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We would go and hang around a bar and wait for customers

We know that poverty and exclusion can put children at risk of sexual exploitation – sometimes in the form of child marriage – as families are forced to find ways to survive. Often, a large issue is the lack of alternatives available for the child and their family to be able to eat and live. This is why, the work of ECPAT focuses not only on the legislations and government policies to end the sexual exploitation of children, but is also accompanied by the grassroots efforts of our local member organisations, who directly support survivors in many ways.

Here’s the story of Halima who, with the help of our Uganda member UYDEL, was able to start a new life making choices and decisions free from exploitation and abuse.

I never got a chance to see my father because he had abandoned my mother for another wife when I was only one year.

This left me in the hands of a single mother that I always saw toiling in order to see that I and my other six siblings get something to eat. Since my mother was the only bread winner for the family, I dropped out of school in primary seven due to lack of school fees. I would always feel bad to see other children going to school yet for me I was staying home. Due to such a situation I got married at the age of 17 years.

A man I got married to was violent. He would always beat me and harass me in different ways.

At times he could not leave me with money to buy food and besides that he also had other women. I left his home and left to start sleeping with a friend who introduced me to commercial sex work in order to buy the basic needs. I always saw my friend looking good with nice dresses and a smart phone and I got admired to her to also start doing the job she was engaging in. We could go and hang around a bar and we wait for our customers. On a particular day I could sleep with 3 to 4 men earning between 10,000 to 20,000 shillings.

A friend introduced me to UYDEL and I got skills in Jewerly, crafts and crocheting skills.

In a period of four months training I had started earning from Jewerly bags, bungles, wallets and other crafts product. I used to sell a bag between 40,000/= to 70,000/=, I could use this money to buy more beads and other items to make more bags. I graduated and got a certificate plus resettlement kits under Jewerly skill, the kits boasted my capital and profits since I increased on the number of bags, wallets, bungles and other products like door mats. I later got a job as a boutique attendant in Wandegeya trading centre where I earned 14,000/= daily. Still while in the boutique I continued selling and marketing my Jewerly products which increased on the customer base since I tapped into the opportunity of many clients who flocked the boutique to purchase clothes.

I worked for one month only because my boss refused me to make the Jewerly bags from her shop and also to seek market from her customers. I managed to save 350,000/= from that job added savings worthy 500,000/= from my Jewerly products, bought more materials and continued working from my house. I get clients through advertising on social media a good practice learnt from my previous boss and my customers keep referring others for orders. In future I want to start up my own boutique dealing in clothes and Jewerly products.

I am very grateful to UYDEL because I am a reformed person who is referred to as a good role model in my community, I am a responsible parent and can meet the needs of my family fairly as compared to days before joining the project.

On a particular day I earn 40,000/= as profit when I sell more than two to three products. I am proud of the way am living now because I no longer look up to men to give me money for survival. From my savings I have been able to expand my business to making more different products to meet the demands of my customers. I received a lot of information on SRHR which has helped me make informed health choices and decisions free from exploitation and abuse.

Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL) is a not-for profit Organization which started in 1993 as a youth focused NGO. UYDEL have a long-standing record of providing holistic rehabilitation services to children and young people aged10-24 years, including those that have been abused and exploited in commercial sex work, trafficking, worst forms of child labor, and sexual, physical, psychological and drug and substance abuse.

Learn more about their work in their latest annual report or visit UYDEL’s webiste.