First Ever Study on Youth Forced Labor in Uganda

+ Meredith Dank, Lauren Moton


Children and youth in Uganda are susceptible to forced labor. To gain insight into their lived experiences, we employed an explanatory sequential mixed methods framework, administering 530 surveys then interviewing a subset of 36 survey takers. Through the lens of child standpoint theory, we examined participant demographics, type of work and entry points, abuse, and help seeking/barriers to leaving. Key findings include the following: 1) Participant demographics were largely males under 17 years; 2) parental death and socioeconomic strain in the home led to participant’s vulnerability to forced labor; 3) participants frequently begged and/or sold food or goods, collected scrap metal, bottles, or plastic; 4) employers (exploiters) were mostly parents, other family members, or others that children encounter in Kampala; 5) abuse ranged from physical, sexual, verbal, financial and psychological at the hands of employers, individuals on the streets, and authorities; and 6) participants avoided reporting abuse to authorities for lack of trust, fear of employer, or unawareness of how/where to report. We argue for child/youth-centered research and the training of stakeholders on youth and children’s rights and protections, more funding for child welfare programming and the institution of mandated laws, policies, procedures, resources, coordination and enforcement mechanisms aimed at reducing child forced labor.

Meredith Dank, Ph.D., is a Clinical Associate Professor and directs the Human Exploitation and Resilience program of the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management.

Lauren N. Moton is a Senior Research Associate in the Human Exploitation and Resilience Initiative at NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management.

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