Illustration by @neemascribbles

Promoting CivicTech through Community Champions

Working with Youth to Fight Trafficking in Uganda

In February 2018, Pollicy launched Wetaase, a mobile and web platform designed to combat human trafficking in Uganda, and the region, by raising awareness and utilizing data for advocacy and activism.

Wetaase (a vernacular word meaning ‘help yourself’) aims to serve high-risk individuals, victims and survivors of human trafficking from Uganda. An automated toll-free line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in major Ugandan languages and will also be staffed by trained counsellors. Wetaase provides vital information, legal advice and aftercare support through different channels and partnerships. The platform utilises this data to track and reduce incidences of human trafficking by monitoring domestic and transnational trafficking. Eventually, the platform aims to be available in countries where Ugandans are most often trafficked to serve as a first line of defense.

The helpline can be accessed by called 0800 202 600. The helpline can also be accessed online by sending an email to helpline@wetaase.org, by filling out this online form, or by interacting with a chatbot on Facebook Messenger.

As part of an effort to obtain user feedback and promote the platform, we brought five Community Champions onboard. The Wetaase Community Champions are a group of volunteers tasked with visiting different local communities across Kampala to educate people about safe migration, human trafficking and how to access information, services and resources through online and offline means.

The Championship initiative was started in preparation for Wetaase’s launch to the general public in early February. The volunteers main goals was to interact with communities in and around Kampala to find out what problems they face when trying to access information, services and resources and how Wetaase can solve some of those problems. They also introduced the people to platform and got their feedback on how it could be improved to better serve them.

The five volunteers: Philip, Sarah, Alvin, Hellen and Patricia, started the programme with a brief training from Willow International on human trafficking and how to carefully carry this information to the general public. Armed with knowledge and resources, the volunteers set off to the field on on the same day the platform launched to the public to begin their feedback and sensitisation campaign. Over the course of three weeks, they visited areas like Nakawa including Makerere University Business School, the market, Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU), Kataaza, Management Training and Advisory Centre (MTAC) and vocational schools in Nakawa. Kyambogo University, Banda, Makerere University, Wandegeya and Rubaga specifically in St. Lawrence University (SLAU), Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) Rubaga Campus, Muteesa Royal University and homes near the cathedral. The initiative was a huge success for Wetaase with the volunteers interacting with over 100 people a day in productive conversations.

Community Champions chatting with other young people

There were plenty of lessons for Pollicy and for the volunteers as well. The volunteers received multiple recommendations and feedback from the local communities to continue to focus innovating for illiterate people and to conduct larger outreach programmes.

However, this experience came with a few challenges. The volunteers were not welcomed in every place they visited, some local leaders thought the topic of human trafficking was too sensitive to be discussed openly with the community. This is one of the stereotypes Wetaase is trying to fight as people need to be well informed in order to make smarter decisions.

Despite these minor challenges, the volunteers were happy to be invited back to some areas like Kyambogo to talk to larger numbers. They enjoyed the opportunity to interact with people and pass on knowledge on safe migration to fellow students who knew very little about the topic. Most importantly, they were pleasantly surprised and encouraged by how excited people were to learn about safe migration and explore the Wetaase platform.

At Pollicy, we intend to keep this conversation going and to engage youth in using technology to create solutions. As part of this movement, together with New Union, we will be hosting TraffickHack, a youth reflection on human trafficking in Uganda & Great Britain. The aim is to create a toolkit for youth to utilize in digital advocacy and to spread awareness against human trafficking from Uganda. Join us on March 14th at the Innovation Village!

We will be featuring blog posts from participants in Uganda and in the UK to better understand reflections from different sides of the same issue. Stay tuned!

Written by Esther Ndagire, Program Manager for Wetaase

For any questions on the Wetaase platform, email us at info@pollicy.org

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