Donor Collaborations Provide Hope for Child Marriage Survivors

Women and Girls' Rights Advocacy Uganda WAGRAU
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In July 2023, a 17-year-old girl, identified as Mary (a pseudonym), who had left school due to her grandmother’s inability to pay her tuition, enrolled in a tailoring program at , a community-based organization in Serere District. Following her graduation, Mary faced challenges in acquiring her sewing machine, which she couldn’t afford. However, a man she met offered to buy her one and took her to Soroti, about 40 kilometers away from her home.

Unfortunately, once in Soroti, the man’s intentions changed, leading to her isolation from family and friends. He confiscated her phone and severed her connections to prevent her grandmother from finding out her whereabouts. He would also subject Mary to physical abuse and leave her without food.

Deborah Akello, the founder of WAGRAU, described how Mary endured this situation until she managed to escape. Mary contacted a friend who worked as a nurse at the center where she had been tailoring and asked for help with transportation back to her home in Serere District to have an abortion.

Her friend, however, communicated with her grandmother and revealed the girl’s ordeal. This led to the joint effort of her grandmother and Akello to rescue Mary. They filed a case at Soroti Police Station and collaborated with the police to apprehend the suspect.

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Mary was eventually rescued from her abuser in August 2023. It was discovered that she had contracted HIV/AIDS from the man. Her abuser is currently in Soroti Prison, facing charges of aggravated defilement.

Soroti City’s senior probation and social welfare officer, Amos Oluka Adotu, expressed concern about the hundreds of child marriage survivors with similarly painful stories. He highlighted the need for more attention to girls who have been separated from their families and are often forced into early marriages.

Efforts to support child marriage survivors and raise awareness are on the rise, with initiatives like the “Enhancing Learning and Coordination to End Child Marriage” program, implemented by Joy for Children Uganda in eastern Uganda districts with support from the nonprofit Girls First Fund.

Christine Aumo, the director of Soroti Girls’ Rights Initiative, emphasized the importance of economic empowerment for girls in impoverished communities to help prevent early child marriages.

Rebecca Apio, team leader of the Soroti Girls Support Centre, mentioned their efforts to empower girls both in and out of school by providing them with skills to support themselves and their children.

Moses Ntenga, the Executive Director of Joy for Children Uganda, called for increased sensitization on the importance of girls’ education as part of the ongoing efforts to combat child marriage and teenage pregnancy.

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