“In Kampala, the network’s soundbite is ‘Keeping Children Safe’. This goal is providing a common focus and vision for children’s work across the city, and we are starting to see transformation - not only in official systems and policies but in people’s attitudes, thinking and behaviour.
“Yet when the network began its focus was mainly on child protection policies, helping member projects to make their organisations safer places for children. However, as the members began to make changes and give children opportunities to speak, it was as if a dam of silence broke and stories of abuse and neglect started flooding the case loads of local social workers.
“As the network then tried to engage parents, police officers, head teachers and local politicians, much disinterest, carelessness and corruption was faced. So Viva walked alongside the network as new initiatives were created and tested, all attempting to engage these key players in fresh and creative ways of keeping children safe.
“Through the ‘child-friendly church’ aspect of Viva Engage local pastors were able to lead the way, ensuring that their churches were safe, welcoming and empowering environments for children. Slowly adults began to realise the ways in which they were neglecting and even hurting children, and whole communities began strongly and vocally speaking out against child abusers, neglectful caregivers, thoughtless parents and duty bearers who were not fulfilling their responsibilities. As this call to keep children safe in Kampala grew, so the opportunities for strategic partnerships increased: both with other civil society organisations such as the Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity, and also with the government itself through the Parliamentary Forum for Children.
“Whilst the network continues to support and help develop the work of its individual member organisations it is also empowering children themselves to shape the city they live in. Through our Child Ambassadors programme children are learning how to speak out for themselves and others, and recently some of these Ambassadors were able to take their concerns in person to the Speaker of the House of Parliament. Viva’s partnership with a music and media company has also given children the opportunity to make documentaries about their everyday lives; produce short films featuring their original songs, dances, dramas and poetry; and even film an advert that was seen by millions of people across Uganda, reminding adults that “children are worth your time!” We’ve had amazing feedback from several communities within the city that the advert has already begun to positively affect local adults’ behaviour towards children.
“We believe that as we continue to work together to keep children safe we will one day see a city where people’s homes, churches, organisations and whole communities are safe places for children to grow up.”
Mim Friday, Viva Network Consultant in Kampala, Uganda