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2015 Graduation at the Entebbe Zoo

At the end of November 2015, Girl Up Initiative Uganda proudly celebrated the accomplishments of our girls who completed our Adolescent Girls Training Program in 2015. 150 girls from Murchison Bay and St. James Bbiina Primary schools attended the year-end graduation and learning day. The girls from Murchison Bay came on the prison’s bus and the girls from St. James Bbiina came by taxi vans. Girl Up Uganda staff - Monica, Allan, Hajara, Gloria, Marion, and myself– attended this exciting event in addition to the female teachers from the schools who play a crucial role in supporting our efforts.

When all the participants arrived the girls were divided into two groups for official tours of the Wildlife Education Center (Entebbe Zoo). During the tour, zoo staff members explained the exhibits in detail and educated them more about the animals. The girls listened intently. For many it was the first time they saw animals native to Uganda. They especially enjoyed the chimpanzee exhibit -- watching them jump from branch to branch and lie on the ground playing with their feet.

After the guided tours, Girl Up Uganda brought home-cooked food for a picnic lunch and the students spread out across the lawn to enjoy their meal with their friends. Some girls even bought ice cream from the vendors because it was a very warm day!

After lunch, everyone headed back inside the zoo grounds, finding comfort from the glaring sun under a large shaded tree. It was time for the certificate presentation ceremony! The ceremony began with a fun dance-off competition between the girls while we waited for everyone to get settled in. There was lots of clapping, singing and laughter!

Monica, Executive Director of GUIU, started by giving an introduction speech and then all the staff of GUIU introduced themselves and shared their role with the program. The girls were presented with their certificates, which signified their completion of the GUIU yearlong Adolescent Girls Program.

All girls were also given a pack of ten reusable sanitary pads produced in our Mazuri Designs sewing workshop to promote menstrual health and hygiene. In addition, five girls were awarded outstanding awards and presented with gifts based on leadership, behavior change, participation and attendance.

The girls who graduated from our program will no longer formally be Girl Up Uganda members, as next year a new class will be admitted to the program. However, they were encouraged to stay involved with GUIU by becoming informal ‘Big Sisters’ to the girls who will join our 2016 program and to continue to visit the Girl Up Uganda office anytime they need.

Monica also presented our female teacher partners from each school with gifts to acknowledge them for their dedicated partnership and cooperation with Girl Up Uganda. The teachers also made presentations – the first one on the importance of using the reusable sanitary pads and the second on basket weaving.

After the formal ceremony, one cake for each school was lit with candles and then quickly blown out by the group of girls eager to eat something sweet! Once the cake was eaten up, the girls from one school sang a Christmas song. The girls from the second school were prepared to perform a well-rehearsed dance, but a threatening thunderstorm finally broke and without a proper sound system for the music, we decided to take cover at the entrance gate to stay dry.

The girls were given snacks for the bus ride back to town. Everyone agreed that it was a successful and enjoyable day!

We eagerly anticipate meeting our new cohort of girls to join the Adolescent Girls Training Program for 2016 at St. James Bbiina, Murchison Bay, and one new school that we will add for this year. The girls will participate in monthly Saturday trainings and join the Girl Up Uganda clubs that meet afterschool with our partner female teachers. We will begin as soon as school is back in session the first week of March.

If you would like to visit Uganda and experience the beautiful country and our transformational programs, we invite you to sign up for our July 2016 donor trip.