to homelessness, exploitation, and abuse. The GirlsEmpoweringGirls programme is designed to reduce these vulnerabilities,” Dr Munir said.
Like many developing countries, Uganda still faces challenges that require efforts to safeguard the well-being of many women and children in the country. According to World Bank (2020), the COVID-19 pandemic has unequivocally demonstrated the strategic role of social protection. However, as of July 2021, effective social protection coverage was estimated at 2.9 per cent, with the government spending only an average of 0.25 per cent of GDP on social protection, on average.
“As stakeholders, we have a duty to ensure that all children enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to protection,” Dr Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative in Uganda, noted.
He explained that with the financial contribution from the Belgian Government, UNICEF will work with the Government of Uganda, through Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) to scale up the GEG programme from the current 1,500 to 3,000 in and out-of-school adolescent girls.
“We are confident this unique intervention will keep growing and help sustain demand for critical services by young people in Kampala and at the same time, it has also shown us how interconnected we are, and how much we need each other to move forward,” he said.
He added, “I see contributions like Belgium’s as a recognition of that solidarity. Now more than ever, we need to remind ourselves not only of the challenges, but what we can achieve together,”.
The programme will be managed by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and implemented by two civil society partners.