“Without the Thomson Reuters Foundation, this couldn’t have been possible. Thanks for believing in us.” Hellen Lunkuse Waiswa, RHF Executive Director
All children have the right to be protected from violence, abuse and exploitation. However, according to UNICEF, most children in Uganda have experienced some form of violence and abuse, with more than 8 million children vulnerable to harm.
Hellen Lunkuse Waiswa, founder of the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF), a Ugandan NGO which works extensively with at-risk children, child victims of sexual abuse, and domestic violence, wanted to ensure that staff and volunteers were fully protecting the rights of children within their network. Hellen contacted TrustLaw, who connected RHF with Ugandan law firm Onyango & Company Advocates to create a children’s protection and safeguarding policy. The legal assistance facilitated by TrustLaw allowed RHF to train their staff members on the rights of children, as well as handling sensitive information and images in relation to the children under their care.
“I felt that the Child Protection Policy wasn’t being realised at the grassroots level,” said Hellen. Through collaboration with Arthur Byara, a lawyer with Onyango & Company Advocates, the Child Protection Policy was designed for use by different stakeholders in the community. “We found [the project] interesting because we wanted to design a policy incorporating the values of RHF as well as the values of social justice in our society. We thought this policy should be able to impact RHF and to also train its members to be ambassadors in the community where they are,” explained Arthur.
Through community awareness campaigns in surrounding villages and the RHF information centres in rural Uganda, the Child Protection Policy started to create a ripple effect. Word quickly spread through the neighbouring communities, attracting the attention of Moses Binga, a police officer and Coordinator of the Ugandan National Counter Human Trafficking and US Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery.
Mr Binga, an outspoken advocate and experienced anti-trafficking worker, contacted Hellen about the policy. Through their partnership and trailblazing work, Mr Binga supported RHF to win a grant to grow the organisation and begin planning for a “Vocational & Life Skills Training Centre for Women and Girls” and an “Information Centre for cases of Sexual & Gender Based Violence”, which will be the first of its kind in Uganda. Every year, thousands of girls are trafficked from Uganda to the U.A.E, China, Malaysia and Turkey, this centre will provide information on anti-trafficking and support those most vulnerable.
“The project has translated into a meaningful idea when it comes to child protection not only for the RFH team but for different community levels. No wonder it has been adopted by local schools, different community-based organisations, some police posts and village local councils. We can visibly see that the children are now more protected against any avoidable harm, sex crime, trafficking and abuse,” said Hellen.
The Rape Hurts Foundation and Onyango & Company Advocates have been nominated for the “Impact Award” at the 2018 TrustLaw Awards.
“Working with TrustLaw has made us save a lot of money, be effective, and we are moving forward. And at least every person has gotten a chance to know the law in the community. At least every person has a booklet about child policy. So working with TrustLaw has been a blessing to us as we've gotten a lot of partnerships and trust from other people and organisations both internationally and locally,” concluded Hellen.