Journalism students document project to curb violence against children in Uganda

Jan 14, 2020 | News

Lucy Lau interviews Kenneth Okwir, country director for Internews Uganda, about Internews’s work with Uganda’s refugee population, while Harmony Multani handles camera duties. (Heather Kelly)
Galvin Zaldivar

Humber has partnered with a Danish university to document its work to create strategies and tools to fight systemic violence against children in Uganda and Vietnam.

According to the 2018 Uganda Violence Against Children (VAC) Survey, three in four young adults have experienced some form of violence during childhood.

Humber sent postgraduate journalism students Lucy Lau and Harmony Multani, along with Heather Kelly, a Humber Journalism professor, to Uganda on January 10 to document the work of the Denmark Uganda Vietnam Exchange (DUVE).

“This project is threefold for us,” said Lau. “The first part of the project is producing video content for them that they can share on a future website that illustrates the work they’re doing here on the issue of violence against children and the learning materials and the workshops that they’re facilitating.”

Lucy Lau and journalism instructor Heather Kelly interview Leilah Bbaale, chief news editor and journalist trainer at Spice FM, a radio station in Hoima that broadcasts information for refugees. (Harmony Multani)

Their work over the rest of the week will also count towards their independent study course, where they will expand on the issue of violence against children, Lau said.

In conducting their research and preparations, Lau said they discovered Uganda is the largest host country for refugees in Africa.

“I think there are more than 1.3 million refugees in Uganda at this moment, which is high,” she said. “And that is also linked to the instances of violence and children that is experienced here because many of these refugees come from a degree of trauma and … the violence in their own lives kind of plays a part in the issue here as well.”

Multani said that participating in documenting DUVE is exactly the kind of journalism she wanted to practice.

“I wanted to get into journalism because I wanted to capture these stories around the world that are potentially making change,” she said. “And so as soon as this opportunity came up, I was really passionate about applying for it.”

Humber post-graduate journalism certificate students Harmony Multani (pictured left) and Lucy Lau capture the sunset during their first night in Kampala. (Heather Kelly)

Being able to test her skills in real life, high-pressure situations on such a project, has been a fantastic opportunity, said Lau.

“I really applied to this program so I can improve my shooting and editing skills,” she said. “And I feel like I’ve really had the opportunity for that here and being pushed into the deep end, I think is one of the best ways to learn because you’re forced to adapt, you’re forced to work and think and troubleshoot quickly on your feet.”

DUVE aims to create teaching tools and materials to educate students and professionals in communities where children are vulnerable.

The project is funded through the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme and led by Denmark’s University College Absalon.

Jaspreet Bal, a Child and Youth Care professor at Humber, said she was invited to be part of the project to provide a Canadian perspective.

“So we’re creating just a whole bunch of different components to it,” she said. “Folks are just visiting each other’s countries or seminars and workshops, and then we’re all working to create … a website with multiple e-learning modules about violence against children in different countries, so different practitioners could use them on the ground.”

Bringing these different perspectives, knowledge and experiences together, helped challenge the preconceptions of all involved, Bal said.

To help prepare Lau and Multani with what to expect while working on DUVE, Bal said “I Skyped into the class, and I spoke with the folks when they were heading over there and I explained what the project was to them,” Bal said.

“I was able to share a child and youth care approach to working internationally.”

In talking with Lau, Multani and Kelly, Bal said she cautioned of falling into the trap of “poverty pornography” when intimate images of suffering, especially those of children, are used to elicit pity.

“We talked about how to be respectful, how to use a cultural humility framework and how to do international work involving children,” she said.