It often is a challenge to come up with objective measures of success when working on issues affecting girls' empowerment. One of the measures GET UP has focused upon is increasing the number of girls who complete their secondary education and perform well on the national exam required at the conclusion of secondary school. The grade a student earns on this comprehensive exam dictates eligibility for college or university, and in turn whether one is prepared for stable employment. It has been difficult for our students to do as well on the nation-wide exam as the students who have not faced so many obstacles to academic success. However, through the years we have seen steady improvement in the test scores our students have achieved. Through the GET UP program (Girls Empowerment Team of the Umoja Project) the goal has been to help girls overcome the additional challenges they face as young women, such that they perform to the best of their ability on the national exam. We are excited to say that the girls who sat for the exam this year did exceedingly well! For the first time, 6 girls earned direct admittance to the university with government support. Congratulations to Caroline, Maurine, Helida, Emily, Carolyne, and Risper! We are so proud of the accomplishments of these young women. They have encountered so many challenges, yet persevered. Your support for GET UP helped to make their success possible, and we thank you.
It is difficult to measure in concrete terms the success of a program like GET UP. Certainly we are encouraged by the declining drop-out rates and the higher academic performance we have seen in our secondary school girls. We feel hopeful about girls increasing willingness to speak up about their legal rights, as well as to articulate their experiences of sexual harassment or assault.
However, one of the most exciting signals that the GET UP program is giving girls the skills and confidence needed for full community participation is the recent formation of the "Pamoja Ladies of the Umoja Project." Pamoja means "together" in Swahili, and the Pamoja Ladies are young high school graduates who have been active in GET UP coming together to provide encouragement for one another, as well as to reach back and assist the younger girls still in middle and high school. Completely on their own initiative, 13 young women attended the first meeting to establish the group's mission and goals:
The first project the Pamoja Ladies undertook was to raise funds by taking holiday photos for families. The money raised will go towards helping girls with their school fees.
Take a moment to look at the photo of Bella, Debra, Esther and the other Pamoja Ladies. These young women all come from very humble backgrounds, and each has overcome significant challenges to get to where she is today. Each has been the beneficiary of your support through GET UP. As they work towards their own goals and assist other young women facing challenges, Pamoja Ladies are the evidence that GET UP is working. We thank you for your support!
Recently, as the annual GET UP retreat for secondary school girls came to a close, 16 year old Regina complained, “Did it have to end so soon?” Her question was echoed by many of the 75 girls attending the event, for whom the yearly get-away is a rare opportunity to leave responsibilities behind and have time for themselves.
During the weekend, the girls attended seminars on self-care, study skills and life skills. They participated in group and individual counseling sessions, and participated in discussions on topics ranging from teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases to children’s rights.
However, as valuable as the formal program for the retreat was, most of the girls left feeling as Regina did: the best part of the weekend was the opportunity to be a part of a community of girls with similar life experiences. Each of the girls who participate in GET UP has an individual story of loss and hardship, and those difficult life experiences often leave the adolescent girls feeling isolated. The retreat weekend is an opportunity for the girls to support and console one another, and to realize that they are not alone.
Your support for GET UP makes events like the annual retreat possible. On behalf of Regina and the other girls, we thank you!
Caroline's parents died when she was young. She and her younger siblings moved in with their grandmother, but the grandmother's own frail health meant Caroline had a lot of responsibility taking care of the family. In spite of these challenges, Caroline was the top performing student of her class throughout primary school. With tuition support from the Umoja Project, she was able to go to high school, and again she excelled. However, in her third year, she disappeared from school one day. After weeks of trying to trace her, the Umoja Project staff found her staying with a distant relative with her newborn son. She was ashamed of the circumstances that led to her pregnancy and assumed she would not be able to complete her schooling.
To Caroline's surprise, Umoja Project staff and school teachers worked together to make sure Caroline could resume her education. A relative provides care for baby Charles while Caroline studies. Back in school, Caroline quickly resumed her position at the top of her class, and has held onto it ever since. Caroline is currently in her last year of high school and is expected to perform exceedingly well, perhaps even setting a school record for her score on the national exam she will take in November!
Caroline is a soft spoken leader who presents herself with confidence. Her big, warm smile is accompanied by dimples. She says she loves her dimples, which is a small glimpse into the self-acceptance and courage of this young woman.
GET UP is critical for girls like, giving them confidence and the opportunity to see beyond challenges they currently face. Teachers, guardians and former Umoja students lead sessions on a variety of topics such as coping with emotions, legal rights and reproductive health. The attention given to the girls and the unique struggles they face gives a message to Caroline and her friends that they matter. Knowing they matter inspires them to speak up in class, to value themselves and to dream.
Your support for young girls like Caroline equips them with the information and the confidence needed to overcome challenges they face due to their vulnerability. We thank you for your support!
One of the joys of running a program designed to empower young women to follow their dreams and reach their full potential is that we get to witness it happening! Carolyne is one of the remarkable young women who has been participating in GET UP programs for the last two years. Read a bit about her story:
Carolyne's father died when she was very young. "I don't even remember how my Dad looked. I was only five then and I knew very little." Her mother survived, but struggled to provide for Carolyne and her three siblings Collins, Monicah, and Ausler. To help her mother out, Carolyne's Aunt Rose took young Carolyne in, and in her new primary school Carolyne became part of the Umoja Project's extended family. With support from Umoja, Carolyne performed very well in school and is now in her final year of high school.
However, back at home her brother Collins was not doing well. Although he too had worked hard and done well in school, he had fallen ill with a serious condition which doctors have not been able to diagnose. Collins is so debilitated by the mysterious illness he is confined to home and has had to drop out of school. Carolyne says, "I stay with my Aunt, and I am privileged to have come this far in my schooling of all my siblings. But my brother's sorry state wears me out. I attend GET UP events that I may attain a high score to present it as a gift to my brother Collins. He cannot pursue studies because of his condition. I want to do it for him."
On a recent school break, Carolyne and the other GET UP girls in their final year of high school attended tutoring and mentoring sessions to help them prepare for the national exam they will take in November. The girls want to do well on the exam, so they are eligible for further studies at the university level. Carolyne completed the GET UP sessions with renewed determination to perform well for her brother.
"I want to be a doctor in the future," she says with a sparkle in her eyes. She laughs, as a teacher reminds her of how far she has come and how much farther she is capable of going.
Your support for young women like Carolyne is having a transformative effect on their lives! We are deeply grateful for your commitment for GET UP's programs and the girls it serves.
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