Sonia (17) from Uganda is a passionate child rights advocate with a zeal to make change in her circles of influence. She focuses on stopping child trafficking and unsafe migration; and the importance of education, especially for the girl child. Issues that she can relate to from her own experience, since she herself was trafficked and exploited when she was only seven years old.
“Ten years ago, my parents were involved in domestic violence that tore our family apart. I was taken to the city by my aunt with a hope of a better life. As a seven year old girl, little did I know that this better life would mean living in the slum with harsh living conditions. Just a day after my arrival to Kampala, I was forced to go to the streets to beg and make money for my aunt to meet her basic needs in the slum. Life on the street was so harsh, begging from morning to sunset on a daily basis, rain or shine. Finding food was hard and at the end of the day aunty only becomes happy when I come with money. When there is no money she could beat and deny me food. This went on for months.’’
Sonia was rescued from the streets, rehabilitated and reunited with her parents who had gotten back together. Back home, she was enrolled in school. Sonia successfully completed her primary education in 2018 and transitioned into secondary education.
“While in school, I joined the child rights club both in primary and now at my secondary school. This club, established with support from the Girls Advocacy Alliance, is an advocacy platform for us as children to advocate and claim our rights; sensitise fellow children on their rights and responsibilities, and above all to end all forms of abuse to children.”
Over the years, the child rights club members have received various trainings, support through organised events (youth camps, debates, quiz competitions, children’s parliament) and their own initiated activities (door-to-door awareness campaigns, presentations at school assemblies). This has helped Sonia gain knowledge and skills in lobby and advocacy so that she is able to speak up on issues affecting children and youth within their communities.
Sonia speaks out on the importance and significance of educating a girl child in a society where education of girls used to be taboo and not given any value, both to local and international audiences. Earlier this year she was one of two girls representing Uganda at the 6th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development Goals hosted in Zimbabwe. She shared her experience and how she was given new hope; and what she is now doing to share the same hope with other children in her community. Even while out of school due to the current COVID-19 closedown, she has amplified the discussions with fellow girls in her community on the negative impact of child trafficking, and encourages them to continue embracing education to secure the future of the girl child.
“Child trafficking is a sad reality. I had an experience that I wouldn’t love my fellow children to go through. I have known that education is a powerful tool for empowerment, that’s why I can’t leave school. It’s my prayer that duty bearers take responsibility as we advocate and condemn child trafficking in my district and also in other parts of the world.”