Joan Atimango, joined Girl Up Initiative Uganda as a volunteer in her Senior six vacation in 2016 and later she was promoted to Program Assistant for the Ni-Yetu Youth Program. She is also a Champions of Change facilitator, a program which aims to promote gender equality and create positive social norm change through working with boys and girls sports teams in Uganda. Joan is passionate about her work because she believes that through education and mentorship of adolescent girls change will be created. Get to know Joan better in our interview below!
1. What is your favorite part about working at Girl Up?
My favorite part about my work is leading training sessions when I get to engage directly with the girls. These young girls are joyful, loving and so full of energy. There is no way I can last five minutes without laughing to a joke made by them. Being with the girls just reminds me of my younger self.
2. What’s one of your special skills or ‘super powers’ you bring to the Girl Up team?
Good facilitation (training) skills has always made me a super girl at Girl Up Initiative Uganda. The fact that I am able to fully engage and make each and every participant in a training session feel comfortable makes me of great importance to the Dream Team (that’s what we are).
3. Why are you passionate about this work? Why is this work needed?
I am more than passionate about this work!
I am who I am because of this work.
This organization has molded me into the young lady that I am. The kind of change I have experienced is what I want to see with all the other young girls we reach out to.
If it wasn’t for this work, we wouldn’t be able to support and give a helping hand to the girls in the slums of Kampala and anyone else in our reach and share with them knowledge and skills about knowing their bodies, appreciating their rights, and believing in their abilities.
4. What frustrates you about the gender inequality and poverty that you see every day?
The most frustrating thing about gender equality and poverty is how these two blend with each other. In most cases, where there is poverty, there is plenty of inequality. I am not saying that where there is wealth, there’s no inequality, however due to poverty a lot of inequality is experienced. For example, due to poverty, a young girl in school who is trying to chase her dream maybe cut short because her parents have no money for her to continue with school. But they may believe that if the little money is invested in a boy to study, he will be the light of the family. Furthermore, the girl might be forced into early marriage to a much older and richer man as a way of getting income to cater for and sustain the family.
5. What is your vision for the future… for these girls and women, boys and men; for Uganda; for the world?
I envision a future where girls and women have a say over their lives; a world where a girl or woman will say: “I can” and the rest of the world will say: “Yes, you can and we are here to support your dreams”.
A world where boys and men will be able to encourage and support the girls and women to achieve their dreams.
6. What is your vision for your role in creating that future?
My role in creating that future is to empower girls and women through providing them with information as a tool to help them become aware of who they truly are and how best they can use their abilities to create an amazing change. My role is to also encourage the boys and men to support the girls and women in achieving their dreams.
7. Is there something special you’re highlighting or celebrating this month?
This month, I start the last year of my bachelors studies in Adult and Community Education at Makerere University. This semester marks the end of my three year journey at the university. Before applying for a course at the university, I was really confused on what I wanted to do while there. Having a supportive team at Girl Up Initiative Uganda helped me find my way. They guided me on what course to do and I took the advice. They recommended me to go for Adult and Community Education and I must say, whatever I have learned from the course has indeed helped me in implementing my work.
There are not many work places that are so encouraging of staff attending university at the same time. For that, I am sincerely grateful for the support of the Girl Up Initiative Uganda team.
8. What do you enjoy doing/eating/exploring outside of Girl Up?
I enjoy seeing and making people happy. Because of this, I am venturing into offering more counselling where I get to talk and support different people. We as humans sometimes face tough moments and all we need is someone to talk to. Therefore, I believe that by being that someone who listens and offers help, I am helping others to become better and more happy versions of themselves.
9. What is a fun fact about you?
Singing is my therapy. I sing when I am happy, I sing when I am sad. Actually, if I am not talking or sleeping, I am singing.