In January 2014, eleven girls from disparate parts of their poorest parts of Uganda convened for three weeks of intensive training offered by Global Grassroots after they graduated from high school. They were like eager sponges. They soaked up social entrepreneurship skills, leadership training, personal transformation exercises and mindfulness practices. And in spite of all this, they quietly wondered if they really had the skills, ability and confidence to return to their home communities and put into action, ventures that they had just (remarkably) designed on their own. Without realizing it, they had already accomplished a lot: the creation of a social mission and plan of action to tackle troubling and enduring issues: school drop outs, unemployment, domestic violence, early pregnancies - that they determined they would try to change - alone. At least at first.
Could they do it? They were asking themselves, and we too were not sure what was possible. Afterall, these girls were the pioneers, the first group of girls to be trained in Uganda by Global Grassroots. Global Grassroots had never trained girls to start a venture alone, independently, without being part of a team. So when we reconvened in May, it was with pure joy that the girls effusively shared their progress. "What was your biggest surprise," we asked? And the consistent answer from each one was disbelief that adults from their communities were willing to listen to them. And not only listen to them but go on to support them in innumerable ways including time and resources.
One of Global Grassroots' trainees, the highest level educated from her village (located, west, near the Democratic Republic of Congo) turned down two job offers because she was determined to make an impact on the troubling, pervasive issue of girls marrying early and dropping out of school. When she started training, she has 120 eager girls who wanted to hear what she had to say. Josie figured out how to manage training large groups of girls at the same time, and then started an intensive training session for the more serious 40 girls on Saturdays. Josie's project so inspired her local council leadership that she was invited to be part of the Town Council Meeting.
Another trainee, Harriet, offered lessons on the issue of dropping out of school, and she first remembered, "I did not think that I was of great value to the community... but when I started talking to the girls many people were happy and gave me encouragement. The girls - they have hope to study and finish. They are always promising to not let me down."
And one other student, Kellen, was deeply disturbed by the domestic violence in her community and courageously took on this issue. She returned from Kabale, her home community saying, "I have learnt something great... I didn't know that I am courageous and that I can speak and people listen to me .... and even in giving out the lesson I was feeling strong and firm." She now has people in her village discussing a new policy that will limit the bar hours to help diminish the incidences of domestic violence which are mainly caused by over drinking.
These are only three of eleven success stories. And certainly the girls faced challenges. Many. They were continually hassled about "the whites," or that they must be making money, or why weren't they getting something from this work? And they didn't find answering these questions easy. They each described to us and their classmates (their "sisters") how they patiently listened and how they managed these encounters based on tools they had learned in their training.
Encouraged by their shared stories and equipped with new skills and tools from their May training, the girls return to our partner, and their former bording school - Cornerstone Leadership Academy - for a graduation ceremony this August before they head to university. To those of you who have supported Global Grassroots' Girls Academy for Conscious Change, we extend our deepest gratitude. We look forward to updating you on their progress and encourage you to continue to support our training that supports these girls and their communities.
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