Ham is a primary seven pupil from Busia District in Eastern Uganda. At 13 years of age, he is a change influencer in his municipality and proudly shares how his life has changed and how he has in turn changed the lives of his peers. He is the speaker of Busia Municipal Children’s Parliament; a position he was elected into by members of various children committees in February 2020.
“I come from a village in the municipality where cases of school dropouts are at the highest. Child abuse in my village could probably be the highest in the entire municipality”, he notes.
Some years back, Ham learnt about the Children’s Parliament because his school had representatives in the parliament.
“Because of that, I picked interest in participating in children affairs. As young people, because of lack of exposure, we often fear to express ourselves. However, because of the interest in the Children's Parliament, I convinced myself that I can be the speaker of the Children’s Parliament and help speak on behalf of my fellow children and protect my fellow children who were being oppressed.” he says.
Ham shares that he felt so happy to see that finally he had an opportunity to help friends who were being abused; especially those facing domestic violence which was on a high in Busia Municipality. He adds that he is elated at being part of a very happy family with both parents whom he says are quite understanding and supportive.
From the time that Ham was elected speaker of the Children's Parliament, he says that he, together with his fellow honourable members, have been at the forefront of advocating for a safe community that upholds the rights of children.
“We have had opportunities to advance the child rights agenda both at local and national level. This has been through events especially organised by World Vision. such as the Day of the African Child, National Faith Leaders Dialogue, child-led radio talk shows, among others,” says Ham.
The young leader adds that today, the community understanding of child rights and responsibilities has greatly improved. He particularly points out the improved commitment by parents to fulfil their obligations towards their children by providing them with basic needs. He also mentioned the improved role played by the Children's Parliament in boosting children’s’ confidence to speak out and participate in discussing matters affecting their lives.
“Children in Busia are now exposed. Their confidence has been boosted by World Vision-supported programmes. Our impact is now highly felt both locally and nationwide. We are now even able to share our views and ideas globally with other children and international leaders via zoom. This has also improved our understanding and utilisation of technology to influence child rights and protection” says Barack, a member of the Busia Children's Parliament.
Ham vividly remembers the day that he was picked to represent children at the National Parliament of Uganda to speak about the issues affecting fellow children. He still upholds that as a life-changing event for him; sharing that it was like a dream come true.
“I feel so hurt seeing children of my age dropping out of school due to lack of school needs like books, uniform and school fees. I would like to urge all parents to take and honour their responsibility of providing for their children’s needs. I will speak for my fellow children until I see that no child is left behind especially in education and that parents are doing their job of providing basic needs,” he stresses.
With fierce determination, Ham says that as long as he is still representing children, he will never stop speaking for his fellow children. He, for example, shared about a time when he offered to speak to the parents of a fellow pupil. He recalls the child confided in him that she was being excessively punished at home by her parents. With a smile, he says that when he talked to the parents about the dangers of corporal punishment, however young he was, they listened to him. He testifies that now the girl is living happily with her parents.
Ham’s teacher shares that he is equally grateful to World Vision for initiating such child participation platforms. He adds that the platform not only improves children’s confidence but also their morals and discipline. He points out Ham as being a role-model to his fellow pupils.
The young leader hopes to become a representative of all the young people in Uganda even later at an international level. As a future leader, Ham hopes to concentrate his efforts on strengthening relationships between parents and their children.