On November 26th, Girl Up Initiative Uganda organized a function to advocate for the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and celebrate the accomplishments of the 2016 cohort of 240 Girl Up Girls as they graduated from the Adolescent Girls Program. The day started with an advocacy walk through the streets of Luzira with girls holding placards such as: “Together we can stop violence against girls”, “I am proud to be a girl”, and “the most important thing a girl can wear is her confidence”. The girls came back to St. James Bbiina Primary School for the remainder of the ceremony.
Over 530 people attended the event, including Girl Up girls, Big Sisters, and teachers from the five primary schools were GUIU is active, parents, partner representatives from Plan International Uganda, the local councilman, local women councilor, and peer educators and theatre performers from the Ni-Yetu Youth Program. The local councilman of the area, Mr. Ssewali Abbey, officiated the ceremony and welcomed everyone to the occasion. He went ahead to appreciate Girl Up Initiative Uganda for the great work in helping to improve the community and better the lives of every individual. Other esteemed guests gave speeches to the audience. During her speech, Margaret Akello, gender specialist with Plan International Uganda, encouraged the girls to stay in school and work hard for their own personal development so that they are not always dependent on men for everything they may need.
Then, the graduating Girl Up girls performed poems on how the organization has changed their lives. Other girls explained what they have learned from the program:
"Before I joined Girl up initiative I was this very shy person but am more bold and confident of myself."
"I am able now to make sanitary re-useable pads."
The speeches continued and were followed by a traditional African dance performed by the Big Sisters as well as songs from the finalists from the Music Campaign Against Early Marriages and Teenage Pregnancy. Finally, the long awaited time came for the 240 girls to graduate and receive their certificates and AFRIpads sanitary pads (generously donated from HUGs) given to them by the “ssenga” of the day- Margaret Akello.
(Photo: 240 Girl Up girls graduating from the 2016 Adolescent Girls Program)
Afterwards, the Theatre Blacks introduced a new forum theatre drama based on the theme of alcohol and extra-marital relations as the cause of gender-based violence and STIs. The performance generated interesting discussion among the participants about what a wife should do in a situation where the husband leaves her with little money, yet provides for his girlfriend. One Big Sister said “if he leaves me with little money he should be ready to eat cassava flour and small fish”.
The function was closed by Monica Nyiraguhabwa, our Executive Director, as she appreciated everyone for standing with Girl Up Initiative Uganda. She encouraged the entire community and individuals at large to support the education and rights of girls. All the participants cut a special cake to mark the day and then all guests were invited for lunch. The function ended with a final dance as people left this energetic and colorful function.
(Photo: One last dance with Monica Nyiraguhabwa, ED of Girl Up Initiative Uganda)