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Supporting Children’s Opportunities Through Protection and Empowerment (SCOPE) launched

Supporting Children’s Opportunities Thru Protection & Empowerment (SCOPE) project in Kamwenge district was yesterday officially launched. The project is championed by the Gender Ministry. Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) Executive Director, Allen Kagina graced the Launch of alongside the World Bank Country Manager, Ms Christina Malmberg Calvo and the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender, Pius Bigirimana. The launch was held at Bigodi Primary School playground in Kamwenge district.

In her launch speech, UNRA ED Allen Kagina said, “It is an opportunity to address you, in your respective capacities on this very important occasion when we are launching “SCOPE”; a high significant project, whose main objective is to address some of the road construction social impacts, which had for decades remained a challenge to the sector and government as a whole.

Management of social risks in the past was hardly an area of priority during planning, implementation and supervision of infrastructure projects in general and road projects in particular. Consequently, a cross-section of potential beneficiaries from infrastructure projects instead suffered harm due to inadequate social risk Management. The main associated risks rotate around; disruption of social set ups due to labour influx and increase in disposable income among communities, increased chances of contracting HIV, child abuse and exploitation, community health and safety concerns, gender based violence and all forms of discrimination against women and vulnerable people.

One particular example where social risks were not properly managed is on this particular project (Fort Portal Kamwenge road), where lack of proper mitigation measures against labour influx, resulted into male workers impregnating minors. It is inadequate management of social risks that eventually culminated into the cancellation of funding.

Despite the funding challenges that government faced as a whole, the lessons learnt from this project have been taken positively, and UNRA is taking on a strategic direction to strengthen with partnerships with relevant stakeholders  including donors, the line Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, Uganda AIDS Commission, Civil Society Organizations and in social protection. It is against this background that UNRA is to sign an MOU with the MGLSD to strengthen collaboration through:

Enforcing Zero tolerance to any form of exploitation of children including sexual abuse. Defilement is a capital offense under the Laws of Uganda and I call upon the community and local leaders to work closely with law enforcement agents to ensure that this negative behaviour is eliminated and cases are followed up to their conclusion;

Integrating stringent clauses on labour management in bidding documents and contracts as well as requiring all Contractors to implement a clear code of conduct for their employees;

Requiring Contractors to continually address concerns of sexual harassment and other forms of gender based violence through routine sensitisation meetings with their workers including receiving regular feedback from communities about behaviour of workers;

Averting criminal practices in the project areas by requiring workers to display a worker ID so that they can easily be identified

Institutionalizing a compliance and investigations Department within UNRA’s, which works with police to   deal with perpetrators of criminal offences against communities; and

Strengthening the Environment and Social Safeguards Department to monitor compliance with policy and legal requirements and provide guidance to Contractors, Consultants and the communities.

Conclusion

I appreciate community members who have brought issues of concern to our attention; I encourage you to continue with the same spirit. With the establishment of the community grievance Committees (GMCs), it should be easier to channel issues these issues without having to incur unnecessary expenses.

Community members who volunteer information to UNRA or any other body of government is assured of confidentiality without any form of retaliation.

UNRA as an institution cannot solely manage social risks during road construction. I call upon the line ministry- MGLSD and CSOs to provide us the necessary support in implementing social protection activities and   responding to cases of Gender Based Violence.

Lastly I take this opportunity to appreciate efforts by development partners, especially the World Bank for the unreserved support that they have provided to us building capacity respond to social issues associated with road Construction.

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