Blog Posts - AfriChild Center Makerere

What’s The Link: Together For Girls, AfriChild Research Fellowship Uses VACs Data To Explore Linkage Between Household Economic Status, Sexual Violence And Utilization Of Services In Uganda Among Adolescents

The AfriChild Centre is running a research fellowship with Together For Girls that focuses on strengthening individual and institutional in-country research capacity to generate and utilize evidence for policy and programming for prevention and improved response to violence against children.

The focus of the research examines sexual violence and its effects on education, mental health, and HIV infection among females in Uganda using findings from the Uganda Violence Against Children Survey (VACs) data.

The research will illuminate the drivers and protective factors for sexual violence against children in Uganda and inform specific and targeted interventions both at national and sub-national levels

Research fellows

Dr. Kenneth Olido is the Senior Fellow. He is a senior lecturer and Head of Department in the Faculty of Business and Development Studies at Gulu University. His research project is – Adverse childhood experience and risks of HIV infection among Adolescents aged 13 to 24.

Agatha Kafuko is a Research FellowShe is a lecturer at Makerere University in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration. Her Project is about the different forms of violence and mental health consequences among adolescent girls aged 13 – 17.

Three AfriChild staff are also participating in the research fellowship.

Clare Bangirana the Director Research and Knowledge Development is researching mental distress among females exposed to childhood sexual violence in Uganda. Findings from a national survey”.

Mathew Amollo a Research Manager is exploring the effect of witness violence in childhood on perpetuation of intimate partner violence in adulthood among young adults in Uganda.

Maria Ndibalekera a Research Assistant is examining the effect of childhood sexual violence on education achievements for girls aged (18-24) in Uganda. 

Launched in 2018, the Uganda Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) provides nationally representative data to inform policies and programming aiming to end violence against children in Uganda. The Uganda VACS is the first global Violence Against Children survey to provide regional level data, allowing for even more targeted programmatic implementation.

The VACS includes detailed information revealing Ugandan children’s experiences of sexual violence, physical violence, and emotional violence. The key findings of the survey expose the magnitude of violence against children and youth in Uganda:

  • 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males experience sexual violence during their childhood.
  • 1 in 10 girls experienced rape and 1 in 5 reported that her first sexual experience was forced or pressured.
  • For girls who experience sexual violence, the perpetrator is typically someone known to them, most often a neighbor, while for boys the perpetrator is most often a friend.
  • Nearly half of both boys and girls experienced physical violence at the hands of a parent or caregiver and for children and those who experience such violence at the hands of an adult, their first experience was nearly always committed by a teacher.
  • Reported consequences of verbal and emotional violence included increased likelihood of mental distress, suicidal ideation, and, among girls, contracting a sexually transmitted infection.  

AfriChild played a key role in the design, management of fieldwork, and dissemination of the VACs.

Ministry Of Gender Convenes Inter-Agency Expert Committee To Provide Oversight To Two AfriChild Research Studies Set To Inform Policy And Programming On Children

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development today convened the first of five inter-agency meetings aimed at providing oversight to The AfriChild Centre as they conduct two landmark studies that will be used to inform national policy on community-based child protection interventions and utilization of national violence against children (VACs) data.

The expert committee comprises members from the Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Internal Affairs (Child and Family Protection Unit), Uganda Bureau of Statistics, National Child Authority, and the National Child Protection Working Group.

Speaking at the meeting, Fred Ngabirano, Commissioner Youth and Children Affairs noted that the expert committee was constituted in line with the new Uganda National Child Policy 2020. The policy was developed to coordinate the efforts of the different sectors that have a direct and indirect mandate on children and deliver a comprehensive package of services encompassing all the four cardinal rights of the child (to survival, development, protection and participation) in a multi-sectoral approach.

“Under the new Child Policy, we are not working as individual ministries but collectively as Government to deliver. The studies AfriChild is conducting will not only inform the Ministry of Gender but different partners and the entire country,” The Commissioner said.

He noted that AfriChild is a close ally of the Ministry and thanked the Centre for the immense contribution they made towards the development of the new child policy and in the field of child-focused research.

“As a ministry, we want credible data on top of data from Uganda Bureau of Statistic (UBOS) that can help the ministry make informed decisions, conduct evidence-based advocacy, and for policy implementation. We thank AfriChild for the support to the Ministry and when it came to implementation of the National Child Policy, we brought the Centre on the steering committee.”

The two studies to be conducted by AfriChild are; Measuring the impact and sustainability of the community-based child protection approach in the prevention of violence against children in a post-conflict setting in northern Uganda funded by the Evaluation Fund and the second study is Household economic status, sexual violence, and utilization of services among adolescents aged 13-17 years funded by Together for Girls.

Speaking at the meeting, Clare Bangirana, Director of Research, and Knowledge Development at AfriChild, noted that under the study supported by the Evaluation Fund, AfriChild wants to find out what works and if the interventions can be sustained.

“We want to know whether when communities are energized and mobilized to take collective action, these actions are sustainable. As researchers, we want to learn from the intervention implemented and work with the expert team to influence policy and programs at community and national level.”

Lydia Wasula, Head of the National Child Wellbeing Unit at MGLSD noted that this is a novel project in terms of project design in the country.

“This is the first kind of study that is trying to measure impact. We are all crying of sustainability when it comes to child protection interventions,” she noted.

Under the second study, AfriChild builds the capacity of local researchers to analyse the VACs research data. Research fellows are currently developing research papers from the data to be disseminated for uptake by different line ministries, agencies, and CSOs.

The Relevance Of Human Sexuality Education For Our Children Today

Young people in Uganda are increasingly experiencing significant sexual and reproductive health challenges such as high cases of teenage pregnancy, early marriages, HIV and gender-based violence in schools. These challenges are partly due to the fact that they are confronted with conflicting messages and norms. From visual messages on TVS, internet, messages in newspapers and magazines to audio information heard over radios and cell phones, there is tremendous moral decay.

Nevertheless, there is a paucity of age-specific and age-appropriate information pertaining sexuality which is a key parameter for children to make important decisions. This is why it is inevitable for children to be exposed to Sexuality Education (SE). SE is a lifelong process of acquiring, learning and teaching acceptable information that is age, cultural and religious appropriate. It encompasses sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles. It also addresses the socio-cultural, biological, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of sexuality by providing information; exploring feelings, values and attitudes; and developing communication, decision-making and critical-thinking skills. Wholly, SE forms attitudes, beliefs, and values about cognitive, emotional, social, interactive and physical aspects of sexuality and the evolution of the human body.

In the African Traditional Society, parents, aunties, uncles and community elders primarily shouldered the responsibility to inculcate values of sexuality to children and youth. With time, the Ugandan government extended sexuality education, through its various programmes such as the Presidential Initiative on AIDS Strategy to Youth (PIASCY) & the School Health Program (SHEP) to schools. Later, Non-Governmental Organizations also joined government to introduce various sexuality education programmes in schools. This created a web of sexuality education programmes and activities by different stakeholders in Ugandan schools. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education enacted the 2018 National Sexuality Education Framework which seeks to create an over-arching national direction for providing sexuality education in the formal education setting for young people specific to the Uganda context.

Despite the documented success in increasing awareness on responsible sexuality and reproductive health through these programs, there is still a gap in written materials that outline the appropriate standards for providing sexuality education in Uganda.

Gaps in sexuality education

  • The Life Education Learning Area Syllabus that has components of sexuality education only covers lower secondary schools.
  • Emphasis is more on HIV/AIDS education rather than the whole range of topics on sexuality education.
  • Lack of written material dealing with standards for providing sexuality education.

Major skills to foster in sexuality education

  • Deal effectively with friends, family, society and one’s environment in a proactive and constructive way.
  • Appreciate and live with one’s self
  • Adapt positive behavior, values and attitudes to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life

Recommendations to scale up sexuality education

  1. Early Childhood Care and Education: Establish ECD centers at every primary school and support community-based centers
  2. Child Protection: Advocate for the widespread acceptance and observance of the UNCRC
  3. Promote national identity for all young children right from birth
  4. Primary Health Care, Sanitation and Environment: Preventative healthcare for children
  5. Family Strengthening and Support: Promote parenting and child support programs
  6. Communication, Advocacy and Resource Mobilization: Develop and implement a comprehensive and sustainable National Integrated Early Childhood (NIECD) communication strategy.

The AfriChild Centre has qualified for the second phase of Humentum’s Administration Costs Research (ACR) Project whose purpose is to enable international grant-making foundations and other funders to understand more clearly whether, or not, they are sufficiently covering grantees’ financial needs.

The findings will be used by the community of international grant-making foundations to help inform their future policies in relation to cost coverage accordingly.

AfriChild was one of the 90 organizations selected to take part in the first phase of the research which sampled grantees from foundations based in Western and Eastern Europe, East and West Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

50 organizations including AfriChild qualified to take part in the second phase of the research, where issues of administrative costs will be explored in more depth. During this process some organizations will be invited to be one of the case studies included in the research.

“It was a dream for us to get to the second level and a big learning for us,” Vivian Letasi, Finance and Administrative Officer at AfriChild noted. “This research will help us to review and improve our costing and budgeting processes” she added

Administration is essential to the effective, efficient and safe delivery of projects and programmes, but without adequate funding, such functions may be inhibited. Alternatively, the organization either has to draw on reserves to fund such functions, or fund them disproportionately from unrestricted income.

In Uganda, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rely heavily on restricted funding to support their project work and there is a risk it could undermine their organizational effectiveness or financial resilience. Restricted funding for project or Programme grants does not typically cover a full share of the administration costs incurred for the organization as a whole.

Day Of African Child 2021: AfriChild Convenes Child-Focused Research Symposium, Launches Study On Effect Of COVID19 On Wellbeing Of Children In Uganda

“The quality of the future of any nation depends on the quality of the care for the children of that nation,” says MUK VC Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.

When Toffa (not his real name upon request) was three years old, he was taken up by his lonely grandmother, who just wanted some company.

A few months into his stay, the little boy caught an infection in the eyes. His grandmother applied herbs onto his eyes in the belief that he would get healed. But after three weeks of no improvement, Toffa’s grandmother relented and took him to hospital.

Nothing could have prepared them for the dampening news from the doctor after his checkup. It was too late – the boy’s eyes had been infected beyond repair. Cataracts had robbed Toffa of his eyesight. He would never see again.

For a person who has cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. That was Toffa’s fate.

Now aged 24, Toffa, who hails from Omoro district in northern Uganda, has long resigned to his sad reality. To worsen matters, he is struggling to get employment. He believes it is his visual impairment that is pushing away potential employers. 

Toffa’s tragic experience growing up is one that many other Ugandan children go through, according to Prof. Eddy Walakira of Makerere University, who shared his story during a scientifically held symposium on child-focused research on Tuesday, June 15 at the university’s main campus in Kampala.

Walakira heads the Department of Social Work and Social Administration. He was Toffa’s supervisor for his research work at Makerere.

‘Evidence shows that most of the causes of child disabilities are preventable,’ the social scientist told a large virtual and physical audience that keenly followed the conference organised by AfriChild Centre and his department, and themed around the role of child-focused research in accelerating the implementation of Agenda 2040.

Mondo Kyateka, the Assistant Commissioner for Youth in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, moderated the comprehensive discussion


About 2.5 million children (13%) live with some form of disability in Uganda.

Walakira said that while children and young people with disabilities (PWDs) are a focal point of policy and programming efforts, major challenges remain.

‘COVID-19 has exposed our limitations in advocating for children and young people with disabilities with regard to accessing education and health services,’ he said.

For instance, they hardly access e-learning facilities and many, like Toffa, face difficulties in transiting to the world of work.

Makerere University vice-chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe attended the symposium as the guest of honour.

Makerere VC Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe says Makerere University is a vibrant research institution

‘The quality of the future of any nation depends on the quality of the care for the children of that nation,’ said Nawangwe.

‘We are facing challenges, and all over the world, people are concerned about the future of their nations, given the effects of COVID-19 on the children – including their mental health.’

Nawangwe launched three publications on the day, including a report by AfriChild Centre on how COVID-19 has affected children in Uganda . The other two are books – one on parenting initiatives and the other on empowering vulnerable youths in Uganda.

The vice-chancellor announced a donation of 150 copies of each publication to the Makerere University Library, and 50 copies of each to Kabale University, Kyambogo University and Uganda Christian University.

He said Makerere intends to become more research-intensive ‘because we believe that it is through research that we will be able to find solutions for our socio-economic development’.

Key collaborations with partners, including Government, will also continue, added Nawangwe.

Timothy Opobo, the executive director of AfriChild Centre

The symposium was held on the eve of the International Day of the African Child, observed every June 16 to rally people around the world to highlight the need to improve the education system in Africa.

More broadly, the intention here is to underline the importance of what it means to be a child on the African continent.

‘The key message from today is that in whatever we do, research is important. That if we are going to inform the policies that govern this country, they should be informed by evidence,’ said Timothy Opobo, the executive director of AfriChild Centre.

Dr. Robert Doya Nanima, Uganda’s representative to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children, said children need to be ‘at the centre of any research’.

He also talked of the need to ensure that due diligence is a part of research work. And that the best interest of the child is considered in whatever situation.

Meanwhile, while highlighting the tenets for the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children, keynote speaker Stella Ayo-Odongo said simply having legislative frameworks in place is not enough.

‘It is important that these frameworks are functional,’ she underlined.

Stella Ayo-Odongo of APEVAC

‘The ministry of youth is the most underresourced across the continent – yet it deals with more than 50 per cent of the populations,’ added Ayo-Odongo, who is the co-ordinator of African Partnership to End Violence Against Children (APEVAC).

She feels it is important to create a community of practice involving practitioners and researchers in setting the research agenda.

Researchers should also engage in new terrain – neglected issues, neglected children and sensitive or controversial issues, she added in her delivery on the day.

Meanwhile, Damon Wamara, the executive director of Uganda Child Rights NGO Network (UCRNN), rallied stakeholders to continue with the discussion on children.

‘We have begun seeing an interest in child-related research,’ he told the meeting.

‘Until our children are safe, let us continue to talk – until every child thrives, let us not stop talking.’

Key findings from the report

Meanwhile, Mathew Amollo, the research manager at AfriChild Centre, presented the key findings of their study on the effect of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of children in Uganda.

AfriChild Centre research manager Mathew Amollo presented their study findings

Conducted from June until August 2020, the researchers found that:

– children were more vulnerable during the pandemic restrictions
– the violence experienced by children in that time was almost equal to their lifetime experience of violence
– the violence against children remained gendered – boys suffered more physical violence than girls while girls suffered more sexual violence than boys
– more than half of the abuse cases were never reported by the children or those close to them
– access to child protection services was low – both in urban or rural setings

More worringly, the perpetrators of phyiscal and emotional violence at home were found to be parents.

At home, around 42.1% of children told the researchers that they did not eat their favorite food because their families could not afford. Relatedly, around 30% of the households indicated reduction in the number of meals – again because they could not afford.

In terms of education, four in 10 children were not accessing learning materials. 

Traditional media – radio and TV – were underutilised for children learning, the team found out. Less than 25% of the children used these channels for learning.

Meanwhile, this year’s Day of the African Child is being commemorated under the theme: ’30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children’.

AfriChild Staff Complete 3-Day Change Management Training

AfriChild staff completed a three-day change management training facilitated by the CBLI Centre, a leading capacity building and leadership training organisation based in Tanzania. Ms. Dolygene Anyana, a consultant at CBLI facilitated the training which took place at the Hilton Garden Inn located in Kampala.

The goal of the training was to enhance efficiency and effectiveness within AfriChild by creating a winner mentality among staff.

“Staff have to understand how the organisation is operating, what gaps exist, and what we need to put in place to get to the desired future,” Ms. Anyana told the staff during training.

“A change in mindset and adoption of an operational culture that is supportive and upholds the values of the organisation will propel AfriChild to its desired goals,” Ms. Anyana added.

Currently, AfriChild is in the final stages of developing its new Strategic Plan (2021-2026). The new plan will guide the direction the institution takes in the next five years.

Speaking at the meeting, Timothy Opobo, Executive Director, AfriChild, called on staff to espouse the values of teamwork, commitment and leadership so that AfriChild can continue shining as a Centre of Excellence in child-focused research not only in Uganda but the entire region and continent.


Children are at risk of being the biggest victims of COVID19 unless urgent action is taken to develop and implement evidence based interventions to respond to their needs.

That is why, we are mentoring a new crop of child focused researchers to undertake rigorous child focused research which will be used to inform policy makers and programme implementers.

#COVID19 has impacted negatively on children. Numerous studies done so far indicate that cases of child abuse, teenage pregnancy, child labour, violence against children are at all time high.

And as children continue to be out of school, some may never get an opportunity to complete their education.

Aware of these challenges, early this week, we selected 30 child focused researchers from seven universities in Uganda and we are taking them through a rigorous scientific writing workshop to develop, strengthen their skills and competencies in research.

The 5 day training will equip the researchers with the skills on how to bring to the fore key issues affecting children during and post the pandemic.

The virtual scientific writing workshop started on Monday and will end on Friday.

The researchers are from Makerere University, Kyambogo University, Nsamizi Training Institute, Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda Christian University, Gulu University and Muni University.

#COVID19 has disrupted the way we work and live but we shall continue to leverage technology to find solutions that support the wellbeing of children.

Let’s Foster Child Participation In Civic & Democratic Spaces

In the run up to the 2016 general elections in Uganda, many children took to using dramas, songs and poems to express their views over priorities that government should address. Across the world, we have seen youth led movements advocating for change or support of a cause spring up. In March 2018, thousands of students in the United States took to the streets to demonstrate in support of tighter gun control in what has famously come to be known as: March for Our Lives. Such movements empower children and youth with courage and confidence to participate in the civic and democratic space to advance their agenda.

When children participate in the democratic space, their concerns are easily adhered to

In Uganda, children constitute 56% of the population and yet are invisible in critical structures that affect their lives. They believe they are not valued by society and that they are seen as a burden rather than key stakeholders in their country and its future. This is illustrated by the way current cultures, systems and leadership are failing to include children, hear their views and be influenced by their experiences. Additionally, power relations between adults and children remain a key barrier to meaningful participation of children. In many countries, children are best seen as vulnerable and in need of protection, and at worst as the property of adults.

Children’s right to be heard is internationally recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Uganda ratified both laws in 1990 and 1994 respectively. These instruments provide for and accord children and young people the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them. They also provide for these views to be given due weight in accordance with the child’s age, level of maturity and evolving capacity.

Children’s participation is crucial to ensure that governance is fit for children; their rights are not violated, that all stakeholders at different levels are held accountable to children for the provision of services and that every child is loved, protected and safe.