By Esther Nakkazi
Fifteen year old, Aisha Nansubuga lives with her father and stepmother in a one-roomed house in the slums of Kasubi Zone 3, Rubaga Division.
On Wednesday, 3rd May, the PREFA team visited Nansubuga who was at her home. “I work in a hotel. I sell food but today Madam did not come to work,” she says. She is neatly dressed in a yellow tight fitting dress with brown sandals.
Besides working at the hotel, she can also plait hair, a skill she acquired from Masooli vocational training. Her earnings are up to Ushs 60,000 ($15) a week if she plaits three people and that is the most she has earned in that duration from her newly acquired skill.
Nansubuga is one of the girls who was identified through the ‘Protecting Families against HIV’ (PREFA) system under Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) project.
Dr. Bernadette Ssebadduka the PREFA executive director, says the project aims to engage urban authorities and local governments to prevent and respond to commercial sexual exploitation of children in greater Kampala and Wakiso districts.
The project has two dimensions; advocacy and identification, rehabilitation and re-integration of victims of CSEC. It is funded by Terres Des Homes and Girls’ Advocacy Alliance.The project is implemented in partnership with Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL), with PREFA as the lead partner.
UYDeL is an NGO that aims to enhance socioeconomic transformation of disadvantaged young people through skills development for self-reliance. They work with youths aged 10 – 24 years who are vulnerable to exploitation and at risk of HIV/AIDS infection. UYDeL also runs the vocational skills and rehabilitation center at Masooli in Nangabo Division.
The recently graduated Nansubuga spent three Masooli and she says she has now reformed from her ‘bad’ manners.
“We used to go to the club (dancing) and do bad manners. We would leave home at 4.00pm and return early in the morning,” she says looking at the ground.
According to Godfrey Kidela, the chairman of Kasubi Zone 3, Nansubuga belonged to a 20 members youth group called B13 that consisted of exclusively of young people and they used to steal, abuse substances and engage in hooligan behavior.
The B13 group had only three girls and Nansubuga was among the youngest and most stubborn. She was also a go-go dancer in one of the nightclubs.
“I now stopped all that and go to church to pray,” says Nansubuga lifting her eyes up to the sky as if in prayer. She says her turning point was in Masoli rehabilitation center where she met girls who were worse off in character and in welfare than herself.
The training not only equipped her with hairdressing skills but the counseling sessions were also an eye opener that there is more to life than what she was doing and especially when you are just 15 years.
Grace Nakiwu, programme officer CSEC project at PREFA believes that equipping these children with skills will certainly make it easier for them to survive and counseling helps them change and heal from their past. It is a slow process.
The interventions may not necessarily be a magic bullet but personal responsibilities by the young people matter a lot, says Nakiwu.
Nansubuga hopes to return to work as soon as Madam reopens the food kiosk. She also confesses to having a boyfriend she ‘hates’ and has refused to do bad manners with him although he keeps on nagging her.
She is aware of the vulnerabilities adolescent girls like her face. Research shows young people, especially girls aged between 15 and 24, are disproportionately affected by HIV infection with the prevalence of HIV among adolescent girls at 9.1 percent, compared to the national prevalence rate of 7.3 percent.
Nansubuga’s dream is to become a professional dancer but most urgently she would like to meet with her mother who abandoned them with her little brother when she was only eight years.
Her father refuses them to contact her with a belief that she will never return to his home. For now, Nansubuga’s wish is to be united and be loved by her mother and to realize her dreams.