The Shanti Uganda Society

The Shanti Uganda Society improves infant and maternal health, provides safe women-centered care and supports the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. We imagine a world where birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS are supported, empowered and able to develop to their full potential. All Shanti Uganda programs contribute to our guiding organizational values - Community Participation: All projects are locally initiated and supported with a deep sense of solidarity and ownership. Work on the ground is supported through the time, passion and employment of the local communities we work with. Unity: We support and embrace everyone within the global f...
Feb 28, 2017

Here We Grow Again...

Shanti PC, interns and staff meet with experts
Shanti PC, interns and staff meet with experts

The Shanti Uganda Society is thrilled to announce our plans currently underway to design and operate a refreshed and expanded community garden site! The garden will be operated partly on the land which presently surrounds the birth house compound, as well as on a newly purchased lot of undeveloped land being added onto Shanti’s current site, totalling approximately 3 acres.

Shanti’s vision for this project is to implement a teaching and demonstration garden that aims to benefit pregnant women, new mothers and teen girls, as well as the greater community in the rural Nsasi village and beyond. Through monthly workshops and demonstration sessions, participants will learn about the benefits of organic agriculture for nutrition and dietary biodiversity, soil fertility, compost best practices, irrigation; particularly vital considering the climactic conditions in Nsasi and Kasana districts, located just 30 kilometers from the equator.

Sustainable development and grassroots community engagement by way of organic agriculture best practices hold huge potential as measures of climate change mitigation. An overarching focus of the garden workshops will be to inspire passion for sustainable attitudes and environmentally-conscious living, with the vision of these behaviours permeating from our target group to a further reach, and thus a greater impact.

These workshops will be complimented with interactive training sessions teaching how to implement these gardening practices on small-scales in participants’ backyards, for example. Shanti plans to run 12 monthly workshops over the next year starting in March with an aim to reaching 360 pregnant and new mothers, as well as engaging other members of the wider community.

Our plan for the garden itself is to operate a permaculture site based in the core principles of organic agriculture and sustainability best practices. Permaculture is a method and ideology of organic agriculture by which the farmer works with the land and nature, rather than takes away from it through use of chemicals and industrial farming techniques. A main goal of permaculture is to grow resilient, low-intensive, and high-yielding crop varieties using the resources available to produce the best quality crops. Respecting the natural ecology and land that you have to work with and using the resources available in the given environment are key permaculture principles.

We are delighted to announce this exciting new project and cannot wait to keep you updated as the ideas are planted and seeds begin to grow – figuratively and literally! For this initial launch fundraiser, we have set a goal of $4,000. These funds will go to covering payment for professional training of Shanti’s Ugandan staff – our groundskeeper, Kato and nutritionist, Ritah – so that they will be able to lead community garden workshops, the purchase of resources on teaching community-wide workshops on topics such as irrigation and compost, the purchase of seedlings for our nursery garden beds, and others materials for workshops.

Overall Shanti’s vision for the community garden project is to inspire passion for sustainable living, starting with a focus on nutrition and organic gardening through community engagement and empowerment. Stay tuned for updates and photos on our progress!

Groundskeeper Kato and TBA Flora
Groundskeeper Kato and TBA Flora
Feb 22, 2017

Shanti Welcomes Founder Natalie for Weekend Visit

Natalie & her daughter on her last Shanti visit
Natalie & her daughter on her last Shanti visit

Shanti Uganda Welcomes Founder Natalie for Weekend Visit

Reporting from Kasana, we are thrilled to welcome Shanti Uganda’s founder Natalie Angell-Besseling for a visit to the Shanti birth house this coming Saturday! After she has participated in a maternal health conference in Kenya, Natalie will be travelling to Kasana the following day. Birth house staff and interns alike are excited to welcome Natalie back to Uganda, especially us newly recruited interns who will have the pleasure of finally meeting her in person.

Given the atmosphere of enthusiasm in anticipation of Natalie’s visit, we found it appropriate to focus this report on a “then and now” look at Shanti’s humble beginnings, and how much amazing progress has been made since the organization’s establishment in 2008.

After a trip to Uganda in 2007 while volunteering as a doula at a local hospital, Natalie connected with a group of women making artisanal beads in Kampala. This meeting led her to Kasana, Luweero, where after engaging and working with the local community, the first group of women were selected from a group of 600 HIV positive women to form Shanti’s first Women’s Income Generating Group. With support of this women’s group and the guidance of various community members, the charity entered into the planning stages for establishing a community birth centre.

One of Shanti’s founding principles is “seva,” the Sanskrit word meaning selfless service. This principle is evidenced in Shanti’s core values of holistic care, growth, integrity, sustainability and unity. They permeate through all of Shanti’s programs and projects that strive to impact the women, young infants, adolescents and the greater community we serve. Since the birth house was established, the Shanti Uganda midwives have successfully delivered over 1,000 healthy babies, conducted 2,555 postnatal visits, and welcomed more than 700 family planning clients. Just this past weekend, 8 babies were delivered over 2 days.

In the beginning, Shanti was imaginably a much smaller operation than it is today. Currently, Shanti operates 4 different projects on Global Giving: Saving Lives at Birth, WIGG (the evolution of the original Women’s Income Generating Group beginning in 2008), the Teen Girls program, and a Community Garden project. We look forward to establishing a teen boys programme in the near future.

From it’s beginnings as a small women’s group to a now flourishing maternal health centre, the Shanti Uganda charity has evolved significantly and impacted many lives along the way. Shanti Uganda is truly a testament to the power of perseverance, empowerment and integrity in manifesting holistic community development for the better.

To learn more about Shanti Uganda’s history, please visit http://shantiuganda.org/who-we-are/our-story/. Stay tuned for updates and photos of Natalie’s visit to the birth house this coming Saturday, February 25, which will also be the date of the 2017 WIGG kick-off event, where the women’s group will celebrate their achievements so far and launch the next phase of their program with Shanti Uganda staff, interns and Natalie.

Recent WIGG meeting held at Shanti birth house
Recent WIGG meeting held at Shanti birth house
Feb 7, 2017

Arming Teen Girls with Knowledge and Empowerment

Smiles for miles at 2016 Teen Girls workshop
Smiles for miles at 2016 Teen Girls workshop

Shanti’s Teen Girls Workshops: Arming Young Women with Knowledge through Empowerment

 

As the success of the Women’s March on Sunday permeates through women's causes around the world, we at Shanti find renewed purpose in running our Teen Girls Workshop.

 

As the government announced it “discourages the teaching of sexual education in schools saying that there are other more appropriate avenues for teaching children about matters of sex and sexuality.” The Ministry of Gender released a statement that it will ban sexuality education at schools because it would conflict cultural values.

 

Young people in Uganda have and continue to show their clear disapproval of this announcement. At the Intergenerational Dialogue (IGD) on sexual health in Kampala in November, 3,000 youths expressed their discontent. The IGD was organized by Rutgers’ partner Reaching A Hand Uganda (RAHU), a youth-led organization that aims to improve the sexual health and rights of young people.

 

This makes the topics covered in the weeklong workshop co-run by Shanti’s Nutritionist Rita even more invaluable to the girls being educated. Some of these topics include nutrition, healthy living, hygiene, healthy relationships, STI and HIV education, rape, safe sex, and reproduction. Of particular relevance and vital importance to the girls is safe sex and available contraceptive methods.

 

Early marriage is the leading cause of teenage pregnancy in Uganda with over 90 percent of the teenage pregnancies being among girls who are married before the age of 18, according to the Guttmacher Institute report. Almost half of Ugandan girls are married by the age of 18 and according to the 2011 Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS), 24 percent of female teenagers are either pregnant or have given birth already.

 

In Shanti’s effort and intention to empower the young women of Uganda, we believe in starting with a base of knowledge. As minister of Health for General Duties, Sarah Opendi says “We can’t afford to pretend and shy away. There is already a big problem. Rather than to blame us on moral grounds, people should come out and support [their sisters, daughters, mothers, and fellow Ugandans]. We can’t continue with the worrying teenage pregnancy rates, among the highest in the world.”

 

Shanti’s Teen Girls Workshop aims to arm young without with the knowledge to make safe choices and create opportunities for themselves.

Yoga class in Shanti
Yoga class in Shanti's back yard
 
   

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