Big Lottery Fund
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Funding to rescue abused children from sex work

A project to help rescue hundreds of vulnerable children trapped in sex work in Uganda has received half a million pounds from the Big Lottery Fund.

The grant is among six awarded from the Fund’s International Communities programme, which supports projects tackling the causes of poverty and deprivation and the impact they have on people’s lives.

Childhope UK, based in Hackney, London, receives £503,817 to help girls aged as young as 13 to help them escape sexual exploitation, expand their opportunities and take steps to reduce the risk of them returning to the sex trade. This will be achieved through intensive counselling, rehabilitation, reuniting the girls with their families and providing educational support. Childhope UK’s implementation partner on the ground, Uganda Reproductive Health Bureau, will also support 800 adult female sex workers and their children by providing access to sexual health services. This work will be performed in the towns of Malaba, Busia, Naluwerere, Idudi and Mbiko in eastern Uganda.

The project will also engage with more than 800 long-distance truck drivers who are the main clients of sex workers. The project will promote healthier sexual behaviour, expand the awareness of children’s and women’s rights and facilitate the formation of a network of truck drivers associations to promote a change in behaviour and attitudes to reduce child sexual exploitation.

Childhope UK say that 6,000 girls have been recruited into sex work since 2006, the majority of whom are orphans and 80 per cent live without any connection to their families. 

Executive Director Jill Healey said: "Poverty, violence and abuse at home and in schools and gender discrimination, are forcing growing numbers of young girls into sexual exploitation. Traffickers can attract unsuspecting girls to major towns with promises of education and a better life. When they’ve left home and cut ties with family, the girls discover that the only work on offer is selling sex.  Many feel they have little option but to comply, despite the considerable health risks and the fear of harassment and arrest. None of the girls we’ve spoken to want to continue to be exploited in this way and all have experienced violence, abuse, men refusing to pay and being forced to have unprotected sex.  Many of these girls are just 13 or 14 years old. 

“The positive thing is that we’ve met many such girls who are resilient and determined to change their lives for the better.  Early intervention is crucial.  The project will work quickly and closely with the girls, their families and communities, finding ways to resume their education and safely return home, and tackling the issues that made them leave in the first place.” 

Namaganda’s story:

Namaganda*, 14, was tempted away from her home by a woman promising her work and a ‘better life’.  When she reached Kampala it became clear to her that the woman intended to sell her into sex work. Namaganda tried to resist and get away from the woman, but was imprisoned and repeatedly raped by a group of men. She finally managed to escape and was picked up by a member of the Community Child Protection Committee. Although Namaganda soon discovered she was pregnant, she’s been given the right support to get back into school and move on with her life. She dreams of becoming a social worker so she can help other children.

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund Chair, said: “It is heartbreaking to hear of the plight of the exploited children in Uganda - but good to know that a dedicated group will be working tirelessly to free them from a desperate life of sex work.

“The Fund is supporting grass roots work tackling the causes of poverty and deprivation, to help improve the lives of some of the poorest people across the world.”

Meanwhile, another group supporting children receiving funding in this round of awards is the National Deaf Children’s Society. The project will be using its £467,503 grant to help deaf children in West Bengal to go to school. The project aims to get more children attending school regularly, performing better with improved communication, literacy and numeracy skills and confidence to participate in extra-curricular activities.

A key aspect of the project will be the use of community based rehabilitation workers and deaf role models in rural areas of Hooghly and Jalpaiguri and using volunteers in the slum wards of Kolkata who will demonstrate that deafness should not be a barrier to achievement.

Other projects receiving funding:

Just under 30,000 people with symptoms of tuberculosis in Tamil Nadu, India, will be helped to access treatment thanks to a £477,915 grant to Target Tuberculosis.

Deaf-blind and multi-sensory impaired children in Peru will benefit from a £499,687 grant to Sense International.

A £481,748 grant to Basic Needs will improve the mental health of people in Ghana. The project will also help people with epilepsy.

A project in the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania will improve the health of mothers to reduce child mortality and tackle HIV/AIDS thanks to a £497,793 grant to the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development.

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Notes to editors 

*Not her real name.

  • The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in June 2004, the Fund has made awards close to £6bn in total.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £30 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

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