MEET THE YOUTH ADVOCATES
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 the government, and they’re asking you to sign it to help raise their voices.
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.”
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.”
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
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)