Thursday, 7 August 2014

Duty Bearers’ Capacities Strengthened to Fight Child Rights Abuses

A baseline survey conducted by Rural Action Community Based Organization (RACOBAO) in 2013 indicated that there were rampant child rights abuses in Lyantonde district. Many girls as young as 14 years among the predominantly pastoralist communities were taken out of school to be given away in marriage.  
Community members were the main perpetrators of the abuses and as such could not report the rights violations, while those that tried were often frustrated by the weak structures such as the police, and local leaders in charge of children affairs; this was because they were either corrupt or outright incompetent. This incompetence was attributed to the lack of knowledge on the existing laws and policies on child rights protection and promotion. Most of the duty bearers were not aware of their roles and responsibilities in protecting and promoting child rights. 

However, through IDF supported interventions, RACOBAO (an IDF grantee) has been able to empower duty bearers with knowledge and skills in child rights promotion and protection. RACOBAO has continued to conduct several sensitization and dialogue meetings with the rights holders (community) and the duty bearers (leaders and service providers) to educate them on the existing laws and policies on child rights protection, and their roles and responsibilities towards the same. Community based interface meetings (barazas) have been conducted to allow for discussions between duty bearers and rights holders on issues of child rights protection. 
 During these, several action plans are developed, implemented by the responsible persons and also monitored to check progress on what was planned.
Duty Bearers of Kaliiro sub-county developing action plans during a dialogue meeting
Reports indicate that the capacities of several community structures of duty bearers/service providers have been strengthened and their vigilance and responsiveness to handling cases of rights abuses reported has increased. On the other hand, increased vigilance on reporting cases of human rights abuse by the community members has also been witnessed. 

A case in point is where some community members  in February 2014 whistle blew to the duty bearers about two arranged early marriages for one Daphne, a 15 year old girl from Kyalwandemu village, Kiyinda parish, Kaliiro Sub County and Babirye Allen a 16 year old girl from Bwamulamira village, Bwamulamira parish, Kinuuka Sub County. The community alerted the police about the planned give away ceremonies for these young girls by their parents. 
The police immediately swung into action, foiled the ceremonies and cautioned the parents and suitors never to repeat such a thing. The girls were later sent back to school and are happily studying. During a recent sensitization meeting, the District Probation and Social Welfare Officer noted “We are recording an unprecedented increase in the number of child rights abuses reported to and handled by my office. We call upon everyone in the community to join hands against abusing children”.

 Adding their commitment to the rest of the duty bearers, some religious leaders in Lyatonde district have vowed to always ask for birth certificates of brides before conducting marriage ceremonies. This is going to check on the number of early marriages conducted in the district. RACOBAO believes that, such measures if sustained will contribute a lot in wiping out the rampant child rights violations from Lyantonde district and consequently contribute to the national goal of human rights promotion and protection and the promotion of school enrollment, retention and completion for many children.