We first met Mike and Irene, the director and accountant of Hashtag Gulu, in 2022 following a referral from our accounts and administration officer who lived in Gulu. They explained to us how their organisation came about and what they do. A year later, after taking the time to check the conditions of the partnership and reflecting together on our mutual contributions, here we are, working together on a brand new project: art as a tool for social integration for children in conflict with the law.

In Uganda, thousands of children and young people live and work on the streets and are affected by poverty, hunger and violence. They are rejected, feared and stigmatised by the local community, harassed and arrested by the police, with the risk of becoming criminals for lack of other viable options. Moreover, most street children and young people are already accused of a variety of social ills, and many end up in juvenile detention at least once during their childhood.

The project set up by Hashtag Gulu therefore aims to improve their social integration by using artistic activities to help them develop a positive attitude towards responsible living during, and after, imprisonment, while identifying and developing their talents. In addition, forum theatre is used as a platform for exchange with their community.

The project focuses on young people living on the streets and minors in detention, their parents and members of their communities. In this way, as the young people prepare to live harmoniously in their communities, their parents/guardians and the wider community also prepare to accept them. This is done by strengthening the capacity of these young people to defend their own rights. To this end, the following activities are being implemented: training in forum theatre, scene creation and presentation to communities; artistic training in music, dance and painting; awareness-raising events for parents and communities; parent-youth exchange meetings; and workshops for parents to reinforce a positive parenting approach.