Northern Uganda’s brutal civil war has had an immense impact on the whole Acholi sub-region. But its effects on young people have been particularly harsh. It is estimated that over 50,000 children and youth were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to serve with this illegal armed group. Thousands were killed; many are still missing. Girls were given to the LRA commanders as wives. Many have named this time as “a war against children.”
The war has officially ended. But its effects on young people continue, particularly for young women and their children. Most female returnees came back with two or more children – the average time for girls to be held in captivity by the Lord’s Resistance Army was eight years. For the majority, the return has been difficult. Many families have not welcomed their daughters or children back into the community. These young mothers have had to struggle to find a way to survive and care for their children on their own – an incredibly difficult task.
Watye Ki Gen – which is Acholi for “We Have Hope” – is a membership organization started by formerly abducted women to focus on the needs of children born in captivity. Angela Atim Lakor is one of the founding members. As she explains: when women and girls came back from the bush, organizations helped them with vocational skills and other programs, but no one came for the children. These children have been psychologically broken; they remember what happened in the bush and they now face stigma against them. The children are often not welcomed in schools or with their neighbors. Some of them really want to know where they come from but, for many mothers, this is difficult because they do not want any connection to the biological father.
In this region, Partners Worldwide has been in partnership with Talanta Finance since 2008 to help end poverty through business. Through a new initiative with Watye Ki Gen, they are providing hope for these vulnerable women, children and youth. In the initial phase, their goal is to support more than 2,000 women and youth as micro-entrepreneurs through training, mentorship, and access to capital. Talanta conducts business and financial literacy trainings while Watye Ki Gen continues with advocacy and psycho-social support to children and mothers.
Some of the core activities include:
- Counseling and reconciliation between parents, teachers, and children
- Public education, including radio talk shows and service projects in schools
- Peer support for children to learn to live positively with others in community
- Training for teachers and community organizations to be aware of stigma
- Monitoring of vulnerable children in their homes at at school
- Livelihood project focused on poultry and crop production
- Training on micro-credit, business, and establishment of VSLA groups
To learn more about Partners Worldwide and Talanta, visit their website: www.partnersworldwide.org