Last week Sunday, October 11th, 2015 was the fourth annual International Day of the Girl Child, a United Nations observance that is celebrated globally. It is used as an opportunity to call attention to the inequalities girls around the world face, acknowledge what has and is being done, and consider policies, prorgrams, and strategies to continue addressing their specific challenges and work towards acheiving the sustainable development goals, leaving no girl behind.
Uganda was no exception, and took part in fesitivities, which meant a great deal for Girl Up Initiaive Uganda (GUIU). Plan International Uganda organized a mentoring walk in partnership with the Ministry of Education and other partners. Girls from different secondary and primary schools attended the event, and over 400 girls and 100 mentors participated. GUIU was represented by 35 girls, 3 teachers and the entire staff!
The event was a great and special opportunity to not only gain more visiblty and shine a light on the work that GUIU is doing and the women and girls the organization works with, but a chance to network with similar organiztions and establish relationships.
The Chief Walker addressed the guests, noting that it is crucial for development partners to continue investing in adolescent girls in order to achieve vision 2030 - the theme for this year in reference to the SDGs which set a range of international targets (including on gender equality) to be achieved by 2030, and a focus on adolescent girls as a critical piece. It has become an increasingly know fact that empowered girls are often hindered by discrimination and vulnerable circumstances (child marriage, early pregnancy, and a lack of access to health education and services, amongst other things) and yet, girls remain one of the world's most valuable resources.
This was followed by a poem from the girls of GUIU, which moved the audience and garnered an encore and a standing ovation after the recital. It touched on the theme of the day, and Teacher Mastullah (our collaborating teacher at Muchison Bay Primary School) was requested to briefly share her experience of the impact of Girl Up Initiative Uganda:
"With the intervention of GUIU in the school of over 1,000 girls, there is hope in the retention rate of the girl child in school, issues of self-esteem and confidence building have been addressed by the program and there is a drastic change in the behaviors and performance of the students..."
Our ED Monica Nyiraguhabwa was invited to share her experience, where she elaborated on the need for mentoring, stating that because as young women and girls face so many challenges, it is necessaritly to establish a support system for them. Girls from St. James Bbiina Primary School performed two songs, which left everybody dancing and cheering.
Other topics covered included the need for adolescents’ girls to abstain from sex, as it’s one of the most accurate means of avoiding new HIV/AIDs infections. A Q&A session exposed that young people in Uganda are grappling with pressure to have sexual relationships, and in response the key message was that they needed to prioritize their education and choose to abstain.
This was followed by a prize giving ceremony in recognition of persons who have championed women and girls empowerment. As a result of our job well-done, GUIU was asked by the national radio station- KFM-to provide the station with a CD of the original song composed for #IDG2015. Monica, GUIU ED, explained that the event "felt like heaven on Earth".
Ugandan artist, Naira Ali, with Girl Up girl Sumeya. Sumeya was the first to start dancing with Naira and found herself in a photo shoot! Sumeya is one of our outstanding girls who has shown huge behavioral improvements since starting our program from a shy and timid girl to one full of confidence and freedom!