Chance for Childhood has been working in Uganda since 2008 to support marginalised children and young people affected by conflict and children in conflict with the law.
- Population: 39.5 million, with a median age of just 15.8 years old.
- Human Development Index: 163 out of 188.
- 86% of Ugandans living in rural areas depend on agriculture to make a living.
- Only 51% of children complete primary school.
- 1.5 million refugees live in Uganda.
Decades of civil war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army have left northern Uganda in chaos with dysfunctional social welfare systems. Uganda also has the second youngest population in the world, with youth unemployment in North Uganda at 83%. To survive abject poverty, young people often have no choice but to break the law to survive.
Giving vulnerable children access to fair justice and rehabilitation services with Right2Change
In northern Uganda where we work, 60% of children are apprehended for petty crimes (e.g. theft of food, school materials, sanitary pads). Petty crimes are punished harshly by the authorities. Far too often, children are sent to adult prisons where they are subject to sexual abuse, violence and appalling conditions.
The chronic lack of probation officers and prosecutors means that children are held in prison for long periods of time. When a hearing is finally held, only a handful of children are granted the right to be trialled in a juvenile court with legal representation. A severe lack of social workers, judiciary personnel and pro-bono lawyers compromises children’s rights to access fair and legal treatment and protection. With no prospect of rehabilitation, they risk leaving detention facilities traumatised. Current reoffending rates are 32% and prolonged unlawful detention in adult prisons, even for petty crimes, is widespread. For these children, there is no way out of a cycle of poverty, violence and crime.
What we’re doing
Our award-winning Right2Change project tackles these issues by providing legal advice, counselling and vocational training, enabling children’s successful reintegration into society. Children who have committed petty crimes receive legal aid, are put onto community-based rehabilitation programmes and are offered vocational training such as hairdressing, tailoring, brick laying and carpentry.
Since 2015, we have helped over 2,000 young people across the Agago, Pader, Kitgum and Lamwo districts. They no longer need to steal to survive and they can break free from the vicious cycle of crime and poverty. An amazing 99% of children and young people helped didn’t reoffend and 95% of our graduates are now earning an income!
Overall, Right2Change aims to:
- Improve access to fair treatment and legal representation by providing legal aid to children in conflict with the law. We also train frontline workers (e.g. judicial police officers, judges) and lawyers in Child Protection and alternatives to detention. We also monitor detention facilities to identify and release children kept in prolonged, unlawful detention.
- Enhance access to quality diversion and rehabilitation programmes by enrolling children in vocational training or education.
- Strengthen community-based child protection safety nets by recruiting foster care families – key to diversion and new in the juvenile justice system in Eastern DRC. We also run youth-led radio campaigns and awareness-raising events to challenge negative perceptions towards children in conflict with the law.
Working with frontline workers to make changes that last
As well as providing legal assistance and vocational training to young people caught up in the criminal justice system, we’re also working with frontline workers such as police officers, magistrates and council officers to train them in juvenile justice standards and child protection.
For each £1 invested in our Right2Change project, a social return of investment of £10.30 was generated.
By tackling issues of stigma, ignorance and lack of appropriate training at root level, we can create systemic changes within the justice system. Before starting Right2Change, just 3% of young people had received information about the procedures of their cases, compared to 55% today.
Giving vulnerable young people access to employment and food
With endemic poverty and unemployment in northern Uganda, young people have no means to improve their prospects. Agriculture is by far Uganda’s largest employer, with 86% of Ugandans living in rural regions relying heavily on subsistence farming. However, in northern Uganda, agricultural production and know-how have been greatly disrupted by two decades of conflict, poor government investment in infrastructure and the effects of climate change.
What we’re doing
We provide 3-month practical training courses and mentoring opportunities on agribusiness and entrepreneurship to vulnerable young people. This enables them to obtain higher agricultural yields, access the job market and eventually set up their own agricultural business. We also provide ongoing psychological support delivered by our social workers and peer educators. We aim to improve well-being and reduce vulnerability for all young participants.
Rebuilding young lives affected by war and conflict
Decades of war and conflict in northern Uganda have left many young children orphans. These children live in homes with no adults, where young people under eighteen assume the role of carer for their siblings.
What we’re doing
Since 2012, Chance for Childhood has been supporting children living without parental care in Agago, northern Uganda. Children in child-headed households are allocated a community mentor and are given seeds and livestock, enabling them to set up sustainable businesses and bring in an income. Together with their mentors, the head of households attend agricultural production, animal rearing and child protection training. Through our project, an amazing 99% of children reported having seen their well-being improved!
- Blog: Alternative routes to financing bigger impact and better outcomes for vulnerable children
- The Uganda winners of our 2018 Challenge Fund announced!