Photo: Clare inspiring girls at Mbuya Primary School)
In 2015, Clare Tusingwire (otherwise known as Coach Clare) officially joined our Girl Up team as Senior Programs Officer for the Ni-Yetu Youth Program. Before that, she served as a trainer and advisor for our Adolescent Girls Program and worked with Bead for Life. She brings a wealth of experience in community work and counseling together with a passion for our team and programs. We invite you to get to know her a little better.
1. What is your favorite part about working at Girl Up?
I love the teamwork and the passion that everyone brings to work. I love that I have been able to rewrite my own story. Girl Up gives me the platform to look at the big picture and see the change we create in the community by empowering people.
2. What’s one of your special skills or ‘super powers’ you bring to the Girl Up team?
I have a skill for bringing the team together, even when they are down. I make them feel lively and make them fall in love with community work. I also enjoy welcoming visitors in a creative way, by singing songs like, “Ekibobo, you are amazing.”.
3. Why are you passionate about this work?
My childhood was not easy; it was full of extreme poverty. My parents struggled to raise school fees for us. I couldn’t speak out. Up to the age of 12, some people thought I was a zombie or that I was mean because I was always silent. My parents used to encourage me to pray.
Starting to speak at the age of 13 years was a turning point in my life. I realized that the world was friendly from the experiences of sharing and talking to people. This increased my passion to help other people in the community that are going through similar challenges. I also learned that, “Your situation doesn’t command your destiny; it’s the hard work and resilience that can change someone’s life.”
I know that if people have someone to talk to, they will feel important and make the right decisions. Overcoming my own early challenges has increased my empathy for others and has made me fall in love with community work.
(Photo: Coach Clare leading a training session on life skills at Kiswa Primary School)
4. Why is this work needed?
This work is needed because the only way to change the vicious cycle of poverty is to empower our youth. It’s needed to empower people to know they can rewrite their stories. And it’s needed so we can instill confidence in children at an early age so that they are able to speak out and have a voice and prevent cases of rape and defilement.
5. What frustrates you about the gender inequality and poverty that you see everyday?
I feel poverty can never be eradicated if people are not informed. It’s not people’s fault not to be informed. Most people in the households we come from don’t value education or even have money to educate children. This frustrates me a lot.
In some communities, parents educate the boys and leave out the girls because they still have a negative mindset that girls are marriage material and boys are the breadwinners. (This is actually not the case today, where most women are the breadwinners.)
Women, especially in rural areas, are not allowed to make decisions in terms of using family planning methods to control births in their homes. Men feel they have the control over women to have any number of children, even when they don’t have the capacity to take care of them.
Some people are still rigid about their roles as women and men in the family and places of work. You can still find a woman who thinks she’s not supposed to work and just be a housewife and baby sit. This brings about poverty. These cycles of gender inequality and poverty frustrate me so much, which is why I do the work that I do.
6. What is your vision for the future… for these girls and women, boys and men; for Uganda; for the world?
My vision for the future of girls and women, boys and men is:
To see them thrive and sustain their lives without relying on handouts.
For them to have a voice and speak out against practices that will not enable them to move forward. For example, for young girls to be able to say, “I can wait to get married until the right age,” rather than trying to impress their parents because the father is interested in getting a bride price.
Boys and girls being hardworking people to provide a healthy meal for their families and their own children.
7. What is your vision for your role in creating that future?
I envision myself creating a pool of change agents in every village around Uganda who are passionate about seeing change. They will have ripple effects- they reach out to other people who empower others to empower others so that it’s a continuous movement of positive change.
(Photo: Clare with the Girl Up girls during an advocacy march for girls' rights)
8. Is there something special you’re highlighting or celebrating this month?
Yes! We are going to start implementing year three of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program. It’s very exciting since we have many unique ideas to add to the program this year to reach out to more youth and women.
(Photo: Clare in action conducting community work with the peer educators of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program)
9. Do you have any children? If so, what are their names? How old are they?
Yes! I have one daughter, named Davina who is 2 years and 7 months old.
10. What do you enjoy doing/eating/exploring outside of Girl Up?
I enjoy spending time with my family. I love ice cream and chocolate! I also enjoy visiting new places. I always use that opportunity to share a word of hope and encouragement to the communities I visit.