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The synergy between gender relations, child labour and Disability in the post-war acholi sub-region of northern Uganda

After a war of nearly two decades in the Acholi sub-region of northern Uganda many families and communities were physically, socially, economically and psychologically devastated. A myriad of other concomitant effects of the war such as distorted gender relations in households and undue exposure of vulnerable children to the menace of hazardous child labour manifest in the communities today. A plethora of non-government organisations has worked in the Acholi subregion trying to transform the communities after the war, but these challenges remain thus compromising social justice and the well-being of children. Although numerous studies have been conducted on the three constructs: gender relations, child labour and disability independently, they are studied concurrently in this study without prioritising any. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of girls and boys aged 10-17 with various forms of physical disabilities involved in hazardous child labour in the post war Acholi sub-region of northern Uganda. This was achieved by examining the link between gender relations, hazardous child labour and disability in relation to the well-being of children in two selected districts that were the epicentre of armed conflict, namely Gulu and Nwoya. This study was guided by five specific objectives: Exploring how the nature of gender relations in households influence hazardous child labour; establishing how hazardous child labour relates to disability; exploring the impact of the existing social justice system on hazardous child labour; examining the well-being of children with disabilities involved in hazardous child labour; and exploring the perceived links between gender relations, hazardous child labour and disability. The study employs a social science approach and a qualitative research design to fully understand the phenomenon of hazardous child labour as it applies to children of both genders with physical disabilities in a post-war context. Data were collected from purposively selected districts of Nwoya, and Gulu. The study targeted children with physical disabilities as primary participants and their parents and caretakers were key informants. Overall, 40 interviews were conducted from a total of 160 purposively selected study participants. Data were collected using focus group interviewss (32) and in-depth individual interviews (8), for triangulation purposes and observation. A total of ten children participated using the draw and write technique. Tape recording and note-taking were also employed. In particulat, the findings indicate a strong connection between gender relations, hazardous child labour and disability as a result of historical factors connected to the war. Chapter seven establishes that the realization of rights of children with disabilities remains a challenge in a post war environment where communities believe that children have to work for pay and contribute to family survival. In chapter eight, the study established that the three themes of gender relations, child labour and disability influence each other with a connection. It is evident that resource allocation is a result of decision making, which is a result of roles and responsibilities, emanating from cultural beliefs and practices, resulting from gender relations at household level. Gender inequality persists thus leading to gender-related injustices such as deprivation and exploitation of the girl child. The cultural belief that men and boys are superior in decision-making and resource allocation worsens the situation for girls and women thus their well-being is compromised. As well, the findings reflect that these three factors do stand independently as each connects to different cultural beliefs and practices that jeopardise the well-being of children.

Full Name
Dr Rosemary Nakijoba