As we reflect on the blessings of a bountiful year with family and friends, we at ChildVoice are agonizing over the plight of the girls we work with in Uganda, South Sudan, and Nigeria who have never enjoyed the blessings we take for granted. Vulnerable girls who have been displaced, their families shattered by war. Girls who have fled chaos, only to be subjected to sexual violence. Girls like Florence.
When Florence first arrived at Uganda's Imvepi Refugee Settlement, having traveled on foot from South Sudan, she clearly was traumatized. A lifelong orphan, in 2017 she had joined a group of girls who were desperate to flee the violence of civil war in South Sudan. En route to Uganda, she and the other girls were raped by a gang of terrorists. After arriving at Imvepi, she and two other girls learned they were pregnant. For Florence, scared, alone, and with little means of support, her life was shattered by the news.
At the Lukome Center, Florence avoided contact with other people, spending most of her time alone in her hut with her young daughter, Janeth. Barely older than a child herself, and given the violence she had endured just months earlier, her withdrawal into isolation was no surprise.
For a girl like Florence, becoming a child mother all but guarantees she will be forced to drop out of school, putting her at grave risk for further abuse or trafficking. The United Nations reports that in developing countries, 90 percent of adolescent girls entering the workforce are ill-prepared, working for low or even no pay, and consequently vulnerable to sexual exploitation. On the other hand, girls who receive adequate education and training are far more likely to earn a decent wage, and will reinvest most of their earnings in support of their families. That’s exactly what ChildVoice graduates do!
When Florence joined Class 12 at the Lukome Center, she felt a sense of hope for the first time in her life. With the help and support of her counselors, teachers, and classmates, she began emerging from her shell of despair. As Florence’s confidence and sense of place has grown, her teachers and classmates say they have watched her transform into a strong, friendly, and hardworking young mother. She is learning to love and care for her daughter, and is developing valuable vocational skills such catering, knitting, and driving, so when she leaves the Center, she will be able to provide for herself and Janeth.