This is the third in a three part series focusing on economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, and leadership learnings shared by our Girl Up Club members.
When asked what new knowledge they had acquired from their year-long participation in Girl Up Initiative Uganda‘s program, the responses focused mostly on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) , economic empowerment, and leadership skills - the last of which is the focus of this blog post.
Generally, it is common for women and girls in Ugandan society to be hesitant to offer their opinions, lack the ability to project confidence, and speak timidly in a mixed group of people. In Western society children (irrespective of gender) are raised to share their feelings and encouraged to engage in conversations with adults and to form their own opinions. In most parts of Uganda, however, due to cultural norms and traditions, girls are taught that to be respectful they must do what they are told, and not speak up against injustices.
Many of the girls are often told what to do, are uncomfortable having open conversations with their parents, only speak when spoken to, and don’t have a tendency to share their emotions. When they become parents themselves, this communication pattern is then passed down to their children, particularly their daughters.
Girl Up Initative Uganda's programs focus on leadership skills as a foundation to the rest of the curriculum. This enables girls to see themselves as being capable of taking control of their own lives in the context of school and their communities, so that they can take ownership over their bodies, decison-making, and futures as a whole.
Participants of our training program learn about effective communication skills, positive body image, peer pressure, gender-based violence, and human rights- all aspects that can have a profound effect on one's ability to lead during adolescence. Here are the girls, in their own words, describing more of what they have learned from their year with GUIU.
What Our Girls Had to Say
Gloria Nankajako (11 years old)
“I learnt about human rights, especially the children’s rights like the right on education and other rights. I am confident and I know communication skills.”
Sylvia Atimango (13 years old)
“In Girl Up, I have learnt to know more about myself and my values. I am now a confident girl and am happy to be part of Girl Up Club.”
“I want to thank GUIU for allowing me to be in the club. I have learnt how to relate with my friends and to know who I should tell my experiences and who I should not.”
“I have known to care for my body and also survival skills. I have learnt that I should not walk at night alone; I should walk with friends in a group so that nothing dangerous happens. Am happy to be in GUIU.”
“What I can say about Girl Up is that it is a good group. I have made new friends in the group and they have taught me many things like believing in what I am. I know that I am not shy any more I can talk to my parents freely.”
“What I have learnt from GUIU is to be confident and not to fear any person when I am talking.”
“I think I did not perform well last term because I did not pay a lot of attention in class most of the time but I am going to improve that this term to get better results. I have learnt from Girl Up that I am important and that I should not let people tell me that I am useless.”
“I have learnt to be confident and also about communication skills which will help me in future.”
“I know how to read my books better now and I do not let boys deceive me.”
“I learned to do things for myself and not to wait for others to tell me what to do especially if it benefits me. I have also learnt to help others when they need me. “
“I did not do my exams and that is why I did not have a grade. I have learnt about self-esteem, how to care for myself and also how to control peer influences.”
Joan Aber (11 years old)
"I have learnt about how to communicate to others with confidence. I have learnt about the different body changes and how to deal with them."
Pauline Adong (11 years old)
“I have learnt to be confident and believe in myself.”
The environment at Girl Up Initative Uganda during training sessions is supportive, safe, educational, and fun. It promotes personal growth in a way their regular studies lacks, and allows them access to vital information that they need to develop into the next generation of women leaders among their peers and in their communities. Collecting their end-of-year thoughts is a way for us to moniter and evaluate the impact we are having and know how to improve our programs for the next year. We are grateful to our partner schools for working together with us so we can ensure that our girls become healthy, strong, and empowered women!
If you have comments on our three part ‘In Her Words’ series, we would be interested to hear them in the box below.