I started working with World Vision as a Child Protection Committee member (CPC) in August 2016, after undergoing training in child protection. We had just come to a foreign land and we were uncertain about the future. The best we could do was to commit to protecting our children who had been mostly affected by the war. We had no option but to adapt and start life afresh as refugees after losing most of our property in South Sudan.
Working closely with World Vision staff and using the knowledge from the training, I started by identifying cases in my community that majorly included cases of unaccompanied and separated minors, children at risk and those whose rights were being violated. At the time, children’s lives were at great risk because community members didn’t understand where to report certain issues and there were lots of cultural briefs that violated the rights of children. Some children were also under the care of elderly people and people living with disabilities, which doubled their vulnerability.
Some tribes in the settlement did not mind getting their daughters married off at a very young age because they believed that if a girl experiences her first menstruation period, then they are old enough to get married. As CPCs, we had an uphill task to change the mindset of communities and find solutions to most of the problems that were bothering refugees. When people saw how committed I was to finding solutions, they elected me as their Refugee Welfare Council chairperson. This gave me an opportunity to identify more cases that I would then refer to World Vision for follow-up and proper management. Community dialogues also helped a lot in changing the mindset of refugee communities.
In order to achieve peace and harmony, we worked with World Vision to mobilise peace clubs comprising of youth from all tribes. The peace clubs would become fosters of peace and reconciliation in the settlement. Children would meet at the Child-Friendly Space (CFS), play together and make friends from other tribes. Parents realised that they too can live together in harmony.
Shortly after our intervention, we started noticing the change. Violence against children and tribal fights were considerably reduced. We also empowered children on their rights and how to report any rights violations or cases to World Vision and other partners, including sharing with them the toll-free Uganda Child Helpline. The helpline was to keep information confidential and also for the children not to be targeted in the community.
Integrating community structures in Child Protection
World Vision, in partnership with International Rescue Committee, and with support from the United States Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration, continues to work with community members like Richard to improve and protect the lives of children. To date, 64 community structures have been trained to implement child protection activities in Bidibidi.
“In the first year of the project, CPCs have reported up to 1,300 child protection cases to World Vision and other partners, and appropriate measures have been taken. This is a testament to the incredible role the CPCs play in keeping children in their communities safe”, says Job Auruku, World Vision's Child Protection Coordinator.
CPCs have also supported in conducting community awareness sessions on positive parenting, child fostering and referral pathways. In the last year, they have reported and managed over 1,000 cases of violence against children and women in their communities.
Story by Derrick Kyatuka - Communications Coordinator, World Vision, Uganda