Youth have been both the primary victims and the primary actors in the twenty-two year war between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. It was not clear, however, exactly who is suffering, how much, and in what ways. For instance, researchers knew little about the experience of youth: what is the magnitude, incidence, and nature of the violence, trauma, and suffering of youth in northern Uganda? An understanding of the effects of war on women and girls was particularly lacking, whether they were abducted or affected by the violence in other ways.
Government, UN, and NGO officials admit a lack of field-based information on the scale of the problems facing young women or the proportion of females facing specific vulnerabilities. As a result, programming is based on rough measures of well-being, immediate and observable needs, and possibly erroneous assumptions about the types of assistance required and the appropriate beneficiary population. Not surprisingly, the targeting of services has been crude.
The Survey of War Affected Youth (SWAY) seeks to improve the information available to service providers working with youth to implement better evidence-based programming. This report presents findings on female youth in northern Uganda. Specific topics include:
- War Violence and Abduction
- Forced Marriage and Motherhood within the LRA
- Psychosocial Well-being and Mental Health
- Sexual and Domestic Violence
Findings are based on a quantitative survey of 1,018 households and 619 young women and girls. The team also conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with a sub-sample of survey respondents, their friends, community members, and family. The survey sample was drawn from pre-war household rosters of youth. Migrants were located in their current homes and we gathered data from families of young women we were unable to find, including those who had died or been abducted and not returned. Surveys were conducted between October 2006 and August 2007.
SWAY evidence strongly suggests that the Ugandan government, UN agencies, and NGOs should abandon targeting categories based on war experience, such as the “formerly abducted,” “girl mother,” and “orphan.” While important in the experience of an individual and her family, these categories do not prove useful in determining vulnerability or need. War has had a profound impact on a much broader segment of the population than those within these parameters, and that assistance should be targeted towards measurable needs—regardless of a specific war experience. Examples of observable needs to target include illiteracy, chronic unemployment, family estrangement, emotional distress, serious injury, and illness.