Shanti's first Teen Girls Workshop for August started out strong. We got a full group of twenty-five girls, all of whom have heard of our workshop through other members of the community and were anxious to start. Their favourite part of the workshop has been learning about self-esteem and how to bake cakes. Most commented on how excited they were to be able to bake cakes and make some money to buy school materials.
At the end of the workshop a meeting was held with the parents and community leaders in order for the girls to show them what they had learned and how they could help them live the lessons every day. They staged a very entertaining production about a girl who was forced to look for other means of income because her family spent all the money on alcohol and entertainment. Thankfully it had a happy ending through the positive and constructive dialogue between her and her family. It was then decided that a leadership team would be formed with five girls who excelled in the workshop and five adults in the community who committed themselves to become role models and confidants for the success of the girls of their community.
The following is a story of young girl whose life was positively impacted by Shanti Uganda's Teen Girls Health and Empowerment workshop. Today only Global Giving will be matching donations by 30%! Please consider making a donation today and help us give more girls the same opportunity as Justine!
Justine is thirteen years old. Justine is bright and cheeky; a bit mischievous in a good-natured way. She loves to dance and stands out from all the other girls when she dances traditional Baganda dance. Traditional dance is her favorite. Justine wasn’t always such an extravert. Both of her parents died two years ago and when they did she came to live with Nagawa, Florence, traditional birth attendant, village health team volunteer, and Shanti Uganda staff member. Justine was withdrawn and isolated herself from her peers and others. Florence decided to send Justine with her own thirteen year old daughter Peace to Shanti Uganda’s upcoming Teen Girls Health and Wellness Workshop. The girls learned how to use re-usable menstrual pads during their menses, how to say no to early sex, and how to protect themselves against HIV and unwanted pregnancy. They had never had such classes like this at their school and they relished this new information and knowledge. But what made the greatest impression on Justine and was the beginning of a journey of self-discovery for this young woman were the practice of yoga and the participatory use of dance, drama, and sport to convey lessons. Justine discovered peace of mind in practicing yoga and found confidence in her natural ability as a performer. That was one year ago and it is hard to believe Justine was ever a reclusive girl. She is a mainstay of the Shanti Uganda family, and continues to share her experiences and what she learned from Shanti Uganda with her peers. She encourages her friends to also attend a Teen Girls’ Workshop. Justine now participates in the Teen Girls Health and Wellness Workshop not as an bitter and introverted girl but as a charismatic leader and positive role-model for young women.
Tuesday, February 25th was an exciting day for the girls at the New Life Secondary School in Luwero District, Uganda. That day two midwifes from Shanti came to the school to teach more than 70 girls aged 17 to 19 about healthy relationships, HIV and family planning.
During the lesson, more and more girls came into the classroom – a very basic room with a board and some wooden school benches to sit on. On their faces you could see huge smiles and big expectations. One of the most important topics in that age are healthy relationships. What matters in a relationship? How can I protect myself from rape and abuse? Is it my fault and a man’s right if he is doing it to me? What are the risks of early pregnancy and unsafe abortion?
The girls were engaged and eager to learn. They made some notes in their books and were really interested. The girls learned about HIV transmission and how to protect themselves. The male teacher was asked to leave the room after the girls requested to talk about that “girls stuff” alone. While one of the midwives was demonstrating how to use a condom, you could barely stand the noise and the hard laugh of the girls.
In the end the girls had the chance to ask all of their questions so that they could go back to their daily life with some new skills and knowledge. Empowering and educating girls in a country like Uganda where women’s rights are still a challenging issue is the key to creating change! Let us keep on working together to create something great in the life of those girls!
Because of you, in 2013 over 100 girls participated in 6 workshops on health and empowerment to equip them with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health!
The girls have begun to learn baking and sewing. Skills which they are eager to share with their peers. They have used drama as a tool to learn about positive role models, HIV/AIDS, and their sexual reproductive health rights. They are finding strong female leaders in their community such as Shanti Uganda's midwives to look up to.
As on of our young inspiring midwives, Stella, says, "I want to talk to women and be an inspiration so women know we all have been in tough times, but we all get there in the end!"
Seeing that Stella has beat the odds and has created her own path in life, one that includes education, independence, and ambition, these girls are learning that no matter where they have come from and no matter what their circumstance, they will "get there in the end."
Please take a moment to watch this video message to learn more about the impact donations just like yours have made in the lives of women and girls in Uganda!
Because of you 2014 will be another AMAZING year!
Shanti Uganda held our Teen Girls Workshop during the September school holidays. As usual, the girls engaged and enjoyed the sessions we gave on an a vast array of topics, varying from reusable pad making to navigating healthy relationships, and everything in between affecting the health of young women in Uganda. We take pride in these workshops, and look forward to hearing what the girls have to say about the week and how we can improve in the future.
Ordinarily, when we get feedback from the girls at the end of a workshop about the lessons they have learned, the answers we receive are predictable. Encouraging and certainly valid lessons, such as sharing with their friends about pad making and cake baking; but predictable nonetheless. However, at the end of this particular week, the girls did something different. Something inspiring.
Rather than purely provide feedback in written form, they decided to create a skit, filled with lessons they will take away from the week. They wrote, rehearsed and designed the entire play completely by themselves, and were excited to perform it to their family and friends at graduation, sharing the things they have learned. Encouragingly, the girls had created the entire play outside of workshop hours, staying back until after our sessions every evening to perfect the show. The play was about a young girl, Norah, who excelled in school and loved to learn. However, her mother squandered her school fees on alcohol and Norah was forced to drop out of school due to lack of funds and to care for her younger siblings. Norah didn’t know where to turn to for help, and she looked to her peer group for advice. The girls she associated with at school were less than helpful, and encouraged her to meet boys and forget about school (insert a lot of bad boy style moves with sideways hats here).
Norah was discouraged, but knew she wanted to finish school, so she searched for a role model, and eventually found one in her aunt. Her aunt helped her speak to her mother, to recognize the importance of schooling. She gave guidance about peer groups and the value of supportive friendships. In the end, Norah returned to school and continued to top her class in all of her subjects! The 26 lively girls we had this week all participated in the play in some way or another, and the show ended with two songs that the girls had composed themselves about the important roles that girls play in society. The show was a resounding success, and the girls relayed perfectly to their friends and families the messages they had learned.
For us, the show sent us a different message – that the workshops we are providing are not only teaching our girls valuable lessons, but they are also inspiring young women to inspire others. Uganda will have a very strong future if the young women we meet during our workshops have anything to say about it!
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