JOURNALISTs should take keen interest in writing positive children stories affected by child abuse in the country to reduce trauma and inspire victims of child abuse to realize their dreams, says James Kabogoza, the assistant commissioner in charge of youth and children in the ministry of gender labour and social development has said.

He says positive stories can enable traumatised children who have suffered child abuse incidences cop with life more easily through inspirational messages of hope.

“Don’t always look for the negative side of a story of a child who has suffered abuse. You can easily traumatise such a child and kill his or her dreams as they will luck self-esteem in society. You should always have the best interest of a child at heart while writing your story so that such a child can be inspired to look at possibilities amidst that set back”, says Kabogoza.

Kabogoza made the call while officiating at a 5-day training for Journalists and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who work with children across the country that took place from 18th to 22nd April 2016 in Kampala.

The training that is part of a 2 year project being implemented by Panos Eastern Africa with support from the OAK Foundation aims at strengthening media networking for child protection in Uganda.

Lynn Najemba, the acting Executive Director Panos Eastern Africa says Panos has over the years done a lot of trainings for journalists to equip them with vital knowledge about various development issues.

“Many have been trained on issues of governance, health, environment and livelihoods. This particular project on child protection seeks to advocate for the rights of children in Uganda through bring out those unique stories to the fore,” Najjemba says.

She revealed that the project is part of Panos’ thematic areas which include;

  • Governance, Conflict & Peace Building,
  • Media Pluralism & Development,
  • Health Environment & Livelihoods,
  • Children and the Young,
  • Institutional Development and Management.
  • Why the focus on children’s rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of a Child that was ratified in Uganda was the first instrument to incorporate the complete range of international human rights— including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as well as aspects of humanitarian law.

However, Uganda like many developing countries is still grappling with many cases of child abuse reports indicate.

According to a 2015 report analysis on children in Uganda by the Ministry of Gender,Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD) together with its partners, Children’s rights to protection continues to be a critical challenge given that: 8% of the children are critically vulnerable and 43% are moderately vulnerable(MoGLSD,2011 and UBOS,2014).

The report points out the main areas of intervention to be; the strengthening of knowledge, capacity and interventions that address social norms, child marriages; cross-sectoral engagement in child protection law enforcement; and improving the national strategy to eliminate child labour.

What journalists can do to protect children?

Mariam Akiror, Country Program Manager, Panos Eastern Africa says journalists will profile short child protection stories as oral testimonies including  video voices and social media engagements across the country.

According to Akiror, who is also the OAK Project Focal Person, CSOs will help in identifying abused children in their communities and liaise with journalists to profile such stories. This she says will increase awareness on child protection among community members and also bring perpetrators of child abuse acts against children to face justice.

Akiror says the project will also tackle 5 thematic areas including; sexual violence, trafficking and exploitation, inter-country adoption, legal and policy framework on child protection, crime reporting procedures and mechanisms.

“This project’s major aim is to profile 16 voices, 16 story campaigns that will be produced in 30 minutes telling unique stories about children in Uganda. I am sure we can go beyond this target and write more stories about the situation of children in Uganda. You should have a passion for children and derive your satisfaction through seeing a destitute person living a life of dignity. Start advocating for vulnerable children to also get equal opportunity to access quality education even in their most remote locations so that they can also leave a meaningful life in future,” she says.

She says the project also aims at engaging media houses to avail more airtime and space to exposing Child Protection issues across the Country.

During the training, participants acted in different practical role plays featuring child abuse scenarios such as; forced early marriages, defilement and a demonstration by Akiror on how best to interview a terminally ill child suffering from a disease such as cancer.