Brighter Futures for 65,000 Ugandan Girls

by Act4Africa Vetted since 2010 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit Site Visit Verified
Moreen (20) and her 5 year old daughter Joylin
Moreen (20) and her 5 year old daughter Joylin

“Thank you for giving young mothers a chance to live life just like others.” says Moreen, aged 20.

Moreen is a primary beneficiary of our adolescent mothers project in Kasese, Western Uganda.  Over the last 3months we have been assessing the project's impact on primary beneficiaries, mostly in their communities and sometimes at school, to those who have been encouraged to join school again, after dropping out some time back.

Generally, there has been a big, positive change in their lives, both socially and economically. Their social status has improved through their own high self-esteem and a reduction in stigma. Membership of saving groups and active engagement in their own businesses has led to financial independence which has greatly changed the attitudes of young mothers themselves and other people towards them.

In our case study this month, we bring Moreen, a young mother from Munkunyu Sub County. Moreen, aged 20 years is a school dropout and a mother of one child.  She is a victim of gender inequality and domestic violence right back from her early years at her parent’s home. Moreen dropped out of school in the second year of senior school, after her mother divorced due to the polygamous and alcoholic behaviour of her father. 

Moreen tells us, “My stepmother kept me at home to do housework and babysitting the young children. This kept me busy most of school days and I missed a lot in class.  This led to poor performance and my father stop paying my fees.  Life became completely difficult when my father lost his job and the family depended on the small business run by the stepmother.  This gave her all powers to do anything against my education.”

As a result Moreen was denied most essential needs, something that made her look at men as a good alternative to get what she missed at home, though she regrets that it was short lived and temporary, saying “I wish I had known.”  Moreen became pregnant at an early age of 15 years.  With a child of 5 years now, she lives a single life with her mother, after she was chased out of her father’s home when she became pregnant.

Moreen told us that, “Life has slowly changed and the future seems to be bright,” adding that Hope came as a result of the trainings and knowledge I got from the workshops organised by Act4Africa and being encouraged to join the saving groups.” She told us that “Even my mother was a beneficiary in the wider community program.”  Moreen has teamed up with her mother and, through small loans acquired from their Act4Africa saving group, runs a small business selling fruit (pineapples, oranges and mangoes) alongside the Uganda-Congo highway in the trading centre of her village. She said “The business is doing well because we are able to get essential needs at home and also we can access small loans to cater for emergencies which was not the case before.”

With the knowledge acquired through actively participating in the training, Moreen says she has been empowered and is now saving little money from the business with a plan of joining school again. After senior school she hopes to join a vocational course like tailoring or hairdressing, such that she can fully support her family. Moreen also hopes to further train in beading, so she can make small bags for sale to boast her income.

Moreen concluded, “The project has greatly changed my life.  It is bringing me hope as a young mother. Thank you for giving young mothers chance to live life just like others.”

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Abius and her child
Abius and her child

This month I bring you the story of Abius, aged 18: a young, single mother of one who has joined the Act4Africa adolescent mothers’ program in Kasese.

Abius tells us, “I dropped out of school aged 13 years. I was a victim of domestic violence that led to my parents’ divorce. I was brought up by my stepmother in a very harsh way and forced to leave school. I lacked essential basic needs, such as sanitary towels, and had no way out, other than being sexually active with boys who would promise me a better life - though this added more problems into my life.”

Abius got pregnant and gave birth at the age of 16years.  The father denied responsibility and her parents sent her out of their home. Life was miserable for Abius, who moved to stay with her peasant grandmother and brought her child into a harsh financial situation.

Abius today says, “I am not the same girl of that time because of the training by Act4Africa. I am now empowered and have gained hope and self-esteem. My early suffering was due to lack of knowledge and poverty. I am now an active member of Kirembe adolescent mothers’ saving group, where I save the little money I get from laboring in people’s gardens. I am hoping to get a loan from the savings group in March and start up my own business in the market.” Abius says “The financial knowledge I have gained has been a great turning point in my life because it has empowered me economically and given me a position in my community.”

Abius adds, “The sexual/reproductive health education answered many unanswered questions for me regarding my social life.  I will never get unwanted pregnancy again because I feel able to negotiate condom use.”

My last report on the Adolescent Mothers project, brought you the story of Lorene, who, last October took a loan from her savings group and started a food vending business. She has already managed to pay off the loan with a small interest.  At Christmas she managed to buy herself and her child clothes from her savings and she is now able to get a few necessities at home, something that was impossible before joining the group. Lorene plans to continue saving in the group and to get another loan in February to expand the business during the cotton harvesting season. 

Since my last report, follow up visits have been made across all sub-counties of operations. We have found that members are organised well in their groups, with an aim to save and get small loans for business start-up, share health knowledge and practice kitchen gardening to improve livelihoods and the nutrition of their families.

Thanks to the support of GlobalGiving and donations received there are now 8 active saving groups of young mothers and female community members, across 3 sub-counties of Kasese district.  For Abius, Lorene and many other young women, “Life has really changed.”

Please help us continue our progress with these young women and change more lives by setting up a recurring monthly donation to A Brighter Future for 65,000 girls through GlobalGiving.

Loren and her customers
Loren and her customers

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Meet Lorene
Meet Lorene

Meet Lorene

Lorene left school at the age of 13 and she is now a 17 year old married mother of one child.

Lorene's husband is a Boda Boda rider (giving lifts on a motorbike for money) but his income provides less than half of the family's basic needs.

Lorene said, "I joined an Act4Africa savings group of 20 young mothers and as a result of the financial knowledge I received I started to think about savings and how to start a business. I shared ideas with the group and my mother-in-law and she helped me to save small amounts of money. I managed to get a loan of 85,000 Ugandan Shillings (~£18) from the savings group and used that to start a small food vending business, cooking and selling hot food. The business is doing well and I am working hard to pay back the loan with some of the money I am making.

My husband's attitude towards me has changed since I started my business and our family is now a peaceful one. My husband used to be unkind towards me because I had to depend on him for everything, and this made me unhappy. At one stage I wanted a divorce because I was embarrased in front of my in-laws and neighbours, but now I think I have the beginning of happiness in my marriage.

Since I started the business we now have food at home all the time and I can pay for some small things without having to wait for my husband any more. We hope that the business will continue to grow to enable us to buy our own motorcycle for my husband to ride in future.

I wish Act4Africa and money from GlobalGiving could be used to reach more vulnerable mothers so they can change their lives socially and economically. It has greatly changed my life and I now live happily".

Meet Moreen

Moreen left school at the age of 15 and when she was 16 she became pregnant. The father of the child refused to marry or take care of her however, and she had to continue living with her peasant family.

Moreen said, "Life has been miserable and extremely hard since I have been entirely dependent on my parents for my survival and that of my child, yet my parents can hardly meet the basic needs at home.

I joined other young mothers for the Act4Africa training and felt empowered by the knowledge of sexual and reproductive health as well as financial literacy. I am now part of a small village savings group with 15 members which meets once a week.

The financial literacy knowledge greatly empowered me since it taught me that even poor people can save something small which accumulates over time. Most of my savings, to begin with, were from casual labour offered in people's gardens, weeding crops and cultivating land. By doing this I managed to save a reasonable amount that enabled me to get a small loan from the savings group.

After getting a loan of 50,000 Ugandan Shillings (~£11)I was able to set up a small business selling eatables at the roadside under tree shade. The business idea was from the finance training and sharing ideas with friends in the savings groups. Business is picking up and I am able to save most days and pay back part of the loan each time the group meets.

My life will change in time since I hope to keep saving and to get another loan to expand my business so I can support my parents and child.

I thank Act4Africa and GlobalGiving for the program that is empowering young mothers and the work should not stop, so that life will continue to be bright". 

Lorene has set up a food vending business
Lorene has set up a food vending business
Meet Moreen
Meet Moreen
Moreen has set up a fruit and vegetable stall
Moreen has set up a fruit and vegetable stall

RESULTS TO DATE: 

90 Adolescent Mothers are fully involved in the programme

494 Adolescent Mothers and community members have attended HIV and stigma awareness sessions

196 Adolescent Mothers and community members have tested for HIV/STIs

8% of those tested for HIV/STIs have been people with disabilities

5,000 Information leaflets about sexual health and HIV have been distributed

The activity implementation of July was mainly focused on voluntary HIV testing, supply of contraceptives and training of Adolescent Mothers and the community.  All this is a continuous series of planned activities of the project. We mainly trained on stigma reduction  and gender equality knowledge in the community and the same topics were re-trained in the groups of AMs, after a request by these groups to have the same knowledge in a broader way for better understanding of the topics. This was a result of the impact of knowledge gained by the AMs during last month and also to put more emphasis on ending stigma and gender inequality amongst the participants and community at large, which is likely to reduce gender based violence and domestic violence in homes of the beneficiaries. The Act4Africa training manual was used to guide all trainings and several fun games were applied during the training.

The voluntary HIV and other STI outreach in the community was based on a theme of zero HIV through knowing your status, which was generated by the A4A team. We encouraged many people to come and test especially the married couples to come with their partners. The turn up was so encouraging and it is from here that we also passed on basic HIV knowledge and condom demonstration to participants. The testing exercise also included pre-test and post counselling session. The community trainings and HIV testing information was given on a public address system that helped us to reach many people, even those in the nearby areas/ by passers.

We supplied condoms to both adult males and females, including the married couples who turned for the testing and training exercise, and also education leaflets were given to the participants.

Most of the training discussions were centred on stigma, condom use and gender equality, to create a broad way of understanding of knowledge related to the topics among the participants. Both self and social stigma and the feeling it creates were discussed. Different games were used to enhance the understanding - Stop Go, Simon Says, Who Can I Tell it and Cat & Mouse were involved in the training. Here participants were encouraged to pass the knowledge gained, especially in their homes, such that stigma and gender inequality can be fought and ended for both men and women to live in an equal rights society.

The project is greatly registering achievements especially in areas of meeting the targeted AMs numbers as primary beneficiaries and the community as well. It is impacting lives of the beneficiaries by creating change in behaviour and ways of living. This was revealed through the Focus Group Discussions held in July and also individual Case Studies. The changed mind-set of beneficiaries to use condoms as a way protecting against HIV/AIDS and other STIs and unwanted pregnancies, the need for people to come and test for HIV, and also the testimonies given by the participants regarding change in ways of living and how they are treated by husbands, greatly shows the positive impact. Therefore the project is impacting lives of people and we hope this change will continue to happen as the project moves on.

 Case Study 1

Geneva is a young mother now aged 14 years and a victim of stigma that led to dropping out of school. She is a beneficiary of the AM project, which has empowered her. Geneva dropped out of school after developing a skin disease that many of her friends and people in general related to symptoms of HIV/AIDS because her body had lots of scars and scabs with an unusual skin rash. Her friends isolated her and stopped playing with her and the situation became worse when no one was willing to even touch her books, pens or anything of hers at school. This situation forced her out of school and to stay at home, but still some of her relatives isolated her, which made her life desperate at that time. After a long stay at home she would no longer go back to school because of feeling inferior. While she was out of school Geneva was unfortunately impregnated and this meant her future end with education. The added situation being pregnant kept her even more in isolation and hiding in the house from the public. She felt extremely lonely and useless at that time. But now with AM training from Act4Africa with her group, Geneva feels there is no reason why someone should be stigmatised or accept being stigmatised by others just because of rumours and grapevine information. Geneva now feels more empowered and that if she had a chance to go back to school she would take it on. She is encouraging others to always challenge stigma and for people to stop stigmatising others.

“We should love and support each other regardless of our social and health status”, said Geneva as she ended her story. 

Case Study 2

Lorene is a young mother now aged 17 years and a victim of gender based violence which affected her studies and resulted in her dropping out of school at the early age of 13. She is a beneficiary of the AM project.Lorene narrated her story about gender based violence resulting from gender inequality and how she feels after the training.

Lorene dropped out of school while in Primary 7. This was as a result of her parents, who were not educated and who told her that she should stop schooling because women are meant for marriage. The father also wanted a bride price. Lorene insisted that she should stay at school but the parents could not be defeated of their idea. They told her that by birth she was meant to be a native/witch doctor since the spirits of her ancestors had chosen to work through her to make revelations to her family members. At this point the father refused to pay for her education and she stopped going to school. After 2 years of doing domestic work at home, because she was the only girl, being laughed at, scorned and isolated by parents and her brothers, which tortured her psychologically and never gave her any peace, she finally got a boyfriend. He was a Boda Boda rider who impregnated her and they now stay together at the parents-in-law home.

She is proud that this project has opened up her mind and has empowered her to know her rights, roles and responsibilities as a woman in a home and community at large. She feared her entire life to be tested for HIV because she knew that in the case of a positive result she would be blamed by her husband and the entire family for the disease. Lorene is happy now however, as she convinced her husband to test as a couple and she can now negotiate use of a condom without any blame.

“I thank GLOBAL GIVING and ACT4AFRICA for this program and I request that it should reach more girls in other communities”, said Lorene, as she ended her story.

The project intends to continue reaching more community members for sensitization, condom supply and HIV testing & counselling, training AMs in other life skills topics and also giving them some practical skills.Regardless of challenges that we are managing to overcome, ACT4AFRICA, with the support from GLOBAL GIVING, is so grateful about the change in lives of young mothers, and the expected change in future, achieved by the implementation of this project. We hope to see more achievements from the activities of this project and we hope to reduce the rate of young mothers from becoming sex workers and being victims of stigma and gender injustices.

ADOLESCENT YOUNG MOTHERS PROJECT, KASESE.

During May training for most Adolescent Young Mothers Groups (AYMs) was about HIV/AIDS basic knowledge, ARVs and Condom use. The training was aided by TfD with drama, games and role plays that helped participants to be part of the training; making it participatory and lively. The games sparked lots of discussions that made the participants concentrate and they seemed to enjoy the training workshop. 

There were many questions raised by AYMs, related to discordance couples, the HIV window period and mostly challenging fears and misinformation about condoms use. These questions demonstrated how participants were picking up on the topics. Games like “Simon Says, Cat and Mouse and recap of Don’t Touch” were used during the trainings. By the month end we had reached 90 young mothers who were organised into groups at village level. 

During further training sessions participants demonstrated a high level of the knowledge of the previous topics during the recap session. This demonstrated confidence and courage amongst participants to come up and say something before other participants which was not the case before when we had first started training them. 

There is a good progress in the implementation of the project and beneficiary targets have been reached in terms of numbers (and by age range) across all areas of implementation. Also, the community participated in the project thanks to the level of mobilisation by the local authorities and the fact that Act4Africa is already an established organisation at grass roots level with an established structure of Community Mentors has aided the project’s success at this point. 

The project work done through training with young mothers seems to be impacting the lives of the beneficiaries. This is evident from feedback given by the young mothers about the change so far in their ways of social life because of the knowledge gained. Teenage pregnancy as a result of lack of condom use and early marriage was greatly attributed to ignorance and peer influence that is being addressed during training. 

One member gave her story saying:

“I am Janet and a young mother. My early pregnancy was as a result of ignorance about condoms. Each time I felt like talking about a using a condom I would think, I will be related to prostitution by my lover and the community as well. All my life I feared condoms because of such fears and also because of the oils on it, which I and many of my friends thought caused cancer. As a result I had never asked my boy friend for condom use and as the relationship went on I was impregnated. This forced my parents to stop paying for my school fees and I dropped out of school to stay at home, which ruined my life by then. Now with such training about condoms I am equipped with knowledge and I will never miss using it, even in marriage, if I want to space my children as long as I will be able to speak and convince my husband.”

Such case histories from participants are so encouraging and suggest success for the project aim and objectives. Participants are now courageous to use condoms and have self-esteem to talk about condoms and many other related social issues in relation to the knowledge acquired in front of others. 

The project now plans to start Voluntary HIV testing and counselling with supply of free condoms and educational leaflets to the participants and other community members to address the challenge of ignorance about HIV/AIDS and lack of proper counselling about social challenges faced by the communities. Next month, in June we shall encourage people to test for HIV as couples so that a family can know its status and receive counselling together as a couple. This will also help to reduce domestic violence related to discordant couples and also one couple supporting condom use and the other does not.

In conclusion, ACT4AFRICA KASESE is glad to have started implementation of the AYMs project with support from GLOBALGIVING UK, we hope this will create a profound change in the lives of beneficiaries both socially and economically at the end of the project and we are grateful as an organisation to see such change happening in communities that we work with. Many thanks for the support that is creating such big change.

 

 

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Organization Information

Act4Africa

Location: Cheshire - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.act4africa.org/​
Project Leader:
Martin Smedley
Manchester, United Kingdom
$13,903 raised of $25,000 goal
 
251 donations
$11,097 to go
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