Street Girls Live off Discarded Maize Grain

2143 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
In their accommodation quarters, about 50 girls cram together in a single room on improvised beddings.

11—year- old Sylvia Nateke and her friend 14-year-old Juliana Nakiru came to Kampala from Moroto district five months ago to look for money. They are part of dozens of street girls between 8 and 15-years of age, who survive by collecting and selling Maize that drops off trucks in Kisenyi slums during loading and off loading. Every morning, the dirty looking minors carry brooms and head to Kisenyi slums around the maize milling zones to start work. Once a truck off loads produce, the minors sweep and pick up the maize on the ground, which they sell at a lower price to millers. 

According to Nakiru and Nateke they sell a Kilo of discarded maize grain between 200 and 500 shillings. The children spend of the money on their basic needs such as food and accommodation and allegedly send part of it to their parents, who often encourage them to come to Kampala due to the harsh conditions in Karamoja. On Monday our reporter found about 15 girls crawling under Lorries to scoop maize. Their movements fast and meticulous, some are friendly to the men loading the trucks who occasionally give them discarded grain.

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Michael Gatema, a maize dealer explains that sometimes he has to chase the girls away for obstructing business. He says the street girls risk being knocked by motorcycles in the busy Kisenyi trading centre.

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A days’ work for the street girls ends at 6PM, then they pick their brooms and piles of maize and head to look for a place to sleep. Sara Namboza came to Kampala from Moroto in 2008, after collecting maize for a while, she says street life became harsh and she opted for domestic work. Namboza told URN that the living conditions for the teenage street girls is appalling. In their accommodation quarters, about 50 girls cram together in a single room on improvised beddings.

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Martin Kiiza, the Secretary General National Council for Children in the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development says despite interventions to get the children from the streets, they still return and are exposed to exploitation.

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Kiiza says the Government discourages any activity that keeps children on the streets.