At just 12 years old, Brenda found herself locked up in a dark prison cell. The adult prison was no place for any child. Brenda was hungry, she only received one meal per day. But alone and scared, she could barely eat anything anyway. What would her future hold? Brenda had no idea. The Ugandan justice system was notoriously tough – even on the smallest of petty crimes.
“You are a stupid girl… I wish you would die.”
Brenda’s mother was an alcoholic. More often than not, she would be drunk. And when she was, Brenda would be on the receiving end of the abuse.
But the abuse didn’t stop there. Brenda’s parents neglected her. They stopped buying her clothes and other basic essentials. They would feed her less than her siblings and stopped sending her to school.
Brenda was still a child. And now she had no way of surviving without stealing. She took a small amount of food from her neighbours and money from her mother (the equivalent of just £2.30). For her mother and the police, this was enough to lock her up. So here Brenda was, just 12 years old, alone and scared in a dark prison cell for a petty crime she had to commit to survive.
Adult prisons are no place for children. They’re often subject to violence and sexual abuse. The conditions are appalling. Prolonged unlawful detention in prisons is widespread and children are often denied their right to legal representation. With no prospect of rehabilitation, children like Brenda risk leaving prison traumatised.
“With no prospect of rehabilitation, children like Brenda risk leaving prison traumatised.”
Thankfully, we were able to help Brenda. By working with the police and her family, she was taken out of prison and took part in our Right2Change project, where we develop child-friendly alternatives to detention.
We assigned her a community support worker to mediate between her and her family. Now, her mother feeds and dresses her properly meaning she doesn’t have to steal to survive. Better still, Brenda is able to go to school like her brothers! She now feels accepted by the community and is getting the education she deserves.