"We are focusing on addressing mainly issues that affect the girl child."
Plan International Uganda has invested 100m Euros towards promotion of child rights and other related issues, with particular emphasis on the protection of the rights of the girl child. The funding covers five years between 2016 and 2021.
Rashid Javed, Plan International Uganda Country Director said that the organization had expanded its program to include :Bukedea, Buyende, Nebbi in West Nile, Karamoja and Gulu where surveys had revealed extreme poverty and gross violation of children rights in the communities.
Javed was speaking to children from different schools who visited Plan International Uganda head office in Bugolobi on Tuesday during the 'takeover' of his office by the girl child.
Grace Fiona Alowo of Petta Community School took over as Country Director and assumed full powers for over one hour in a mock ceremony.
Similar ceremonies have been conducted in 120 countries ahead of the Day of the Girl Child, which will be marked on October 11.
"We are focusing on addressing mainly issues that affect the girl child, which include early marriages, lack of access to education and health services, hygiene, livelihood and protection of the rights of then girl child," he stated.
According to Javed, Plan will work in partnership with respective local governments. "Girls are the most single excluded group in the World, mainly because they are young and because they are female," he said. He said efforts were being made to ensure girls get the same rights and opportunities with boys in their respective communities.
Grace Fiona Alowo, a student of Petta Community School, speaks after she assumed the office of Plan International Uganda Country director, as Rashid rajev, the country director looks on. (Credit: Eddie Ssejjoba)
During the takeover, children brainstormed on issues that posed as stumbling blocks for their emancipation, which included lack of sanitary pads that forced many to abandon schooling, corporal punishments, sexual harassment, unfriendly cultural practices, poverty, and denial of equal rights, negative perception against girls during puberty, among others.
One of the girl participants, Sharon Ajok (15), a Senior One student of Ogur Seed SS in Lira broke down in tears and was helped away as she narrated to fellow students how she was being harassed by her uncle's wife.
Other students and Plan International staff were in tears as Ajok who heads a family of five siblings narrated how she was being tormented by the uncle's wife who insults and abuses her, demanding that she drops out of school and gets married. Ajok works in private gardens in different villages over the weekends to get money and food for the family.
Ajok told the participants that their mother died and the father developed a mental illness forcing her to take over responsibility as a head of the family but that she was facing a lot of pressure from relatives to abandon her siblings and get married for them to get dowry (cows).
"I have refused their pressure, I have told them I'm still young and I want to complete school," she said.
Ajok's head teacher, Margaret Atino said she had offered the girl accommodation her in her house at school but could not find anyone to look after the siblings.