Hi, I’m Lucky, I am 18 years old and in high school. I’m studying Biology, Chemistry, Math and Information Communication Technology because I have a dream of being a medical doctor. I am optimistic this will one day come to pass, especially when I join the University.
I live with my mother who has single handedly raised me and my two siblings. We reside at Kasokoso, one of the densely populated communities around Kampala city, in Uganda. My mother is a shop attendant near home, but her job was affected with the outbreak of COVID-19. She was laid off for six months, but I am thankful to God she was called back to work by the shop owner.
Due to the pandemic, the education sector is greatly affected for close to two years now. All schools are closed and children are attending online lessons that are so costly to many parents including my mother. Parents are required to provide laptops and smart phones to children and also pay monthly fees to schools in order for their children to attend classes. This has limited me from attending some online lessons.
During COVID-19, many parents are neglecting their children because they have limited or no time to give them because of their work. Many parents wake up early morning when the children are still sleeping and come back late evening after the children have gone to bed. They have no time to see or talk to their children.
Because of this, most children have been exposed to different kinds of violence in their homes and communities. I am talking about physical, psychological, emotional and sexual violence, especially the young innocent girls who have been exposed to sexual exploitation by older men, some being their own relatives. Some parents have ignorantly sent their daughters off to early child marriages so that the dowry/ bride price paid would be used to cater for the family's needs. This is so absurd.
Due to parental neglect many children have joined the workforce prematurely resulting in child labor. This has made the young children of school age to start vending items that could best be sold by their parents. Instead, these children walk the streets until late hours and this has put them at a great risk of being kidnapped or harmed.
Furthermore, children have become unruly and have forgotten all about their studies while being idle due to the pandemic. In a community where I live, children have joined very bad peer groups. These include drug addicts and kifeesi [thugs] who rob people even in broad day light. Some children are being sexually exploited to earn a living. All of this is because parents do not dedicate time to tell their children what’s good or bad or to tell them the value of education.
It has been hard for me to speak up due to restrictions such as no public gatherings and Ministry of Health guidelines like “stay home stay safe.” But using my voice during the global Joining Forces World Children’s Day event in 2020 was a turning point in my life. I gained confidence and self-esteem, and it helped me with public speaking and interacting with friends at school and my community at large. Since I participated, I have continued to inform my peers about our rights and ability to be heard.
As we celebrate World Children’s Day 2021, I would like us to think about the most marginalized children, including children living on the streets, orphans and the disabled. I call upon all world leaders to protect and defend children’s rights in order to ensure a bright future for tomorrow’s generation.
Lucky, an 18-year-old girl from Uganda, is committed to using her voice to inform her peers about children’s rights. She is a youth contributor to Joining Forces. Visit the Joining Forces website to learn more.