The morning of Saturday, 29th May 2021 and the better part of the afternoon literally brought life at the Acholi Quarters, a slum in Kampala city on a standstill.
The smiles flashed off the faces of most children, their parents as well as the guests communicated volume, and something in abundance.
For starters, the Acholi Quarters is a refugee base in the outskirts of Kampala, Kireka-Banda off Kinawataka Road, a neighborhood of another slum-laden hideous place, Kasokoso.
Children, parents, local community leaders, civil society, influential figures in the media, other organizations, and corporate family were also joined by the UNHCR country representative Joel Boutroue as the Aliguma Foundation presented a really special cause of social inclusion in society.
Prior to the main event proper, there was a lively march around the area with the help of a band before everyone gathered around the community playground which is incidentally undergoing a major face-lift of upgrade with seating stands built and surface leveling done.
This fast-rising foundation, through the ‘Ndi Mwana – Cry of a Girl Child‘ program targeted developing the capacity of the Girl-Child to not only survive but thrive even in complex situations.
There were skits of dramatic plays and songs by the children of Acholi quarters as well as their mothers alongside inspirational speeches of love, hope, courage, and faith.
Speaker after speaker, there was a major concern of providing the technical expertise to the local Acholi slum community, counseling of victims, advocating for the affected, protection and support for effective initiatives, all intended to forge a healthy way forward to tackling the community problems at large.
Of course, the foundation has been at the fore front of women emancipation and changing lives through sports over the years, the sole reason why footballs were pertinent of the donated items, sanitary pads as well as locally hand made bags and other artifacts.
Gloria Nicole Apio, a female youth representative in the Acholi Quarters attended the event alongside a teen brother and mother who led the enthusiastic women group.
Apio cried aloud for the urgent need to protect the girl-child at all times and means for gender equity.
“There is need to protect the girl child from the ills of society. We are so much exposed and therefore require the best protection at all times,” Apio spoke in eloquent English.
Her mother led the women group in two songs, quickly composed on the eve of this event as the guests were entertained to the brim.
When the DJ played Romeo Odong’s Acholi blockbuster hit “Pililili Yoo Leng“, all the guests including the UNHCR representative Boutroue, journalist Hatama Nalugwa Sekaaya, civil leaders all danced to the tune.
“We need to move away from the old norms (culture). Do not let money persuade you. Parents you are the first protection for the girl child. You need to embrace the girl child right from the time of infantry,” Nalugwa advised.
Nalugwa’s message was further driven home by Police OC, Band B, Lydia Chemba who advised the parents to be exemplary before their children in all things they execute.
“People are ignorant of the laws but such meetings are avenues to the deliver the message. Parents ought to be exemplary in everything they do. For instance; separate bars from homes,” OC Chemba cautioned.
The councilor Local Council 2 Banda Parish, Charles Omoro strongly cautioned the parents to be more vigilant in the crucial child-raising process.
“Parents especially the male ones are becoming more reluctant. You should take the lead. Organize more counseling programmes,” Omoro stated.
Cynthia Mpanga of Standard Chartered Bank added her voice of advice to the parents, calling upon the children to be respectful at all times.
“Parents should take the lead to show the right sense of direction for the kids. Also, the children should be respectful,” Mpanga sounded.
Ritah Aliguma, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of the Aliguma Foundation hinted on how sports (football) is at the forefront to transform lives and mindsets of slum dwellers to ensure that girl child is protected, also considering the needs of the boy child.
Since 2019, we have been fronting football as we advocate for change of people’s lives in the Acholi quarters. During the Slums Soccer Tournament, we had one of the girls who was sexually harassed. During that time we said we will definitely have a girl child campaign. We were to have the campaign last year but Covid-19 didn’t allow. It is a continuous programe liaising with the civic community leaders, parents, security, and other organizations to transform the lives for the better.Ritah Aliguma, CEO and Founder of Aliguma Foundation
This is the third time I am coming to Acholi Quarters. Today, I am here because most residents here are internally displaced people so we stand in solidarity with those who have suffered with conflict. I have hope that the community playground will be completed soon and it will become a great hub for change.Joel Boutroue, UNHCR Representative in Uganda
All the day’s activities were targeted to create awareness for the protection of the girl child as well as strengthen the rule of law and peacebuilding in Acholi Quarters and other Slum settlements across Uganda, by providing increased life resilience opportunities for children.
The Aliguma Foundation under the programme; “Sports for Resilience & Empowerment Project” was one of the 55 organizations worldwide selected by UEFA Foundation for Children for funding as UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin in November 2020.
A quick reminder, UEFA allocated $6,409,154.83 (Ug.Shs. 23,740,586,228.33) to new projects or an extension of existing projects across the world for proper implementation.
Africa has 16 projects, inclusive of the “Sports for Resilience & Empowerment” fronted by the Aliguma Foundation in Uganda.
Prior to the Acholi Quarters event, different personalities in the media had added to their voice of the girl child protection, proper up bringing and care.
These included among others the communications director at Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) Ahmed Hussein, Joel Boutroue (UNHCR Representative in Uganda), Raymond Chan Chiu (Vice president Hong Kong Sports Press Association), female sports journalists Sarah Adong and Hatima Nalugwa Sekaaya.