Mary Angella operates her own bar in Napak district in northern Uganda. People who exploit children and children at risk of exploitation frequent her bar. She is one of the private sector actors who was selected for their commitment to protecting children by the community action project to end child trafficking and sexual exploitation. As a community champion, Mary learnt how to identify children at risk of exploitation and where to report such cases. This skilled her to save a boy from possible exploitation.
Mary identified the boy on her way to work. He was lying on the veranda at the trading centre where she works. Mary says that vulnerable boys like him are at great risk of being exploited. ¨These days it is common to see street children look for money and food. So, for me, I didn’t know that this was a problem.¨ Mary adds. The boy looked very sick with scabies all over his skin, extremely malnourished, and with a high fever. He was also very poorly dressed. Mary decided to take him under her care.
She reported the case to the Community Development Officer who then referred it to the police. Mary looked after the boy as she waited for his family to be traced. The police, after continuous follow up, were unable to locate his family. Mary then reached out to our partner Dwelling Places. They visited her and promised to find where the child came from and assist him with reintegration. The boy disappeared a few days after this visit.
The boy not only disappeared but also took money from Mary, 50,000 Ugandan shillings (around € 11.50). Mary looked for him and luckily, she found him. He had spent part of the money but Mary did not reproach him for this. Instead, she asked around to find out where he came from. One man recognised the boy and told them where his grandmother lives. According to the grandmother, the boy had been lost for almost seven weeks. As Mary was preparing to leave, the boy begged to go with her. He said that the reason he ran away in the first place was because of lack of food. Mary was touched and with his family’s permission welcomed the boy to her home where he still stays.
For Mary, the fight to stop child exploitation does not end there. “As one of the bar operators, I am committed to preventing and reporting such incidences, and it will not end with this child under my custody. The same support will be extended to other children who are exposed to sexual exploitation and trafficking,” said Mary.