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!
Here are some recent quotes from teen girls who participated in Shanti Uganda’s Teen Girls Health and Empowerment workshops:
"My favourite activity from the Teen Girls workshop was learning to make pads, it is a skill that all girls should know and one I will teach to my friends who could not attend." - Rebecca, 17
"There are so many problems that young girls in Uganda face today. Divorce is a problem, and so is rape and violence. We live in poverty and have trouble getting basic needs. There are poor health centers and poor standards of living."- Lillian, 14
"Education is the key to our success. It gives good yields and makes someone achieve a lot. It will help me get the things I need and lead to a successful marriage,and a good family. Education is my future."- Farida, 16
"Baking cakes was the best part of my week. I don't have an oven and don't have money to buy baked goods but now I know how to make them myself on a stove top." - Esther, 12
"To fight HIV in Uganda we need to abstain from sex, and better educate people on how to practice safe sex. People need to be sensitized to the issue to get rid of stigmas surrounding HIV so that affected persons will seek treatment." -Brenda, 11
"Learning about the moon and the stars [mensturation] has taught me about my body and what to expect when that day comes, I now know about how to keep myself healthy and have proper hygiene." - Joan, 11
"I am unable to afford sanitary pads when I have my period, now that I know how to make them out of reusable materials I will not be embarrassed to attend school when I am bleeding." - Rebecca, 17
"Netball was fun to play because we got to hang out and talk with the Shanti staff while beating them at the game. It is a good way to have fun and not worry about everything else happening in our lives." -Nakato, 12
Thank you to our generous donors for making these workshops possible and such a success!
This project report has been shared by Nicole Belanger, an intern currently working in Uganda.
It is 5am on a Monday morning and Milly, an 18 year old girl from Lusenke village, rises and goes about starting her day. This morning however is different than any ordinary day. Milly wakes with more enthusiasm and excitement, as she is on school holidays and today is the first day of the Shanti Uganda Teen Girls and Empowerment workshop. Milly, like many other Ugandan girls who participate in the workshop, face challenges in order to attend. She must rise earlier to complete her domestic work because as one of the older children in her household she is expected to contribute to the family and carry more responsibility. She finishes her work and walks the 4km to a local primary school where the workshop is being held. There she is greeted by 23 other young females, all ebullient and eager to learn.
Ritah, Shanti Uganda’s agriculturist and teen girl’s leader, facilitates the workshop and creates an interactive and comfortable learning environment for the girls. As a mother of four young daughters she is personally invested in improving the health and wellbeing of young woman in Uganda. The ages of the girls in the workshop range from 10-18 and as one of the oldest participants, Milly stands out as a leader. She is able to provide advice and support for the younger girls, something that she did not have growing up in a male dominated household.
When asked about some of the difficulties faced by young women in Uganda, the girls respond by speaking of death and disease, poverty, lack of opportunity and poor health care centres. When the question is directed towards Milly, she raises her hand and answers “rape and early marriage”. These challenges are the reality of young women in Uganda, and across the world. But during this week, the week of Shanti Uganda Teen Girls Workshop, the girls are given the opportunity to focus on themselves and explore their future. They are able to discuss how to combat these challenges rather than be burdened by them.
Many topics are discussed throughout the week, ranging from sex education, healthy relationships, nutritional health, menstruation and confidence. For most of the girls, the highlight of the week is the sessions on reusable sanitary pad making. Milly has been particularly looking forward to the pad making as she and more than half of the other participants are unable to purchase the necessary sanitary products during their menstruation. Many of the girls mentioned that making pads is a skill they would like to teach their friends who were unable to attend the workshop. The pads are made of materials that are easily accessible for girls in Uganda.
The week drew to a close and the days seemed to go by quickly as they were filled with exciting activities. The girls played netball, learned yoga, sang songs and learned how to make delicious vanilla cakes which they would serve at their graduation ceremony. On the final day, family and community members joined in celebration of the girls completing the Shanti Uganda Teen Girls and Empowerment program. The girls had voted amongst themselves to elect a committee for community leadership, to monitor and take responsibility for each other, and to pass on and teach the information they had learned from the workshop to others in the community. Not surprisingly, Milly was elected as the president and chair leader of this committee. Her mother and older brothers watched Milly be selected by her peers with so much joy and pride.
The girls who leave the workshop do so as more confident and independent females than when they first arrived. Each one of them was able to take something out of this week that will stay with them as they grow into women. It is young individuals like Milly who remind us that girls are the future of our generation. Through the Teen Girls Workshop and Empowerment Program, Shanti Uganda is prioritizing women and providing women-centered care, recognizing the potential in young females and giving them an avenue into creating a new and brighter future.
This project report has been shared by Alisha Kaba, an intern currently working in Uganda.
A doctor, an accountant, a nurse, a teacher- these are the aspirations of the young girls who participate in Shanti Uganda’s Teen Girls Health and Empowerment Program and these are the bright souls who surround me at the beginning of my journey. I come from Canada while they come from Luwero and its surrounding towns, but despite our diversity it is apparent that as women we share one goal: to educate ourselves and prepare for our futures as independent and contributing members of society.
We too share one major difference: accessibility. The path to my aspirations has been made possible through my ability to travel to Uganda and learn from this experience at Shanti. The path to their aspirations lies in their ability to overcome the inaccessibility that hinders their future.
Stella to the rescue! Who better to empower and educate the women of the community than women of the community? Stella is one of two facilitators of the Shanti Uganda Teen Girls Health and Empowerment Program.
In the week long workshop, Stella covers various topics that range from sex education, healthy relationships, nutritional health, the female body and confidence. Stella – born and raised in Uganda, educated and employed in nursing and midwifery – serves as a great mentor for these young girls who find courage in Stella’s example of the success of a young woman in Uganda.
In addition to classroom discussions, Shanti’s Teen Girls Health and Empowerment workshop offers a combination of fun activities while skill building. Ritah, Shanti’s agriculturalist and facilitator extraordinaire conducts yoga classes, pad-making workshops and baking lessons.
The girls complete the week-long workshop with a graduation ceremony where they serve the delicious cake they have now learnt to make as well receive as receive graduation certificates from Shanti.
The best part of the week most certainly is this day. These girls have brought their parents and community members to join in the celebration and the atmosphere is positive, hopeful and joyous! Despite having shared their concerns regarding issues such as school fees and accessibility, each girl seems to have taken something useful from this workshop.
Watching Stella and Ritah in action is quite impressive as each offers knowledge specific to these young women and their daily challenges and aspirations. There is much to be done for young women in Uganda (as is for young women elsewhere in the world); fortunately, Stella and Ritah work to bring Shanti’s vision alive, prioritizing women centred care and ultimately impacting the community at large.
After having heard from their friends about the great leadership received from Stella and Ritah I am hopeful that Shanti’s next Teen Girls Health and Empowerment workshop in April will attract many new faces. I look forward to learning more about these passionate, young members of society as well witnessing two inspirational women offer such hope and wisdom!
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