Abstract: Street Survival: Participatory Assessment of Violence Against Children and Adolescents in Kampala, Uganda (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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701P Street Survival: Participatory Assessment of Violence Against Children and Adolescents in Kampala, Uganda

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Laura Liévano-Karim, MPP, Doctoral student, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Amy Ritterbusch, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background/Purpose: Children and adolescents outside family care in Kampala, Uganda face increased risk for threats to their wellbeing. They live under extremes circumstances occupying marginal, unprotected spaces in society and enduring multiple forms of violence and social stigma. The purpose of this child-driven, participatory study was to identify the most prominent forms of violence children perceived in their daily lives outside of family care and to present policy recommendations, driven by children’s voices, relevant for social violence reduction and prevention programming. Moreover, we place into dialogue the assessment data containing the children’s voices with the Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) results published by the Ugandan Government and facilitated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Methods: A participatory VAC assessment was conducted in Kampala, Uganda funded by the Oak Foundation and Bernard van Leer Foundation to complement the VACS – conducted by the CDC in alliance with the Together for Girls consortium. The research design for the assessment was implemented within a participatory framework. Young men and women living in extreme adversity outside family care led all data collection, analysis and dissemination activities. The overall data collection results consisted of 122 qualitative data components including 35 field note participant observation summaries, 83 semi-structured interviews and 4 focus groups. There were 93 children and adolescent participants between the ages of 5 and 25 years old. The dataset was coded using Nvivo 11.0 and analyzed by a team of two university-connected researchers (students of social work at Makerere University in Kampala) and community researchers (including four youth activists that once lived in the streets of Kampala themselves).

Results: Children and adolescent participants revealed their experiences of violence perpetrated by family members, police officers, city council workers, peers (other youth in the streets), business owners, street vendors, tourists, bosses, and other individuals in the spaces these children and adolescents occupy. We found that the most frequently mentioned forms of violence for children outside family care are concentrated in the following three categories: physical violence (487 references) followed by psychological (479 references) and sexual violence (197 references). Moreover, Ugandan children and adolescents who participated in the VAC assessment highlighted the importance of having spaces where they could be heard by adults without judgment and lead violence prevention policies. Additionally, participants also mentioned the importance of peer networks to protect themselves against violence. We present these as participatory policy recommendations.

Conclusion and Implications: Our findings present the most frequently mentioned forms of violence perpetrated against children and adolescents outside family care and identify commonalities between our qualitative data set and the quantitative VACS data set in Uganda. Second, by drawing from assessment data containing children and adolescent’s recommendations for policy makers and from the policy recommendations suggested in the official VACS Uganda report, we discuss policy and programmatic recommendations for preventing violence against children underscoring a child-centered participatory perspective. Third, it is relevant for informing future mixed method social work research that places children’s voices at the center of violence prevention action and research.