One of our most basic instincts is not for survival but for family, what happens when you are forced to live the reverse? Imagine seeking refuge away from your family that has turned its back against you for not complying with traditions that brutalize you and sometimes leave lifelong emotional and physical scars. This is what some of the girls in Amudat district are experiencing. With the Sebei and Karamojong regions still registering the highest number of cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child, Early & Forced Marriage (CEFM) cases in Uganda. Over the years, girls still run away from their homes because they went against values of their families, as well as to escape being force into FGM or early marriages.
The National Association of Women’s Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU), with funding from Irish Aid, has for over four years provided support to two schools that now double as safe spaces for girls; Kalas Girls and Katikit Primary Schools. These schools offer safe space for rescued girls who are referred by Community Based Action Teams (COMBATS), Police and those seeking a safety away from home. The schools have come in handy especially now that the country is facing the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted into the closure of schools leaving some of the girls homeless as they still can’t afford to go back home because they are afraid that their families will force them to undergo FGM and/ or early marriage. Due to the lockdown, violence against women and girls has been on the rise. Women and girls now spend more time at home with their fathers, uncles, brothers who sometimes turn out to be the abusers. In order to protect the girls who abandoned their homes for safety from FGM and early marriages, the district local government designated Kalas Girls Primary School to remain open to host these girls.
NAWOU is currently providing the girls with basic food items and expenses on other essential items like soap, sanitary pads plus any legal services that may arise. The District Local Government under the leadership of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Mr. Swale Masakoyi have taken responsibility for the girls, majorly providing security in and around Kalas Girls Primary School. The Nuns, who are the administrators at the school check on the girls regularly, ensure they have all the basic needs and have retained one live-in matron as a caretaker to the girls. The NAWOU staff member based in Amudat calls on the girls every day to check on their well-being and show them love, a semblance of an older family member.
The current available funds only provide basic needs for the girls whose numbers keep fluctuating. NAWOU is looking up to “good Samaritans” who can provide additional funding to take care of the ever increasing number of girls and as well as meet more needs beyond the basic minimum.