Three years ago, Monica Chebet voluntarily took herself to search for a school after her parents denied her education. Her attempts to plead for an opportunity to be taken to school only fell on deaf ears and the only response she got was that she should wait for marriage.
“My father always told me that I am a girl and I should know that he is supposed to get dowry from me. I decided to escape from home to look for how I can help myself,” narrated Chebet.
“When I arrived here, I met Sister Magdalene who guided me on how to get formally admitted in the school. I came with only one dress and barefooted but she connected me with Hope for Children who have looked after me until date,” Chebet said.
In February 2020, she lost her mother and has ever since never connected with any of her relatives. According to her, all she now has as a family is the friends she has at the rescue center, Sister Magdalene, Hope for Children Organization and the Spotlight.
Up to a total of 25 children who have been rescued from early forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] are currently being taken care of at Kalas Girls Primary School in Amudat district found in the south west of Karamoja region.
Three of them were saved from FGM from the villages of Nagoliet, Nakele and Namosing all in Looro sub county.
Reports from the District Community Development Office [DCDO], the Chief Administrative Officer and the Resident District Commissioner indicate that there are rising numbers of cases of FGM and a traditional norm of early and forced marriages in the district.
In the past three months, Amudat district has registered 26 cases of defilement, 13 cases of forced marriages, 04 cases of child to child sex and 70 cases of denial of education.
According to the report presented to the UN Ambassador to Uganda, the office of the DCDO in Amudat has registered a total of 73 cases of violence against girls and boys [11 boys and 62 girls] and 12 women amidst the COVID-19.
Frida Amuron, the DCDO revealed that after a massive sensitization of communities about the dangers of early forced marriages and FGM, a number of girls started running away from homes to look for schools but unfortunately, parents would still fetch them and take for a forced marriage.
“UNICEF, UNFPA and other partners have continuously supported our sensitization activities and results are realized, however, when girls try to run out of home to a nearby school, their parents would easily fetch them because most of these schools are not fenced and anybody can enter at any time,” said Amuron.
She further disclosed that as a district, it has not been an easy task to take care of the children. However, the joint support from the United Nations organizations such as UNFPA, UNICEF and the Spotlight has greatly contributed to the positive results in the district.
“It has not been easy for us but I would like to that the UN for their intervention. UNFPA has continuously facilitated our awareness creation campaigns through community outreaches, World Food Program provides food for the children in school and even those still at home, the UN Spotlight has supported with so much interventions across the communities,” she said.
The EU Spotlight Initiative that supports UN Women, has through other partners conducted district and sub county level meetings to disseminate key policy documents and legal frameworks critical for child protection systems work in Amudat.
The Initiative has also oriented district technical and political leadership, the District Education Office, District Health Office, Office of the Resident District Commissioner, Justice actors and cultural leaders among other sectors on pillars of a proactive system for children at the district, sub county, parish, village and household levels and their roles and contributions to creating and strengthening the protection system, with strong sectorial linkages with education, justice and health.
Mr Adiama Robert Ekaju, the RDC for Amudat applauded the UN and partners for the job well-done in Karamoja and Amudat in particular, but questioned for the sustainability of the projects.
“To be sincere, the UN has done a very commendable job in Amudat but the challenge now is that how do we sustain what we have so far done?” wondered the RDC.
The RDC also said that there is need for construction of vocational schools in the district to help those rescued from FGM and early forced marriages.
According to Mr Adiama, some of the girls have aged and cannot suit the lower class of education.
“Some of these girls are beyond the age where they cannot attend the lower class and therefore, if given vocational education, these girls would be very helpful for the community,” said Mr Adiama.
He also applauded UN for the support of the ambulance that the district received from the United Nations Development Program [UNDP] to support with COVID-19 response.
“Your Excellency, Amudat is a very wide district and we had no ambulance for picking a patient in case of an emergency.
“As a chairman of the Task Force, I want to confirm that we have really seen the impact of that support,” the RDC said while addressing M.s Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator.
H.E Rosa Malango has pledged a continuous support from the United Nations to achieve the Development in the region.
“I have personally seen that the stamen We cannot wait for Karamoja to develop does not apply anymore. Karamoja is redy for a transition to development. What we now need to do is to engage the Private Partnership in the region,” said Malango.
She also applauded other UN organizations and support partners for the concerted effort in helping the livelihoods of the vulnerable communities, especially during the COVID-19 times.
Ms. Caroline Kembabazi Kamabale, the deputy Principal Private Secretary to the President, who also represented the president in the mission said that she has engaged the district technical team of Amudat to map out a work plan on how to urgently set up vocational institutions in the district.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda, is in a mission to Karamoja region amidst accumulating numbers of COVID-19 cases recorded in the region.
The purpose of the mission is to increase awareness on Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] and Critical UN programs during COVID19 in the region.