Girl, 12, reunited with family after being coerced into child labour

A 12-year-old girl who went missing from home for two months has been safely returned to her family after being exploited on the streets. 

Mukisa’s* mother and stepfather worked long hours to provide for their large family, who live in a rural village in southern Uganda.

But this left their eldest daughter, Mukisa, with responsibility as primary carer for her many siblings, as well as cooking and other household work, which often meant she could not attend school. Neglect and depression resulted in Mukisa running away from home before Christmas last year. 

She was missing for more than two months before she was rescued by a Good Samaritan, who took her to a police station.

An officer referred Mukisa to a Lighthouse – a short-term care facility run by global anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice – where she received shelter, protection and education. 

A Hope for Justice team member said: “Mukisa was sleeping under market stalls on the street. She was exploited for labour, forced to collect scraps of plastic from the filthy streets, for which she was given 1000 Ugandan shillings each day – the equivalent of about 20 pence. It was not long before payment was stopped but the trafficker continued to exploit her. 

“Mukisa began selling food for a woman, who would give her something to eat in return. Living on the streets left the 12-year-old extremely vulnerable. On one occasion, a man tried to sexually abuse her, but Mukisa managed to run away. Thankfully a good Samaritan rescued her and took her to the police.” 

At the Lighthouse, Mukisa received medical support, shelter, trauma-informed care and therapy. She also took part in counselling sessions and catch-up education, including life skills lessons. 

Hope for Justice made contact with the girl’s mother, and arranged a pre-visit to her family home. 

Mukisa’s mother said: “I had been praying for my daughter’s safety. I hoped I would see her again one day but was never sure if this would ever come true.” 

Hope for Justice’s CEO Ben Cooley said: “It is when reintegration like this happens that tyranny and darkness end. This mother’s turmoil, not knowing whether her child was alive, ended. Bringing children home, where they belong, is one of the greatest parts of Hope for Justice’s work. Thank you for helping us to bring freedom and hope to children around the world.” 

With her mother’s consent Mukisa has been placed under the care of a relative and enrolled at a school, with regular family contact. It is hoped she will be able to be fully reintegrated back in her own home in the near future. 

Hope for Justice’s social workers and team will have several follow-up sessions with Mukisa as part of her aftercare. 

*Named changed to protect identity of victim