Alone Like A Tree: Reintegration Challenges Facing Children Born of War and Their Mothers in Northern Uganda

Alone Like A Tree: Reintegration Challenges Facing Children Born of War and Their Mothers in Northern Uganda

Alone Like A Tree: Reintegration Challenges Facing Children Born of War and Their Mothers in Northern Uganda

Women in northern Uganda suffered various forms of conflict-related sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) during the region’s longstanding armed conflicts. These have resulted in ongoing forms of re-victimisation, including those associated with the lasting effects of bearing and caring for children born as a result of conflict sexual violence, what this briefing terms “children born of war” (CBW). Unfortunately, acknowledgment and redress for CBW and their mothers is largely lacking in the transitional justice (TJ) in Uganda.

The Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP), a Ugandan non-governmental organisation that works for justice and reconciliation with grassroots communities, conducted a consultation with conflict-affected women and local leaders from September to October 2014. This was done in an effort to identify emerging needs and challenges facing CBW and their mothers so that policies and programmes can be developed and implemented to meet and address these needs. The consultation sought the views of more than 447 people and found that stigmatisation, rejection, trauma, behavioural challenges, meeting basic needs, identity and access to land continue to be major challenges facing CBW that are likely to only intensify as these children come of age.

Organised into eight sections, the briefing provides an introduction and methodological overview, background on CBW and TJ in Uganda, analysis of numbers and key challenges according to mothers of CBW and local leaders, and recommendations for the Government of Uganda and other stakeholders on what is needed to address these challenges and provide meaningful redress to CBW and their mothers.

Key findings

  • 1,609 children (both CBW and non-CBW) between the ages of <1 to 31-years-old are being cared for the participating members of the Women’s Advocacy Network (WAN).
  • Eighty percent of the children older than five years old are reported to be in school, but paying school fees are reported as the number one challenge in caring for male and female CBW.
  • 437 (27%) of the 1,609 children reported were conceived because of an act of sexual violence against the mother. 311 (68%) were conceived in captivity, 80 (18%) were conceived of rape, 33 (7%) were conceived of defilement, and 33 (7%) were conceived of sexual exploitation.
  • 481 (30%) of the fathers of all children reported were in an armed group at the time of conception. Of the children conceived through sexual violence, 330 (88%) of the fathers were in the LRA and 46 (12%) of the fathers were in the states forces (Uganda People’s Defence Force [UPDF] or National Resistance Army [NRA]).
  • The primary challenges facing CBW include stigmatisation and rejection, trauma and behavioural challenges, inability to meet basic needs, identity, and access to land.
  • There are unique gender dimensions to the needs of CBW, with female CBW being more susceptible to sexual exploitation and abusive marriages, and male CBW being without resources for dowry and land to settle on once married. Both male and female CBW of school-going age face challenges with school fees.
  • Local leaders report being aware of CBW in their communities, but suggest lack of data is an obstacle to the development of programmes and policies that benefit them. There is a general belief among local leaders that CBW and their mothers access more existing programmes than they do in reality.
  • More data is needed on the numbers and needs of CBW in order to inform interventions, especially at the sub-county-level.
  • There is need to better understand the challenges facing CBW from their own perspectives, and what the women and children’s justice and redress needs and expectations are.
  • Every stakeholder has a role to play in addressing the challenges raised.
  • CBW need counselling and social support, so they can come to terms with their complex identities.
  • The Government of Uganda (GoU) must prioritise support to CBW and their mothers through medical care, education, child- and family-tracing, land and housing, livelihoods, and by providing equal support as men as they provide male ex-combatants.
  • The GoU must investigate allegations of corruption and nepotism, especially with regards to government programmes for vulnerable groups, such as CBW.
  • Fathers who are alive and known should be held accountable and provide child support.
  • More steps must be taken to involve men and the community in programmes that offer assistance to CBW and their mothers.
  • CBW and their mothers should be encouraged to seek unity and relief through groups and peer support.

Key recommendations

  • More data is needed on the numbers and needs of CBW in order to inform interventions, especially at the sub-county-level.
  • There is need to better understand the challenges facing CBW from their own perspectives, and what the women and children’s justice and redress needs and expectations are.
  • Every stakeholder has a role to play in addressing the challenges raised.
  • CBW need counselling and social support, so they can come to terms with their complex identities.
  • The Government of Uganda (GoU) must prioritise support to CBW and their mothers through medical care, education, child- and family-tracing, land and housing, livelihoods, and by providing equal support as men as they provide male ex-combatants.
  • The GoU must investigate allegations of corruption and nepotism, especially with regards to government programmes for vulnerable groups, such as CBW.
  • Fathers who are alive and known should be held accountable and provide child support.
  • More steps must be taken to involve men and the community in programmes that offer assistance to CBW and their mothers.
  • CBW and their mothers should be encouraged to seek unity and relief through groups and peer support.

To read the full situational brief, please read: Alone Like A Tree Reintegration Challenges Facing Children Born of War and Their Mothers in Northern Uganda (Pdf)

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