Girl Up Initiative Uganda launch on November 8th was a huge success!
Girl Up hosted 30 teachers and parents and the 50 Girl Up club members at St. James Biina Primary School. The launch aimed to bring together the key stakeholders at the school to gain a clear understanding of the programmes of Girl Up Initiative in their school and to showcase the girls’ song and dance. The headmaster, Boniface Kyeyune, was overly excited to see such a programme in his school. He agreed with us that there was an extreme need for the work of Girl Up in this school and community. As we sat in his office he relayed us a story of how he found two very young girls in a karaoke [club] and decided he needed to
give them another chance. He provided them with school fees and now they are almost completed with Secondary 2.
Girls face many challenges, first in accessing schooling and then second in staying in school and not dropping out. Therefore, these girls need to gain the life skills to learn how to make good decisions and ensure that they stay in school. Girl Up is providing this education and for that the headmaster and other teachers were very appreciative.
Everyone seemed to agree that this was a very needed programme in the school, yet I realised that we were only working with a tiny portion of the girls in the school, let alone the community. The primary school has 2,000 students, and 75 percent are girls. As we walked around the school afterwards, I watched the eager eyes of the other students. Not sure if they should be jealous and join, or shun the programme and instead live their life as they always knew they would.
I was overjoyed by the enthusiasm of the headwoman teacher, Teacher Nambozo. From the beginning, I could feel that she was in charge. She was a take-charge sort of woman. She told me that she has always wanted a club like this because she was trained as a psychologist so she was intimately aware of the many problems girls face. Unbeknownst to me, Teacher Nambozo explained that the Girl Up Club has started making crafts, such as beaded necklaces and cards, to sell. The money is then saved with the club and if there is ever an emergency for one of the girls (sickness, no school fees, no uniform, no school materials) they can take money out of the fund. A Savings Club! The parents were excited by the prospect of their children learning how to manage and save money at such a young age.
Beyond the introductions and speeches, we had much song and dance! My favourite time! When the girls started singing the St. James Biina School anthem after the Ugandan anthem, I whispered to Sayid, “Girl Up needs an anthem.” Next thing I know, there they are singing and dancing to, “Welcome to Girl Up Club, welcome to Girl Up Club.” The song and excitement is still ringing in my head.
These beautiful girls were becoming confident and empowered. In just 10 months. Think of what we could do with 2 years? With 3 years of dedication and commitment to assure that these girls don’t get pregnant, don’t get involved in drugs and alcohol, and instead followed their passions and dreams? Just imagine what that would look like? And the ripple effect?
They stand out in their blue shirts. Other girls are wondering what this is about, and they will find out. As these girls succeed the others will follow. It is possible and they have shown it.
When I gave my speech something came out of me that I wasn’t expecting. I told them that we would set up a relationship with this school and one in California. After I said it, I thought, “Wow Kimi, that’s a really cool idea.” And there it is. My next project for Girl Up. We will create a network around the world to connect these Ugandan girls to girls from California. So much to learn from one another. Basically, that at our essence we are all the same. These girls are asking the same questions as you about love, friends, puberty, and growing up. We are the same and this is the beauty of Girl Up.
A move up, not down. A push forward into the world when so many forces are pulling you back.