Post by: Courtney Knox
February 2020 will mark six months living and working in Kampala, Uganda as part of Regent Law’s Center for Global Justice Fellowship program. Through this, I’ve been working with both International Justice Mission (IJM) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) on a variety of cases and projects.
As part of my work with this office, I have been able to work closely with an organization called Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM). KCM is a charity working to end child sacrifice and trafficking in Uganda. I have been able to engage with KCM on a number of things including case management and follow up, drafting a child protection policy for the organization, and the planning of a major human trafficking conference taking place in April.
The annual conference, held in memory of a former prosecutor named Joan Kagezi, takes a different them each year and this year is honoring Kagezi’s passion for fighting all forms of human trafficking. Kagezi was the Assistant Director of Public Prosecution and head of the International Crimes Division and was tragically killed in 2015. Kyampisi is sponsoring this event in partnership with the ODPP so I’ve had a chance to be part of the planning process for this event and am looking forward to the culmination of it in the beginning of April!
There is not much I can share about my work with IJM due to its confidentiality policies regarding its work here in Uganda. However, I can share that IJM has recently received a number of grants to help eradicate violence against women and girls in Uganda, which has been really exciting. These projects have kept most all of the staff very busy and involved. Generally, these grants have involved meeting with survivors to gather data on their experiences with violence in their communities and subsequent experience with the public justice system, drafting and conducting trainings, and national stakeholder workshops. The grants are mostly long-term so I anticipate working on them throughout my time in Uganda.
Over the past few months I’ve been able to participate in a number of amazing opportunities outside of my regular work schedule. It’s been awesome to have so many fun and fulfilling experiences here (many of them unanticipated) so I thought I’d share some of my favorites below:
~ Freedom Sunday: On September 22nd, 2019 IJM held what is known as Freedom Sunday, which gives churches around the world the opportunity to host a service dedicated to learning about slavery and partnering with IJM to end it. I had the chance to attend a local church called Watoto on Freedom Sunday, along with two of my IJM colleagues, and share with members of their congregation exactly what IJM does and how they can get involved. Our presence there also allowed members of the congregation who had experienced abuse share their stories with us personally and ask for help. I believe around 15,000 churches worldwide participated in this event. This year, Freedom Sunday will be held on September 20thso mark your calendars and get your church involved!
~ Watoto Babies Home visit: Through our participation in Freedom Sunday at Watoto Church we learned about Baby Watoto, an orphanage that cares for abandoned babies and toddlers from infancy to 2 years, and were able to organize a visit to the home. We got a chance to tour of the facility that houses the babies, learn what goes into caring for these vulnerable babies, and then helped feed and play with the babies. They were the sweetest babies and it was such a joy to get to spend time with them. I’m hoping to make another visit before my time in Uganda ends.
~ Going to the field to meet with IJM survivor group: On October 11thall of the new IJM interns and fellows, were able to go to the field to meet with a group of survivors from previous cases of land grabbing. We got to sit with the women who were part of the group and hear their stories and why the survivor group was important to them. Together, they have actually started a business making and selling all sorts of beautiful crafts to support themselves and their families. It was great hearing how proud the women were to have something of their own and something that they controlled. These women were true boss ladies!
~ ODPP Dinner Gala commemorating 10th anniversary of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act (PTIP): 2019 marked the 10 year anniversary of the PTIP in Uganda. On October 23rd, The Human Trafficking Institute (HTI) hosted a gala commemorating this occasion and honoring Justice Mike Chibita, the Director of Public Prosecution, for his role in the implementation of it. I attended this gala both as an invitee of Justice Chibita, as well as on behalf of IJM.
~ IJM Uganda National Retreat: IJM Uganda held its annual national retreat on December 3-6 in Jinja, Uganda. All of the staff from each of the three offices (Kampala, Gulu, Fort Portal) came together as one to reflect on the previous year as well as look ahead at what’s to come. There were tons of games, celebrations, and reflections that truly helped unify all three offices as one. It was a fun week to spend time with everyone and meet lots of new faces.
These next six months will surely be just as busy as the first but here are just a couple of things I’m most looking forward to in the next month or so:
~ Visiting the IJM Gulu and Fort Portal offices: With all of the work that has come, and will be coming, with the recent grants IJM has received, it is anticipated that many of the staff (including myself as a Legal Fellow) will be engaging in a lot of travel between the three offices. I’ve only spent time in the Kampala office so I’m very excited about the possibility of seeing the other two locations where IJM works in Uganda, as well as seeing some of the faces I came to know at the retreat. I’ve also heard how beautiful both Gulu and Fort Portal are, and how different they are from Kampala, so I’m looking forward to being able to see more of Uganda.
~ Plea bargaining – Pepperdine Prison Project: Pepperdine Law works with the Judiciary on the implementation of a plea bargaining system here in Uganda. The goal is to reduce the backlog of Uganda’s courts and reduce overcrowding in the prisons. Every year, they run a week long program where teams of attorneys and law students (Ugandan and American) travel to 2-4 different prisons looking over cases, conducting interviews with the accused, and negotiating deals with the prosecution. The purpose of the week long project is to work alongside Ugandan lawyers and law students implementing the plea bargaining process and training. IJM has assisted Pepperdine with this project for the past couple of years and will be doing the same this year. The project will take place in the beginning of March and we will be traveling to Mbarara and Bushenyi.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Fellow. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.