16-year-old girl safely returned home and planning for her future

By Victoria Nakubulwa, Mary Lighthouse Manager, Hope for Justice Uganda

Thanks to the Addressing Child Trafficking and Slavery (ACTS) project made possible by Global Fund To End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) in Uganda, a teenage girl who ran away from home has been safeguarded from sexual exploitation.

16-year-old Claudia* has been happily reunited with her family, and is looking forward to going back to school. She now enjoys drawing and dreams of becoming a lawyer.

Claudia was cared for by the organisation Hope for Justice, which is leading ACTS. The ACTS project aims to transform care and support for child survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, raise awareness of this form of trafficking, and greatly reduce its prevalence in Uganda in the future.

When Covid-19 forced Claudia’s school to close, she began to disappear from her village for periods of time. Eventually, she was lured into running away with a boy for a week. Her parents remonstrated with her when she returned, so Claudia ran away again and stayed with friends.

Claudia’s former head teacher heard where she was through one of the other pupils, so they contacted a local child helpline for support. After being identified, Claudia was referred to Hope for Justice because she was at risk of being trafficked into sexual exploitation.

Hope for Justice cared for and supported Claudia at one of the charity’s Lighthouse shelters. The empowering, trauma-informed care and support and education on rights and risks that vulnerable individuals receive at the Lighthouses through this project aligns with the GFEMS approach to addressing the supply side of modern slavery.

When Claudia first arrived at the Lighthouse, she was tearful, struggled to communicate and would not participate in activities. However, while there she received psychosocial support through individual and group counselling. Claudia also benefited from catch-up lessons and life skills sessions at the Lighthouse. These critical restorative services are integral to the project’s trauma-informed care structure, reducing not only Claudia’s but other children’s vulnerability to (re)trafficking.

As Claudia began to recover, Hope for Justice also encouraged her to draw, which helped her manage her depression and express herself. She began to participate more, and even offered peer-to-peer counselling to the other children.

Hope for Justice’s team contacted her parents, and visited them several times to ensure that the family unit was safe and self-sufficient. They then reunited Claudia with her delighted family after four months of being away from home.

A passionate and dedicated student, Claudia told Hope for Justice: “Thank you for the help you offered to me through counselling and life skills training. I’m happy to go back home and start school again.”

The Hope for Justice team will stay in touch with Claudia and her parents to ensure that the family remain well in future.

*Name has been changed to protect individual’s identity

This blog post was made possible through support provided by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery under a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Department of State. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of GFEMS or the U.S. Department of State.