It is very sad and painful when we see and hear how teenage girls are getting raped, defiled or forcefully married. Sometimes, parents or other relatives (particularly if the child’s parents have died) give girls into marriage because they are poor or cannot afford to educate girls. This has become a recurring situation for refugee women and girls in Ugandan communities. Vulnerable women become trapped into dangerous relationships with deceitful men who make their live miserable. These women need empowerment to break their dependency and succeed socially, emotionally, and economically.
During an OYOH Initiative titled “Stop Spread Covid-19”where we provided emergency food relief and aid distribution in April and May 2020, I met a young woman aged 17. She is a Congolese refugee with many dreams, one of them was to be the most powerful doctor in the world. In DRC, she was doing excellently at school. Every time she came home from school, she rejoiced and her parents were excited, happy and proud of her. One day while she was preparing for exams, the war broke out. There were gunshots all over the city, and the family had no other choice than to flee to save their lives. Unfortunately, the family was ambushed by kidnappers who forced the family into many dangerous situations and travels that they barely survived.
“I did not understand how hard life could be, not until the kidnappers took me and used me sexually. After few days I realised I was pregnant and nine months later, I gave birth to a baby boy. I saw my young brothers and sisters dying, I buried my parents alone after they were killed by the kidnappers and left them lying on the ground. I survived by luck. My dreams were all cut.” she added.
“I escaped and found myself in Uganda in 2018, a peaceful country where I could not imagine going through the same situation. Unfortunately, this was not the case. My being here did not change anything. I have to live on hawking business while being used by different men sexually in order for me to meet my needs and those of my child because it is the only choice I am left with.” She said.
This is just a story of one young single mother, Imagine how many girls are raped, defiled or get into forced marriage each single day in Uganda. According to statistics from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), about 1,594 new rape and 7,618 defilement cases were reported in 2015 and 2016. Of these only 57% brought punishment to the perpetrator.
Empowering single mothers would give them a voice and a chance to choose who they want to be and what they want to do while reducing poverty, unwanted marriage and exposure to bad men. One Youth One Heart wants to help vulnerable women like this by supporting them with food during this time of emergency and help them for long term independence & empowerment:
First, As OYOH has been delivering food and material goods to 157+ urban refugee households since the crisis onset. We will continue delivering supplemental food and material provision to 250 families for three months at an approximate cost of $15 US Dollars a month per household. This amount will purchase 10 kilograms of maize flour, 1 kilogram of sugar, 1 bar of washing soap, and 1/2 litter of sanitizer. We will identify additional vulnerable refugee family recipients through partnerships with local governmental actors (LC1), and refugee community leaders.
Second, OYOH will identify 50 female head of household entrepreneurs among the 250 family recipients and support their economic recovery by (a) replacing business materials sold for subsistence needs during the crisis, with estimated support at $185 US Dollars per business; (b) creating 10 mentoring networks, including tailoring, hairdressing, and crafts making, to help entrepreneurs expand business capacity; and (c) providing skills training for professions impacted by the quarantine measures. This amount will include the purchase of a tailoring machine to replace the ones which had to be sold for food during the pandemic at estimated cost of $100 US Dollars and tailoring material such as 10 pieces of bitenge (cloth fabric) at cost of $ 85 US Dollars. For those with salon businesses, such as hairdressing, we will equip their saloon through a purchase of saloon hairdryer helmet at estimated cost of $ 90 US Dollars, a sink at $20 US Dollars, a mirror at $20 US Dollars and hairdressing chair $ 50 US Dollars.
We seek to raise $25,000 US Dollars with $12,500 US Dollars for expanded food and material aid distribution to 250 households, and we request $12,500 US Dollars for long-term economic recovery programs.