As we talked about in the blog last week, huge strides are being made with The Girls Empowerment Program in regard to teaching methodologies, science education, entrepreneurship, and community involvement. However, one of the largest impacts (and key component of the program), relates to education surrounding sexual and reproductive health. Ignorance about how HIV is contracted, how it affects the body, and how to tell if someone has HIV is widespread, and one of the primary issues among Ugandan youth.
Teachers (coaches) work tirelessly to educate the girls about the risks associated with sexual activity and the contraction of HIV.
Most girls, for example, were not aware that alcohol consumption is a risk factor. Many did not understand that HIV is contracted through sexual intercourse, or that you cannot tell if someone is infected just by looking at them; that a test is required. A huge point being emphasized is the risk of older partners. Many young girls rely on an older partner to pay for their basic necessities because they cannot provide for these needs on their own. What happens, tragically, is they end up pregnant and alone, or having contracted HIV. The identification of these risks, in tandem with the entrepreneurship education, is literally changing the outcomes for these girls.
One school told us that every year, for as far back as they could remember, there were girls who ended up pregnant or involved in early marriages. This is a school that only goes up to 7th grade. Let that sink in. After our Girls Empowerment Program was put into place, they reported that for the first time ever, no girls became pregnant or entered into early marriages!
In 2016, there were three pregnancies and four early marriages, but in 2017 there were NONE! The impact of this alone is worth funding the program.
Girls are also being taught to avoid situations that will place them in potential danger, even if those situations are the cultural normal. For example, girls are being taught that going to the market alone after dark is a potentially dangerous situation they should avoid, and many girls are now asking for an escort or telling their parents to send their brothers. Teachers are also encouraging the girls to be more confident when talking to boys and men by making strong eye contact and having respect for themselves and others.
An unexpected side effect of the program is happening in the boys. Boys used to leave the classroom when it was time to do chores, but now there is a schedule for each chore (such as sweeping) and that schedule now includes the boys. When gardening, girls would always be assigned a hoe and boys would be given large knives (pangas). Now the children take turns using the different gardening tools and the boys are hoeing, which is something they have never done before. One teacher said the program has “improved our school to share equal rights. They [youths] now know that boys can do the same job as girls.”
As the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
As we continue to bring the Girls Empowerment Program to schools in Uganda with the support of generous donors like you, we are acting as the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing equality to the children of Uganda, and making things “on earth as it is in heaven.” We thank you for your generous support! If you are not yet a $1 a day sponsor, now is the time. These girls and their communities need you.
Founder & President