Godfrey Ocittiugi, from our local partner in Uganda, Passion for Community, alongside Patrick Walugembe, our Regional Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Manager, recently participated in the Best Interest of Children in Juvenile Justice (BIC) conference in Uganda.
The key message was that the best interest of the child should be the primary principle that guides decisions regarding a child, whether in the judicial system and the community” Patrick Walugembe
The conference provided a platform for child protection practitioners, justice officials, policy makers and researchers to share good practices of juvenile justice, policies and legislations with each other in order to promote the best interest of children in the justice system. This conference was a great opportunity for Chance for Childhood to network with various people working with children in the judicial system, enabling informed discussions, constructive dialogues and a chance to share experiences, in order to grow and learn from each other.
Amongst all the presentations in the conference, Chance for Childhood was the only organisation to present findings and experiences from a post war environment. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terrorised Uganda for twenty years, up until ten years ago. The LRA left devastating consequences on the economic and political structures of the country, and was responsible for over 25,000 child abductions, forcing children into becoming child soldiers. At the conference, Chance for Childhood presented unique discussions of our work in areas where family and community structures have broken down due to the effects of war, drawing on our experiences of working with young people in these areas.
The conference was an eye opening, stimulating experience, which resulted in the self-reflection of our work and in the way we implement our programmes. Thoughts we have taken away from the conference:
- The importance of working with the community as opposed to just within the community. “if you do not work with the community, you will achieve almost nothing” Patrick Walugembe reflected after the conference. We are now undergoing discussions concerning how best to integrate our work more into people’s homes and villages in order to strengthen our engagement with the community. We are specifically reviewing our Rights 2 Change project in Uganda and how it is being implemented.
- The need to deliberately differentiate and set aside discussions for every child, and each problem so that individualised support is provided. Many of our programmes offer individual tailored support to children, so we are delighted that this is reiterated in other successful projects outside of our organisation. We will continue to uphold this, and work to emphasise and replicate it in other programmes.
- The most valuable lesson we learnt was the significance of learning as much from the individual as possible, in regards to information about their family, experiences and the community. It is an important message to heed, that “the child we are dealing with is a product of the community and cannot be separated” Patrick Walugembe. Thus we must make a substantial effort in accounting for all variables and factors so that we are able to provide greater informed support.
We are very pleased with our participation in the conference, and welcomed the opportunity to discuss and learn from other organisations. We are excited to apply these new ideas into our practices and are thrilled that the conference revalidated some of our own methods and beliefs. We hope that with the valued, continued support of our donors and with our enthusiastic and hardworking staff, we can continue to learn and grow in order to provide the very best in support to the most vulnerable children and young people in East Africa.