|Grassroots women leaders are changing the world. |
Photo © Andrea Leoncavallo
Here is an excerpt from one of Beatrice’s PulseWire posts at World Pulse: “For decades, 98% of the children and especially girls in rural Ugandan communities have been unable to complete high school. Only 0.5% will continue further for a tertiary training and graduate at a diploma level. This is due to the effects of chronic poverty, HIV, cultural beliefs that education is wasted on girls, and domestic violence. Although these girls currently live in situations where they have little hope for a future that doesn’t include poverty and marriage at a young age, they have dreams of becoming educated, independent women who can effect change in Uganda in a variety of ways. Rural Girl Child Mentorship Uganda (RGCM Uganda) project is a one-on-one girl-to-mentor project aimed at empowering Ugandan girls through financial assistance for continued education, shared knowledge and wisdom, and creative thinking.”
In just 39 days after starting RGCM Uganda on January 1, 2012, Beatrice had 37 committed mentors from Austria, Australia, England, Germany, Sweden and the United States. But despite her best efforts, only 40 girls were identified who met the basic requirements as most school age girls were already married. In the existing rural primary and secondary schools, administrators have little success in keeping girls enrolled due to the parents’ lack of understanding of the value of education.
Here is a personal story from one of the girls chosen to participate in RGCM Uganda and receive an education: “My parents force me to get married, sometimes they just bring for me a man to marry but I ignore and sometimes I ran away from home and hide until the man goes away. They normally bring men aged 35-60 years old. In the past I used to stay with my grandmother because my parents do not value girl child education. When she died, I forced my way back home. I live with my parents who never went to school and they do not know the value of education. I always make my own school fees and buy my scholastic materials. I cut trees and burn charcoal and I leave some of the trees as firewood and also sell. I also grow vegetables and sell in the market. I value education so much, I know that what a man can do, a woman can also do. My dream is to become a lawyer and fight away the violence against girls who are taken as source of making money.” Aboth Regina, 19.
RGCM Uganda has recently partnered with the Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation (PCE-Foundation) to create awareness of the value of educating girls, as well as boys, in rural communities by targeting 5000 students and 700 parents/guardians in 50 schools from April 30 to August 31, 2012. By doing so they hope to help communities understand the importance of education as a sustainable solution to household poverty.
The 40 girls selected by RGCM Uganda for 2012 are now attending boarding schools and communicating often with their mentors…both “happy to have found each other." And all this is happening because one empowered woman found her “voice” to become an education advocate for potentially thousands of young girls in Uganda, who could eventually help effect positive change in the world!