Community Parliament to End Violence Against Children

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Goldin Global Fellow

In March this year, the Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED) completed our second session of our Community Parliament program by engaging community members at Go - Down village, Techo parish. Go - Down is characterized by high degrees of child rights violations by caregivers and parents, which increases the number of street children involved in gang violence. To gain a holistic perspective, we involved local community leaders, the police and child protection unit, community policing officer, community elders, children, and parents from this area. The street children involved in gang violence joined the session a bit later after realizing the police who were present were not after them.

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The main issue that was reiterated throughout the parliament session was domestic abuse. Children at home suffer from being neglected, abused by family members, and denied their rights to education. Fights between husbands and wives were also cited as a main contributing factor to most of the violence children experience at home. One community member used a common African proverb to echo the the group's sentiment that when parents fight, it is the children who suffer the most:

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

One participant highlighted that high bride prices lead to some of the divorce cases in the area. When men fail to complete the payment, women leave for other men who can pay. But unfortunately, the new husbands often do not take care of the children from former husbands. Another contributing factor which caused child neglect is when some older women take young men to live with them as their husbands.

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Participants said that most of these fights or divorces have been perpetuated because men, i.e., the husbands, believe that their wives are not respecting them.  A community member shared:

“Some women misuse their rights and freedom in ways that dishonor their husbands. Alcoholism among men is also causing the fights and consequently abuse towards children."

During the session, we also learned that the community is faced with the dilemma of how to properly discipline children without violating their rights. This dilemma leaves most parents unsure about the best approaches to inhibit child misconduct. The confusion has led to the majority of cases of child neglect.

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The community requested the cultural institutions to step in to help minimize the problem of violence against children. Some of the suggested interventions include the provision of child and women's rights education to the community, positive parenting education, marriage counseling, and a standard rate for the bride price.

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As a way forward, we plan to continue this conversation with the broader community of Ugandans through radio. The journalists who attended the meeting will air the program and prompt listeners for feedback. Our organization, Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED) partners with the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) to make the community parliament sessions possible. We have implemented two sessions in different community areas which are highly affected by the problem of violence against children. We continue to remain cautious of Covid-19 by wearing masks and maintaining social distance during these events.

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