In the city everyone is rich. At least, that is what the children that are lured from the Ugandan countryside to cities like Kampala think. But instead of mountains of gold, a life as a street beggar or worse awaits them.

Imagine this: you live in a village where work is scarce. You have little to spend, but eight mouths to feed. Then your fellow villager tells you about the magical city, where everyone has three meals per day and can enjoy the benefits of education. 'You know what,' he suggests: 'give me your daughter so that she can go to school'. It is a better prospect than you can offer her, so you agree.

Beggar or housekeeper

What you don't know, is that the grass was not greener in the city. And that your daughter, probably forced onto the street ends up as a beggar, has to work as a housekeeper or ends up in the world of sexual exploitation.

For many parents in the Ugandan countryside, particularly in the Karamoja region and specifically in the Napak district, this scenario is a reality. Children are lured away to cities or to other areas with better prospects under false pretenses. Often, this is done by acquaintances, fellow villagers that have already been there.

Even though they themselves ended up in the miserable slums, they would lose face if they admit that those places are not the promised land. That is how the image of the mountains of gold survives.

(Monique Janssens, Communicatio­n manager Africa for Terre des Hommes)

Exploitation to survive

In order to survive, these people recruit children for exploitative means such as forced house maintenance work, begging or sexual exploitation. Some parents choose to rent their children as beggars themselves.

The most vulnerable region for child trafficking in Uganda is the Karamoja region where mainly semi-nomadic cattle farmers live. About 82 percent of the residents live in complete poverty, making it one of the world's poorest areas.

Child trafficking and the view of parenthood

Beside the poverty and lacking possibilities to earn money, there are more factors playing a role in child trafficking. The view of parenthood, for example. Sometimes parents see children as an easy instrument to earn money. Furthermore, parents are often either poorly educated or not educated at all, whereby they do not see the value of education. And especially the children that do not attend a school are vulnerable to exploitation.

Suppression and violence

Children that end up on the streets as beggars are not only exposed to suppression and violence by their exploiters, but also roughly sweeped off of the streets by police that should be protecting them. Perpetrators of child trafficking are sparsely punished, because children's rights have low priority in Uganda. Children are also hardly aware of their rights.

From a recent census, it appears that more than 15 thousand children between the ages of 7 and 17 live and work on the streets of the cities Kampala, Jinja, Mbale and Iganga.

Child trafficking in East-Africa

Child trafficking is a type of human trafficking where children are recruited and transported with exploitation as the objective. In Sub-Saharan Africa 72.5 percent of human trafficking concerns children, according to the United Nations. A large number of residents in East Africa still live below the poverty line, especially in rural areas.

The growing urbanization and industrialization attract more and more children, who are at risk of exploitation. Victims of child trafficking in East-Africa often stay within their own country. It is striking that forced begging is very common in Uganda.


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