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Stop the sexual exploitation of girls at work

Youth advocates Fiona, Rowlings and Faridah in Uganda

NOT PART OF HER JOB

Stop the sexual exploitation of girls at work in Uganda

Please note: this page contains references to sexual violence and abuse which some people may find upsetting

[This campaign is now closed]

In Uganda, as many as one in ten girls have been affected by sexual abuse and exploitation*, and girls tell us that this is a real issue for them at work. In bars, restaurants and lodges, girls are being coerced into having sex with the boss to get their job – and forced to have sex with customers to keep it.

Living in poverty with little option for escape means that many girls and young women are at high risk of exploitation. Financially desperate, and often with children, parents and siblings to support, they have no choice but to stay in the job, hoping it will get better. When they are brave enough to speak out about what’s happening to them, they’re often ignored, not taken seriously, or silenced. It’s a terrible abuse of power – and it has to stop.

This campaign resulted in over 500,000 people standing in solidarity with the youth advocates Faridah, Fiona and Rowlings in Uganda. Together, we secured a commitment by the Ugandan Government to launch a review into the sexual exploitation of girls and young women at work.  

As many as one in ten girls in Uganda have been affected by sexual abuse and exploitation

Unemployment is 27% for young women compared to 9% for young men in Uganda

At least 15% of femalesare employed in the informal sector in Uganda

ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN

The consultation into the sexual exploitation of girls and young women at work, due to be launched by the Ugandan Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, is good news. It’s an important opportunity to get to the root of the problem, so that the responsible authorities can take action.

For youth advocates Fiona, Faridah and Rowlings, it’s vital that the consultation focuses on why action isn’t being taken when girls report incidents of exploitation. That’s why they’ve written a letter to their government, and asked you to sign it to help raise their voices.

A survivor of sexual exploitation at work in Uganda

JAZEO’S STORY

Jazeo* began work in a bar in Kampala after she was forced to drop out of school, because her mum couldn’t afford her and her sister’s school fees. 

The job offered her a lifeline – and the chance to pay for her sister to stay in education.

“When I went to the bar, the boss told me ‘you can only have this job if you sleep with me’. After that, he told me if I wanted to get a raise in wages, I had to go and live with him and keep sleeping with him. It was the only way for me to survive.”

A survivor of sexual exploitation at work in Uganda

JOY’S STORY

Now 17, Joy* began working in a bar in Kampala after her parents died.

“The owner wanted me to sit with the customers, to keep them company and allow them to touch my body and kiss me. The boss would beat me if I didn’t allow that,” she explains.

“It was the only job I had so that I could survive. There are very many girls out there who have lost parents, who go to these places to work and they are exploited.”

A survivor of sexual exploitation at work in Uganda

NAMUSANZA’S STORY

Namusanza* had to leave school after her mother died. When she was 17, a friend found work for them both in a bar in Kampala.

“The boss told me, ‘it’s the role of the waitresses to entice but also to please the customers’,” she says.

“Girls working at bars are suffering. We are treated as animals, as non-human beings. I want the future generation of girls to live a better life where they are not exploited as I was.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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*Sources

Overseas Development Institute, Sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in Uganda (2014) https://www.odi.org/publications/8966-sexual-exploitation-adolescent-girls-uganda (last accessed 18.01.19)

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Patterns and predictors of violence against children in Uganda: a latent class analysis (2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885281/#R22 (last accessed 18.01.19)