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  • Reports on Adolescent Girls

    Photo By: Sasha Pippenger/The IRC

    Scattered Dreams, Broken Promises

    An Assessment of the Links between Girls’ Empowerment and Gender-based Violence in the Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, Uganda

    Scattered Dreams, Broken Promises thumbnail
    An assessment of girls’ empowerment and gender-based violence in Uganda's Kyaka II refugee settlement.

    This report explores the protection and empowerment needs of, and opportunities for, refugee adolescent girls in Kyaka II as identified by girls themselves. It outlines learnings existing programs that support refugee girls’ protection and empowerment. Finally, it identifies organizations that may be interested in piloting a program at Kyaka II focused on enhancing girls’ safety.

    This was the final research mission in a three-country series of assessments; the first two were comp.leted in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

    Download the Full Report

    Reports for Community Contributors

    Key Findings

    Adolescent girls in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement are concerned about a range of issues affecting their lives, including various forms of physical insecurity, barriers to education, limited peer and social support, poverty and overwork, and inability to meet their basic needs. This wide range of social and economic factors, together with poor program funding for services at the settlement, contributes to widespread experiences of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) (the misuse of power for sexual favors, such as teachers demanding sex in return for grades) among girls in Kyaka II. Despite the challenges they face, girls envision a better future for themselves and ask for support and guidance from stakeholders responsible for refugee protection and services to improve their well-being.

    Refugee settlements in Uganda are different from a refugee “camp”; they are open rural areas where refugees live among the host population in villages. The Government of Uganda supports refugee self-reliance and freedom of movement, unlike neighboring Kenya and Tanzania, where refugees face strong restrictions. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in partnership with relevant implementing partners and government authorities, designs and delivers assistance programs at Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, taking into consideration the needs of the host population and with the goal of strengthening refugee integration and promoting positive co-existence with host populations.

    Key Recommendations

    While the WRC’s research focused on speaking to refugee girls, it is important to note that in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement context, our recommendations are targeted to improving access to programs that protect and empower all adolescent girls they serve, including host community girls.

    Girls’ own recommendations for themselves

    When asked to think of ways to improve their lives, achieve their goals and protect themselves from exploitation and abuse at Kyaka II, girls came up with several action plans for themselves:

    • Take safety precautions: Get home early and avoid being out at night. Travel in groups of other girls and parents so boys and men will not harass you. Be more self-aware and do not be duped by men offering money for sex. Run away from boys who look suspicious, or are acting in a funny way like they want to touch you.
    • Make education a priority: Stay focused on studying. Listen to teachers. Work hard and read a lot of 2 books. Be driven to achieving your goals and gaining knowledge about how to achieve them. Work with others to talk to parents, teachers, partners, girls and others about respecting children’s rights to education and not to impose early marriage on girls.
    • Build strong life skills: Develop healthy relationships with those around you, including with parents, teachers, and other girls to win their support and friendships so that they can become your ally and resource when you need help. Build strong character by working hard whether at school or at home, respect those in authority and listen to the advice of others. Take care of your health and stay healthy; boil water for drinking, bathe and clean your environment.
      For details on girls’ recommendations, see page 14. 

    Recommendations for others

    In light of the findings and the above recommendations made by the girls themselves, the following recommendations have been developed from this study:


    • Prioritize funding allocations to programs that incorporate outcomes that are specific to adolescent girls: Take the lead in guiding program implementation to address the critical needs of this traditionally neglected population. New sources of funding are critical in order to address some of the program gaps as identified by girls and their community, such as improving the quality of education, strengthening life skills, increasing opportunities to build social assets (i.e., networks and support groups), and preparing girls for safe livelihood options. While some girl-specific indicators may currently be tracked within program budgets, some ideas brought forward by girls themselves require systemic changes in how implementers approach program design and monitoring, as well as increased training and personnel to strengthen sensitization efforts around girls’ issues.


    • In collaboration with the Ugandan government, strengthen security in Kyaka II: Improve lighting around passageways to and from wells and clear bushes around boreholes. Explore placement of security personnel on roads, in and near markets, schools, water points and firewood collection areas.
    • Increase advocacy with the Ugandan government, and work closely with implementing partners to remove barriers to girls’ education: English should be the primary teaching language at all levels, and teachers should be qualified and equipped to teach in English. Strengthen the provision of ongoing training for teachers to maintain standards and as incentives to retain good teachers. Explore ways to increase scholarships for secondary education to expand girls’ learning opportunities beyond primary school.
    • Support coordination among implementing partners serving Kyaka II to address issues of adolescent girls within existing programs: Consider ways to respond to girls’ suggestions for action outlined above through existing programs and possible new ones. Facilitate increased crosssector coordination to ensure a comprehensive, integrated approach to programs that support girls. Request from partners an analysis of how existing programs address adolescent girls and how program access, quality and outcomes can be improved for girls within existing budgets.

    Service Providers and Refugee Organizations

    • Increase protection in schools: Sensitize teachers to stop unfair punishment of children at school and encourage a supportive environment for girls to report GBV. Create an accountability structure in the schools so that teachers, administrators and students all have clear boundaries, and roles and responsibilities are delineated with an appropriate feedback loop in place.
    • Increase participation of adolescent girls in nonformal education: Offer flexible access to training in life skills, decision-making, critical thinking, communication and negotiation skills. Programs should be designed in cooperation with a diverse group of girls, to help programmers work around the various constraints on their participation.
    • Support girls’ protection and empowerment through increasing their access to social assets: Respond to girls’ requests for opportunities to increase socializing, networking and organizing among themselves in order to build their social assets. Ensure girls get space and time to build friendships and find mutual support among peers and adults in their communities. Create ways for boys and men to support activities that target girls as primary beneficiaries.
    • Increase girls’ access to economic assets: Support skills training programs for older adolescent girls, including income generating activities (IGAs) that are alternatives to farming and, if feasible, empower older girls to pursue trades that are not traditional for women, as these tend to pay more than the traditionally female trades. Beyond the vocational component, focus on employment readiness approaches that emphasize employability skills, how to look for jobs, and customer service and communication skills. Provide all girls with basic financial literacy skills.
    • Modified: Wednesday, December 07, 2016
    • Published: