In the 2014 Tumaini Awards, child rights organisations in partnership with New Vision are seeking to honour and recognise individuals, organisations and businesses working to improve the lives of children in Uganda.
Today, Andrew Masinde reports about Platform for Labour Action that has given homeless children a home and an education
Miriam Mukisa was a vibrant young girl. She hoped to complete her studies and become a teacher.
However, her dream was cut short when both her parents passed away. She then went to live with her cousins. But although they were loving relatives, they were of little means. So, when she turned 15, the family decided to marry her off.
“Because we did not have money, my cousins found a man for me to marry so that I would have a place to live. I did not like him so I ran away from him to Kampala to find work,” says the soft spoken Mukisa.
“However, the work I got was not good. I was not only being paid peanuts, but my bosses were also very abusive,” she laments.
However, in 2009 Lady Luck smiled om her when she was informed of an organisation called Platform for Labour Action (PLA).
“When I went to their offices, they took me up and sent me back to school. I am doing a certificate course in hair dressing at Nile Vocational Institute, Jinja. After my course I hope to set up my own salon,” Mukisa says with a wide smile.
Girls under the PLA programme learn how to make reusable sanitary pads Photo by Andre Masinde
What is PLA?
PLA is a national civil society organisation founded in 2000 by a group of female activists. It was founded response to the absence of an appropriate voice to address the rights of and issues facing marginalised workers. It targets especially women, youth and children.
Under their Stop Child Exploitation Programme Livelihoods, PLA has resettled or sent back to school over 4,000 child labourers in the districts of Lira, Masindi, Kiryandongo and Makindye division in Kampala.
Isaac Arinaitwe, the programme officer Networking and Community Development says there are over 1.76 million children in Uganda engaged in child labour. Many of them trafficked from villages to the city through “auntie schemes” under the guise of education.
“Instead of being placed in school, they live and work in exploitative conditions. They suffer physical, mental, and sexual abuse and often work up to 73 hours a week,” Arinaitwe says.
He adds that the programme has given 415 children exploited in domestic work, scrap collection, hawking, hope for a better future through provision of primary and vocational education.
In northern Uganda, the programme has enabled 200 Ugandan girls orphaned and displaced as a result of the 21 year armed conflict to have access to education and have been provided scholastic materials.
By the end of 2012, PLA in partnership with Community Development and Conservation Agency had successfully enabled 4,00 children exploited in tobacco growing and missing out of school access primary education and vocational skills training. This was at Kyema Vocational Polytechnic Training Institute.
PLA has also trained 130 primary school teachers from Masindi, Kiryandongo and Kampala on supporting child rights through Education Arts and the Media (SCREAM), a participatory methodology of teaching and learning that has enabled children become aware of their rights.
This has made the school environment friendly for the children thus improving on child retention in school.
Through SCREAM competitions, over 13,000 parents and fellow children have been reached with messages to stop child exploitation and send children to school.
Besides providing legal aid to the exploited children, PLA also conducts home and school visits to the beneficiaries to offer psycho-socio support to them and their parents.
John Ssemanda, one of the SCREAM beneficiary teachers at Kibuye primary school had this to say: “From the training, I learnt to protect the children and also to preserve their rights. I make sure I help the children love school through teaching, counselling and advising.”
In bid to realise their right to education and gain a better livelihood after education, PLA after identifying 4,616 children formerly exploited in labour, placed them in primary, secondary and vocational training institutions.
“Today, some of the children have graduated and got gainful employment as mechanics, waiters, chefs, hairdressers and cobblers,” Ssemanda says.
Beneficiaries speak out
Deborah Namanyi, a former exploited domestic worker is all praises for PLA.
“I thank PLA for helping me access vocational training. Today, I work as a hairstylist. I am self-employed and I earn sh80,000 a month depending on the season,” Namanyi says.
Frank Balekye, a former street boy rescued by PLA and enrolled for a certificate in mechanics course at Nile Vocational Institute says: “I am happy because now I have a home. I have hope of getting a job. I cannot go back to the streets because now I am a changed person,” Balekye explains.
In executing its role, PLA partners especially with child rights non- government organisations, on strategies to curb the child labour situation in Uganda.
It has also worked with indigenous communities targeted in the programme to create and strengthen community-based task forces on child domestic work and exploitation.
These taskforces are composed of local leaders, community representatives and law enforcement officers.
The agencies and organisations with which they have linkages include the district probation and welfare offices, the PLA legal aid centres, the district labour officers and the family and child protection department of the Police.
The most unique aspect of this programme is the ability to equip the guardians/ parents of the vulnerable children exploited in labour with skills on income-generating activities. This is to enable them progressively contribute on the leading needs of their children at school.
All funding is by Terre des Hommes Netherlands and Elimination of Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (Geneva).
The selection is based on the deprived, vulnerable, and least privileged children. These include child headed households, especially with regard to the prevention objective. Poor orphans without able guardians, children living with very poor or elderly parents and guardians, homes where basic necessities are not provided.
Maintaining the livelihood schemes for the parents and guardians of the beneficiaries remains their major plan for sustainability.
Selling the programme to the local governments in the areas of operation through advocacy programme is another key sustainability programme.
Do you know any individual, company or organisation that is working to improve the lives of children in Uganda? Nominate them for the Tumaini Awards by downloading and filling in nomination forms from www.tumainiawards.com and send it by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. All nominations are due by close of business today, May 16, 2014