“The one who follows instruction is on the path to life.” Proverbs 10:17
The Girls’ Empowerment Program trains teachers (coaches) to deliver an activity-based curriculum that uses soccer language and analogies to promote healthy, responsible behaviors among Ugandan youth (players), ages 10-19 years. The program focuses on reproductive health, life skills, entrepreneurship, HIV prevention, and unplanned pregnancy and STD prevention, using the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize students. Participants are urged to share what they have learned in their peer groups, families, and communities.
I just finished a week of meetings with our Girl’s Empowerment Program trainers and students, across six different government (public) schools. The results are inspiring and humbling. Although we still have a long way to go, this is the beginning of a better future for these youths, and I am proud of the work we are doing. The progress these schools have made since my visit in February is tremendous, especially considering that last year was the first year of the program. There are now 600 students participating – a number that takes my breath away and fills me with joy.
Learning in Uganda is very much about theory and rote memorization, with little or no application of lessons in a tangible way. The hands-on, physical activity & games approach of our program is literally changing the landscape of learning in Uganda.
Because of this program, schools are teaching in ways that break away from the typical Ugandan education mold. We encouraged all the teachers to use more child-centered, participatory methods, and trained them how to implement them. Teachers are reporting a particular benefit in science, where girls are more engaged and asking new questions. In fact, the teachers themselves are learning new things, which is an added and unexpected benefit.
The entrepreneurial portion of the program is incredibly impactful, and was specifically requested to be included by the Women’s Microfinance Initiative in Bethesda, MD, who made all of this program possible via a generous grant. The girls get to choose what they do for a business in the program – some are growing crops and some are making crafts. Many schools have benefited financially from these programs and have allowed the girls to vote on how they spend the money. One of the schools reported that the girls voted to buy knickers (underwear) and another bought pens. One teacher gave her own money to buy craft supplies and start the project. Now the parents have seen the impact and have started contributing as well.
The entrepreneurial projects have taught the girls how to independently plan for and take care of some of their basic needs, like having jelly (lotion) and knickers, instead of seeking out men to meet their basic needs. Some of the girls didn’t even know how to dig for planting crops before the program started, and now they can help their parents (who are delighted, as you can imagine). They tell other young girls in the village about the program and pass on the skills they’ve learned. Many are starting gardens at home so they earn their own income. The community is harvesting the benefits of this knowledge, literally, from the sale of crops.
The true gift of education is that it elevates society, or as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
While I am thrilled with the progress in education and entrepreneurship that is developing as a result of our program, it doesn’t even compare with the health and social impacts! I know you will be amazed at what is being accomplished, so stay tuned for another blog highlighting the influence in those areas next week. As always, none of this would be possible without your generous support. The best way to ensure that these life-changing programs continue is by becoming a $1 a day donor.
In love (rukundo),
Founder & President