This International Youth Day we want to recognise young people’s resilience in the face of this pandemic, and how so many have taken action to help their communities respond and recover. This is Fiona’s story.
“We grow by supporting others”
Fiona, 23, is from Alebtong in northern Uganda.
Uganda has been in lockdown since March, in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19. In this time, many young people have found themselves unable to work, with their livelihoods suspended, or unable to attend school.
Girls and young women have been badly affected with increases in school-age girls getting married and becoming pregnant, and a spike in cases of domestic abuse.
With the support of Restless Development, young volunteers have set-up call-centres in six rural districts of Uganda to support communities to report cases of gender-based violence and economic exclusion during the lockdown.
Fiona has been volunteering at the centre in her home town of Alebtong in northern Uganda.
I came forward to offer fellow girls and women an ear to share their experiences during lockdown, where many of them have been going through hard times but with no one to confide inFiona
Within a month of manning the call centre, Fiona had filed over 100 cases mainly from young women between the ages of 20 and 30 calling to report gender-based-violence related incidents such as sexual assault or harrasment.
She has also heard other cases related to economic injustice, such as employers failing to pay salaries making it difficult for women to support themselves through the lockdown. Fiona has also received calls of distress from young men.
Young women and men have been going through hard times during the lockdown. Having someone to talk to and share experience is the least they needed as they struggled to remain resilient in the face of their tough realities; I feel fulfilled that the call centre is providing the much needed audience to young peopleFiona
When she receives a call, Fiona organises the complaint into a case and forwards it to the relevant government offices for follow-up. This sometimes takes days or even weeks.
Advocacy faces many barriers including government bureaucracy in investigating and addressing cases as fast as possible, ultimately, delayed justice often becomes justice denied. Nonetheless, we can’t give up on giving young people a voiceFiona
Growing by supporting others
Fiona’s journey with Restless Development began in 2017, when she volunteered with the Girls’ Advocacy Alliance project.
While on the program, Fiona says she was trained on research, data analysis, advocacy, meaningful youth engagement, report writing and policy analysis.
I gained the necessary skills which I employed to conduct youth-led research on access to agricultural financing services for girls and young women in Alebtong DistrictFiona
Fiona’s work influenced Ugandan employers to provide good working conditions for women, and combat issues of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment is one issue reported in our research findings topping the factors hindering girls and young women from accessing jobs, being promoted as well accessing financial services like loansFiona
In Alebtong district, Fiona is now well known for advocating for women’s and girls’ rights – both in work and during lockdown.
Fiona believes in the resilience of young people like herself, and that by volunteering to support other young people she is also growing as a rights advocate and future leader.
Some people think they should be supported to grow as leaders, I see it differently, we can grow by supporting others.Fiona