Realising Change

Realising Change

By Esther Nakkazi

Janat Nakintu lives with her mother in a small-one- roomed house. Theirs is at the end of a long line of one-roomed houses were the deep drainage lines meet in the Kasubi slum, Zone 3, Rubaga division.

When you jump across the dirty, rubbish-filled drainage trench from Janat’s house you enter a church. And when you take a 3 minute walk on your right you find a bar that doubles as a night club at night.

Nakintu who has turned seventeen years old, used to work at that bar a year ago. But today, her mother, Nansamba Hajara says her daughter is changed and ‘different’. She is in the house on her laptop as we chat outside.

“I used to work as a bar attendant and also do other bad things with men. But now I stopped,” she says looking across at her mother. Nakintu says the reasons that forced her to do what she was doing was economical.

“We did not have any money and had no food. Mother’s leg was swollen (she was bewitched) and she could not work anymore. She spent a year without working so I had to fend for us,” she says slowly.

At the bar Nakintu used to smoke and the owners used to tell the girls that in order to keep their jobs they had to ‘please’ the customers.

PREFA has the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) project. CSEC is one of the worst forms of child labour common on Uganda streets,  bars, brothels, hotels, video halls and among students especially girls living in hostels.

It is a disguised practice that abrogates the child’s rights to dignity, equality, autonomy, physical and mental well being. It is characterized by spontaneous and continuous sexual, physical and psychological abuse of children and threats of denunciation and intimidation in order to retain children in sexual exploitation.

Nakintu has only one sibling from her mother, a brother she rarely meets, with whom she does not share a father. She has never met her father and her drunken mother does not seem to want to be bothered to show him to her. This angers and bothers her.

Nakintu was identified by PREFA and trained at  Masoli vocational skills and rehabilitation centre. PREFA partners with Uganda Youth Development Links (UYDeL), an NGO that aims to enhance socioeconomic transformation of disadvantaged young people through skills development for self-reliance.

Dr. Bernadette Ssebadduka the PREFA executive director says the CSEC 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 Terre Des Hommes and Girls’ Advocacy Alliance.The project is implemented in partnership with Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL), with PREFA as the lead partner.

UYDeL project and its partners like PREFA works with youths aged 10 – 24 years who are vulnerable to exploitation and at risk to HIV/AIDS infection.

“ I loved Masooli. There were kids my age and they used to care for us and give us good advise,” says Nakintu who was trained for 5 months.

She also learnt hair dressing skills and now makes money from plaiting hair. Her only problem is that the customers pay in instalments and its hard for her to do something meaningful with the money.

While growing up Nakintu wanted to be a nurse but her dream started fading when she dropped out of primary school.  She now has a role model, the lady who owns a big saloon in Kampala where she often passes on her way home.

“I want to work in a saloon and grow my skills,” she says. She is a changed girl and wants to earn from what she learnt in Masoli. “I even went back to my religion and pray,” says Nakintu.