As a California native from Santa Barbara, I know intimately how easy it is to stay in a bubble of comfort and ease. I was privileged to grow up with many opportunities and the support I needed to develop. Being a girl never made me different than a boy when it came to my life decisions. I was brought up to be a leader in my community despite my gender.
Posing with sixth grade girls (January 2016)
That is why I get so much joy from connecting my past to my present life situation with a partnership with a Santa Barbara elemantary school. Since 2013, I have developed a special bond with Janice Spracher, a sixth grade teacher from Monte Vista School in Santa Barbara, CA. We started the partnership between Girl Up Initiative Uganda and Monte Vista School with the following projects:
Sending Penpal letters between 60 girls in Uganda to 60 students in California and vice versa.
Collecting donated books from Monte Vista for our Girl Up Uganda library.
Girl Up girls reading donated books (October 2015)
Leading three sessions for girls on topics covered by Girl Up Uganda (peer pressure, communication skills, leadership).
Organizing a Skype call between four Girl Up girls and members of Monte Vista student council where they sang songs to each other and made friends across the world, realizing that we are not all that different.
Skype Call (November 2015)
Speaking to sixth grade classes about GUIU’s work.
Girl from Monte Vista with a jump rope made by the Ugandan girls (October 2014)
Yesterday, I went back to Monte Vista to talk to the new group of sixth grade students about our programs focused on girls education and gender equity, to teach them more about Uganda, and to show them how someone from their hometown can follow her dream to empower women and girls in Uganda. I started my presentation with a short visualization so the students could imagine what it is like to live in Africa. What they would see? What they would eat? Where they would live? Most of them saw dirt roads and straw huts, and eating fruits. While their images were realistic to some rural parts of Africa, I also let them know that there are places in Africa that look very similar to their homes and that there are also very rich and very poor people living in Africa. Then, I made a short presentation about Uganda and the how Girl Up Initiative Uganda has programs on girls leadership, SRHR, and economic empowerment. Afterward, they asked some very good questions and showed interest in learning more.
Presenting Girl Up Uganda (January 2016)
It is always rewarding to have the opportunity to go back to my hometown and speak to students that were just like me at the age of 12 - the age of starting to question the status quo, creating a personal identity, and exploring the world – and also the average age of our girl participants in Uganda. I saw some eyes open a bit wider (among boys and girls!) as I showed them our short video, and only time will tell if this inspires them to get out of their comfortable bubble and explore this world.
I am excited to see what the future holds for Girl Up Uganda's partnership with Monte Vista. I am hopeful that the next generation will use their curiosity of the world to make a change.