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Adolescent Girls Program enters the Army Barracks

Thanks to a grant from Woman of the Year UK, the Adolescent Girls Program has launched in a sixth school -- Mbuya Primary School!

Mbuya Primary School is a Universal Primary Education (UPE) school in the Nakawa Division of Kampala, located next to the Uganda People’s Defense Force Military Barracks. Many of the students at the school have parents who are employed by the military and therefore they live in the military barracks. For the girls living in the military barracks, it can be an unsafe environment since some of the men have a reputation of being aggressive and coercive.

On our first training day at the school, the headmaster welcomed our Adolescent Girls Program and expressed his support of Girl Up Initiative Uganda’s mission to empower and educate girls. The senior woman teacher also stressed that all of the girls are affected by poverty and a portion of the girls are without parents. Thus, the Adolescent Girls Program will empower these girls to realize their value and overcome the many challenges they face. The students were also extremely excited by the program, and it was not challenging to attract eighty girls to sign up to join the year-long training.

(Photo: New AGP members with their friends)

Since GUIU began the trainings in March, the girls have attended three trainings focusing on life skills, self esteem and body image, and peer pressure. In these sessions the girls have grown both independently and together. They have learned how to identify their unique values and beliefs and how these impact on their relationships with themselves and others, and decision-making processes. During the life skills training we led a singing competition to teach the girls in a fun way about the skills behind effective teamwork. Clare, one of our wonderful coaches, began by separating the girls into four groups to coordinate the singing of a chorus in succession. If a group didn’t come up with a song in time or they repeated a song they were out. After they worked together and sang with their groups they joined together, to sing and dance as one.

(Photo: Coach Clare mentoring and advising one of the groups)

The second training focused on self-esteem and body image. We began by explaining the difference between high self-esteem and low self-esteem, and how by understanding your own personal strengths, you can increase your self-esteem and learn to love yourself. Body image was also discussed by Coach Monica so that the girls could understand and reflect on the ways that images of women on TV impact how they see their bodies. Monica encouraged the girls to appreciate every part of their body for how it allows them to carry out their daily activities. She ended the session by taking them through a walking exercise of building self-confidence.

(Photo: AGP members writing notes from the training session)

Peer pressure was the focus of our most recent training. The girls learned the different influences, both positive and negative, of peer pressure and discussed their own experiences. One of the girls told her story of negative peer pressure to the group:

At home I have a cousin of mine who tries to tell me always to go and steal sugar with her, but in my heart I know what she does is not good. Although I try to resist she puts pressure onto convincing me to steal sugar, but I reject what she says to me. I tell her directly stealing sugar is bad and for me I will not be part of that.

During the second part of the session, Coach Gloria took the girls through a dancing session that teaches self-confidence and resistance to negative peer pressure -- ‘it belongs to me’.

The trainings, teamwork, and fun will continue throughout the year, as will the hands-on skills lessons (including the making of sanitary pads!). We look forward to watching the girls become advocates for themselves and empowered to stand up for gender equality in their homes, schools, and communities. As Coach Clare passionately told the girls, “We want you to be confident, well-behaved, and super. We want you to learn and share your knowledge!"

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