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Pioneering the prevention of violence against children in Uganda

26th July 2021


The world's youngest country: with nearly 70% of its population under the age of 25, Uganda has a special demographic profile. But pre-2015 data on the prevalence and magnitude of violence against children was lacking.

In 2015, Uganda’s commitment to implementing the Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) was motivated to address the limited pre-existing nationwide data.

What was available provided some insights into the social and cultural norms related to violence, but it was largely conducted by individual agencies. The limitations in scope and depth of that information consequentially impacted data uptake.

A new opportunity to understand sexual violence against girls in order to end it

Uganda VACS Report 2018

The 2015 Uganda VACS provided the generation of nationally representative data to inform programming and policies, leading to the achievement of SDGs 5.1, 5.2, and 16.2.

Uganda’s strong political will to ending violence against children was met with the need to leverage the use of high quality data on the drivers of risk and protective factors on sexual violence against girls, and to design prevention and response interventions.

In 2016 Uganda became a pathfinder country making a formal, public commitment to ending all forms of violence against children. Pathfinding countries use the INSPIRE: Seven strategies for ending violence against children to understand the drivers of violence and build integrated responses. These strategies include — but are not limited to — the creation of a country’s national action plan to end violence.

The Uganda VACS is unique. What data was revealed?

The Uganda VACS is the first global Violence Against Children Survey to include sub-national estimates. There are sub-national estimates for females in three special focus areas with high rates of HIV/AIDS, and the survey also has sub-national data on boys for all four regions of Uganda.

Next steps: Research fellowship in Uganda

The key objective of the research fellowship is to enable local researchers in-countries to be internationally competitive within the scientific community and self-publish. There are two research fellows and three AfriChild in-house researchers - for the first time in Uganda the fellowship will culminate in a total of six papers.

A range of topics will be explored, such as adverse childhood experiences and the increased risk for HIV infection among children; mental health consequences of childhood sexual violence; and perpetration of intimate partner violence among adolescents.

The rich data offered through the VACS will enable the fellows to focus on specific demographics, such as regions and age.

An additional goal is for all fellows to collaborate on a joint paper potentially exploring the links between household economic status, sexual violence, and utilization of services among adolescents.

Empowering local researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to take full ownership of VACS data and research will enable more publications and peer review publications generated from within Uganda itself.

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About the research fellowship

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About the Together for Girls Research Fellowship

The Research Fellowship — in partnership with technical training from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — aims to strengthen individual and institutional capacity for Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) data research to yield additional evidence-based prevention and response strategies to address violence against children.

The research fellowships are incorporated into non-governmental institutions with strong research experience and expertise on VACS and are supported by government and international partners.

The fellowship provides a conceptual framework, and end-to-end methodologies on delivering a national analysis plan. This training equips research teams with quantitative data analysis skills tailored to the survey, especially basic descriptive and inferential statistics and reference management of VACS-related literature.

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AfriChild: From data to action

AfriChild is an independent research institution at the forefront of collecting Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) data.

It was selected to host the research fellowship due to its formal commitment to strengthen the in-country research; generation of high quality evidence from data analysis; and provision of evidence for utilization capacity. As part of the research fellowship, AfriChild is incorporating VACS data training into a programme for researchers across the country, as well as policymakers.

The upcoming training for policymakers, practitioners, and other multidisciplinary researchers will be less technical in terms of research and analysis, but will focus on how VACS data can inform intervention strategies and policies to help stakeholders in practice.

Beyond the research, this fellowship in Uganda promises long term results. AfriChild’s powerful advantage is their link between policymakers and practitioners, due to their involvement in different working groups at the country level.

As a result, the CDC training they receive under the fellowship reinforces their capacity to continue feeding into ongoing or future policies and interventions and strategies. AfriChild has led subsequent training of 20 in-country researchers from six national universities in addition to training policymakers.