Women and children are frequently the victims of severe human rights violations – especially sexual violence – in conflict and post-conflict communities. Refugee women and girls are more affected by violence than any other population of women in the world. In times of war, legal structures that traditionally protect women and children, including formal and informal justice systems and respect for the rule of law, break down leaving them vulnerable to abuse including but not limited to rape, early and forced marriage and domestic violence. The atrocities and abuses of war can become ingrained, creating a culture of impunity in which sexual violence goes unpunished.
Throughout Northern Uganda, War Child Canada provides legal protection programming for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and child abuse through community outreach, capacity building and provision of legal services. In response to the South Sudan crisis, War Child Canada is also improving access to education for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. This is done through Accelerated Learning Programs to ensure that the children can carry on or begin their formal education.
War Child Canada is currently working to increase access to quality education for South Sudanese refugee children. Since many of the children have either little, or varied formal education accelerated learning programs ensure they either catch up or keep up with their education during this time of transition. War Child Canada is working with the Ministry of Education to identify and train teachers from the refugee community, provide children with school kits and set up temporary learning centres in which to run accelerated learning classes.
War Child Canada is also raising awareness amongst community members on the right to education and the importance of continuing education for the children who have been displaced. A particular emphasis is put on the rights of the girl child. This is communicated through public service announcements and radio panels in the refugee settlements.
As a registered law firm in Northern Uganda, War Child Canada has been working to address the lack of legal protection for women and children survivors of SGBV and to curb the prevalence of perpetrators’ impunity since 2007. Services include: legal counseling/advice or referrals, in person or through a toll-free legal hotline; alternate dispute resolution (mediation); court representation in civil or criminal cases and transportation support for clients travelling to one of War Child Canada’s three legal clinics. In 2014 alone, 681 SGBV cases were handled through provision of free legal aid services.
War Child Canada is also working to strengthen the capacity of legal aid service providers across northern Uganda. In partnership with the Legal Aid Service Providers Network, War Child Canada has developed an information management system tailored to the needs of Ugandan law firms to streamline case management, boost networking and referrals between organizations and to allow for more robust data collection on human rights abuses.