Uganda remains a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Ugandan children as young as seven are exploited in forced labour in agriculture, fishing, forestry, cattle herding, mining, carpentry, bars, restaurants and domestic service. Girls and boys are also exploited in prostitution, with recruiters targeting girls and women between the ages of 13 and 24 for domestic sex trafficking. 54,000 girls under 18 are sex workers in Uganda. Lured by false promises of education and good jobs. Others are escaping poverty, sexual abuse and child marriage.
Aisha was 13 years old when she was first forced to provide sexual services for men by her employer. Aisha travelled to Kampala City under the promise that she would be working in a bar and using her salary to pay for school. However, instead she was forced in to child prostitution. Aisha became pregnant less than a year after she had been trafficked, and rather than pay for her education, all the money she earned she sent back to her mother who was caring for her children. Aisha was finally able to escape her situation with the help of Plan International’s programme to help and train young girls exploited in sex work for a better future.
The woman promised me that I would work and use my salary for my school fees. She brought me to Uganda and got me a job as a bar maid. That’s where it all started, because being a bar maid meant sleeping with customers.
I was 13 years old. They threatened me that if I didn’t do sex work, satisfy and entice customers, they wouldn’t pay me or feed me. So that’s how I survived.
My first time was hard. It was a bad experience. I bled the whole of the first night. I couldn’t sit properly, only with my thighs apart. I was in so much pain. Once I healed I continued. They used to pay my boss and then he bought me food. I didn’t get a salary.
I fell pregnant at 13. I’d been working for less than a year. Some days I would have 5 clients but others I wouldn’t have any. I used to send the money I earned from sex work back to the village, to my mother who is looking after my kids. Sometimes I would starve to ensure that my children have something to eat.
Once I graduate and am empowered with skills, I’ll have an income, a job and a house. I’ll live with my kids and take them to school.
Now that I’m studying here, people respect me. And even if they still try and bring me down, I stand my ground and tell them. “I have a future. I’m getting skills training, and I’ll soon have a better job than you”.
Narrative courtesy of Plan International’s film series highlighting their programme in Kampala, Uganda, to train young women aged 13-24 who are sexually exploited or engaged in sex work.