KAMPALA — A consortium of six child rights organisations dubbed “Joining Forces” working with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) have on Tuesday May 31 launched the Lubaga and Kawempe Divition Action Centres help children and other people report cases of child abuse.
Commissioning the centres, the Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, Sarah Mateke said the Division Action Centres started in partnership with European Union and other stakeholders will help to encourage children and adults to report cases of child abuse and all forms of child rights violations through the Uganda Child Helpline, also known as, Sauti 116.
“The continued growth and investment in the helpline is a show of commitment by the Government to protect the children of Uganda from violence and abuse. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the agencies that have contributed to this growth-European Union and its many partners among others” the minister said.
She added that each of the individual organizations in the Joining Forces consortium; ChildFund, Plan International, Save the Children, Terre des Hommes, SOS Children’s Villages and World Vision, have supported the helpline at the national and district level.
Minister Mateke further applauded the Probation and Social Welfare officers, the helpline’s foot soldiers, who, she says through the Department of Youth and Children’s affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, work tirelessly to respond to every case that is reported through the helpline.
“In the establishment of the helpline, we have seen that when children know their rights, they will speak up when those rights are violated. This is evidenced by the increase in calls from children. 13% of the calls received by the helpline are from children, an increase from 0.2% in 20 14. However, more needs to be done especially as Violence Against Children continues to be an issue” she added.
In April, Kampala recorded the second highest number of child abuse cases in the country through the Uganda Child Helpline.
Last month, Child Neglect (50.9%), Physical abuse (20.8%) and Sexual abuse (12.4 %) were the most reported forms of violence in the country.
“The opening and operationalining of these Division Action Centres reinforces our commitment as an alliance to end violence against all children and secure the rights of every child. We hope that these designated spaces that we are launching today, will increase efficiency in responding to and handling all reported cases of violence against children,” says Moses Otai, ChildFund Country Director.
The Lubaga and Kawempe Division Action Centres will handle walk-in cases and respond to cases reported through the U-repart platform, medua (including social media) and online child sexual abuse cases.
In addition to these Division Action Centres, Joining Forces Alliance, through the European Union funded Joining Forces for Africa project, is supporting five District Action Centres in Busia, Bugiri, Gulu and Obongi.
The Alliance is also running a nine-month social behaviour change campaign called Hands4Good calling on parents and caregivers to use their hands to nurture, embrace, empower, guide, support, protect and not beat or harm children.
Sharon Twikirize, a children’s protection specialist in the consortium said said the division action centers are referral pathways for child protection cases.
“We have statistics from the Uganda Child Helpline highlighting cases of child abuse that happened over and over time. So what the division action centers are coming in to do within Kampala are to support the police to support the Uganda Child Care Plan, which is one center in the heart of Kampala to decentralize the service within the divisions to be able to receive work in cases of child abuse, ” she said.
Twikirize said however said that prosecution of these cases is still a challenge and urged authorities in the Judiciary to up their game.
“[The delays] lead our communities to lose trust within the justice system. So if you saw the other day in the papers, and within the police crime report 10,000 cases of children who have been defiled have not been handled within the justice system, that system is slow that system is insufficient. And there is so much case backlog of children who are being defiled and other kinds of cases like neglect”.