This year, we held our biggest Girl Up Day celebration ever to honor the girls who graduated from our Adolescent Girls Program (AGP)! Having completed the one-year training program, we celebrated 560 adolescent girls with a series of engaging activities for the girls, youth, teachers, parents, and community members. On this special day, we awarded certificates and Mazuri Designs presents to appreciate them for their active participation in the program. This was Girl Up Initiative Uganda’s largest cohort ever of girls including 560 girls from the following 7 schools: Murchison Bay Primary School, St. James Primary School Bbiina, Ntinda Primary School, Mbuya Church of Uganda Primary School, Kiswa Primary School, Uganda School of the Deaf, and Police Children’s School, Ntinda.
The ceremony kicked off with the arrival of everyone to the venue at Kiswa Primary School, the school hosting the Girl Up Day. Our activities began with an advocacy march as our Girl Up girls marched with plaque cards promoting girls’ rights and an end to gender-based violence ahead of the 16 Days of Gender Activism Against Violence. The girls were supported on the march with their female teachers and police as they walked through the community to the venue.
After all participants had settled in, the ceremony began with performances from the different schools including music, dance, drama, and poetry mainly portraying the knowledge and information that the girls gained from the program. The girls spoke out against gender inequality and discrimination while showing their newly acquired leadership skills and confidence. Tusutukirewamu drama group presented a forum theatre performance on the importance of leadership and being a change-maker. They sent the message to the girls on how community members are generally not concerned with what happens in the communities, so as young leaders they should always listen and pay attention to what happens in their surroundings. This was so insightful for girls as they responded to the questions asked by the moderator. For example, Hope Nabagereka from Mbuya Church of Uganda Primary School commented that:
“I learned that it’s important for one to give an ear to what happens in their community, so that in case of anything one is aware and informed on what to do.”
On this day, we also had a live art painting and exhibition of the girls’ art pieces. Art volunteers produced picture frames and notebooks using the girls’ paintings. The girls took part in painting live a piece to commemorate the 16 Days of Gender Activism Against Violence. The girls, teachers, parents, and other community members moved around looking at the beautiful piece of art that was being designed at that moment.
The day also included a health service camp in partnership with Naguru Teenage Centre to provide free health services. This camp was organized specifically for adolescent girls to access sexual and reproductive health services on the ground throughout the celebration. The services offered included: HIV/AIDs testing and counseling, STI management, general ailments, counseling, and distribution of educational materials. 153 girls in total accessed health services, with 50 girls accessing STI management, 57 girls received HIV/AIDs testing and counseling, and 46 girls received treatments for general ailments. Thanks to the health service camp, girls were able to access girl-friendly and non-judgmental medical services without any inconveniences.
Our guest of honor was Nelly Apili, who is a Big Sister and graduate of the AGP in 2017 at Kiswa Primary School. She was also recently featured on our appearance on NBC’s The Today Show. She just completed her Primary Leaving Examination to graduate from primary school and she gave her speech, which was directed to both the girls and the parents in the audience. In her own words she said:
“Thank you so much Girl Up Initiative Uganda for the great work that you are doing to empower girls. To my fellow girls, I encourage you to learn how to speak out the truth and follow what is right. Do not engage in bad company because it will corrupt you and please respect your parents and do not walk at night. Meanwhile, parents learn to support your children. Do not just shout at them, but rather talk to them and let them know what is happening so that they will not feel ignored or disliked by you. Girls, let’s learn to support ourselves. The Adolescent Girls Program has changed my life. I am confident, I know who I am and Girl Up Initiative Uganda has supported me to continue with my education. I encourage them to continue supporting other girls like me to discover who they are and to build their self-esteem.”
Nelly spoke with so much passion and inspired the other girls with her speech. Latifah, one of the graduating girls from Ntinda Primary School commented after she had finished speaking:
“She is so inspiring! I appreciate what she has said. As young people we need to follow what is really right and be respectful as we listen to our parents.”
After the speech from the guest of honor, the Executive Director of Girl Up Initiative Uganda, Monica Nyiraguhabwa, embraced Nelly Apili and thanked her for the beautiful and inspiring speech. Thereafter, together with the patron teachers from each school, she awarded each girl with certificates of completion and welcomed them to join the Big Sisters Network of alumni of the AGP.
The Girl Up Day was a special day full of excitement, energy, and passion to uplift girls in Uganda! Continue to join us in empowering the adolescent girl to create impact in their lives. An educated girl is able to make well informed decisions so she can reach her full potential in life!