During a workshop held at Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe on 2nd and 3rd December 2016 by Unicef Uganda and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), Legislators from the tenth parliament were for the second time oriented on making children more visible at parliamentary level.

One of the presentations by Nathalie Meyer, the Social Policy Specialist for UNICEF Uganda pointed out that Ugandan children face sexual and labour exploitation in addition to being used in illegal activities such as removal of body organs. This suggested continued trade in persons a practice criminalized by the 2009 Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act.

Participants at the training thus blamed child trafficking for the rise in street begging, a practice, which exposes lives of hundreds of children to various dangers across many Ugandan towns.

Grace Kirabo, the Clerk to parliamentary committee on gender raised fears that street children are a business. “A certain man in Kisenyi, brings about 200 children feeds and shelters them and they have to bring 3,000 shillings everyday,” she said.

Promising legislative reforms have been frustrated by poor implementation strategies combined with weak monitoring and enforcement. In October 2009, Parliament passed the prevention of trafficking in persons Act prohibiting trafficking in persons, however the law has never been enforced.
Likewise, the ban on corporal punishment in schools is not effectively being monitored, according to Rosemary Rugambarwanyange, an education specialist with Unicef.

Alex Ogwal, a project officer with Uganda Women's Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) suggested setting up of more rehabilitation centers equipped with what attracts children to the streets to end child street begging. “Build foster homes in areas where street children come from to teach, keep and feed rescued children in a sustainable manner,” Ogwal advised.

In one of the sessions, Meyer quoted that 33% of children who start primary school drop out before completing. This prompted MPs and other stakeholders present at the training to share what denies children in their constituencies a chance to complete school.

Hillary Lokwang the Member of Parliament for Ik County, Kabong district said that because of their innocence, children are the most vulnerable persons who sometimes do not attend school due to wrong beliefs in their communities. He noted that some communities in Karamoja believe that when a girl child goes to school she becomes a prostitute.

Lokwang also hinted that most schools in the Ik County are incapacitated. “In my constituency only three schools function and most community schools were closed due to inadequate toilet facilities and congestion in classrooms. A teacher splits a room into a dormitory, a class and bedroom,” he said.

He also mentioned animal keeping and cultivation as some of the major activities keeping children off school. “During cultivation time children have to help parents and hence they end up going to school late or not all,” Lokwang stated.

Similarly, Annie Logiel, the Women’s Representative Moroto district said some parents deny their children (female) a chance to go to school because they fear that teachers will take advantage of them.

In matters regarding hygiene, Unicef data showed that 3 out of every 10 households in Uganda do not have pit latrines leaving most children at a risk of contracting cholera and diarrhea. Most MPs agreed that behavior change and setting up of demonstration latrines using local materials will help fight open defecation.

Given the influence of parliamentarians at law making, budgeting and constituency levels, the series of MPs training by Unicef and EPRC is aimed at increasing awareness among newly elected parliamentarians and interest them to champion child agenda in parliament.

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