"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."
This is a quote by the famous Henry Ford and it got me thinking, we often envision getting bigger and better at what we do, but we pay less or no attention to how we can achieve that vision.
At Girl Up Initiative Uganda, our vision is to create a gender equal world where girls thrive and lead in their different communities. We aim to achieve our mission by building the leadership skills and self-confidence of adolescent girls in Uganda through our flagship program, the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP). The AGP is an in-school program for girls’ ages 9 to 15 years, which focuses on building adolescent girls’ capacities, for individual empowerment and social survival, especially in patriarchal environments that do not value and respect the rights of girls. The program provides young girls with knowledge and skills in different areas such as being assertive, communication skills, peer pressure, self-esteem, body changes, entrepreneurship and so many others.
(Photo: 2019 Girl Up girls participating during a session at the Uganda
School of the Deaf)
The AGP is implemented mainly in public schools commonly known as Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools. We intentionally chose to work with girls in public schools because girls in public schools are more vulnerable to violence and low rates of information on sexual and reproductive health compared to girls in private schools. Girls in public school often experience gender discrimination and have to struggle with the challenges of living in poverty.
There is a huge and growing need for our programs and in order to meet this demand, we decided that the most cost-effective and efficient approach would be to train more trainers (or coaches as we call these young women trainers) to support the already existing team of AGP coaches. We called this training of trainers: The Coaches Bootcamp.
In February 2019, we mobilized, selected and trained 10 young women, ages 18 to 28 years, from the local community to support the in-house team in facilitating the different AGP sessions.
This has enabled us to scale the AGP to reach over 1,100 girls in 14 schools- the largest cohort ever! In contrast, in 2013, when the AGP initially started, we reached 50 girls in one school with just two coaches. Now, we are in a total of 14 schools with 16 vibrant young women coaches!
(Photo: New coaches enjoying a fun activity)
The purpose of the Coaches Bootcamp was to train the new coaches in interactive facilitation skills, community mobilization, mentorship, counselling, and all topics and information found in the AGP curriculum so they can effectively disseminate the right information to the girls under the AGP program. It was also important that the coaches learned more about GUIU, its vision, mission, values and why we are reaching out to the girls in school.
The 4-day training was officially opened by Monica Nyiraguhabwa, our Executive Director who welcomed everyone for the training. We had a fun way of introducing ourselves where each participant was given a chance to share who they are not just in terms of name, but in terms of what inspires them, their hobbies, favorite meal and a fun fact about them. The new coaches also explained their expectations for the bootcamp. The expectation that stood was the burning desire from the new coaches to gain more knowledge and skills on how to fully engage and interact with the young girls during the different sessions.
We organized the training so that the in-house coaches conducted each topic in the AGP curriculum while the new coaches observed so they could understand the topics and see how facilitation is done. Afterwards, the new coaches were divided into pairs and allocated different topics so that they could later on present to the entire team. The purpose was to give them the chance to facilitate and receive feedback on what was done well and what needed improvement.
(Photo: In-house coach, Joan, taking through the new coaches during a session)
Besides the facilitation training sessions, we held group discussions where the different coaches were divided into groups and given an opportunity to discuss various topics such as gender roles, gender stereotypes, human rights and others. This supported their learning as they were able to have interesting conversations about their previous beliefs and attitudes amongst the participants. We concluded the training with a fun activity called ‘‘the web network formation’’. The essence of this activity was to enable the facilitators to understand the importance of team work and how everyone is important in this journey of creating change in the lives of adolescent girls.
(Photo: The web network formation exercise: showing togetherness amongst the coaches)
After the bootcamp, it was observed that most of the new coaches had gained more knowledge and skills on the AGP curriculum and were more confident than before, which was attributed to the room they were given to practice facilitating sessions. They also learned what being an AGP coach means.
As Dorothy shared with us at the conclusion of the training:
“Before this training, I thought it’s just a matter of going to the field to teach the girls about skills, but it’s more than this. It’s more of learning and being empowered to deliver the right messages to the young girls. My most interesting topic was about life skills because it’s the foundation in everyone’s life. For example you must know who you are so that you also learn to appreciate others and live with them the way they are. My appreciation goes to the facilitators for the good work and entire organization for the opportunity given to me to work with the organization.”
(Photo: Dorothy sharing her story about the Bootcamp)
The new coaches are now off and running! In pairs, the coaches have already led two AGP sessions in each school on life skills, self-esteem, and body image as well as conducted meetings with parents at each school to garner their support.
(Photo: Coach Ekel addressing the girls during the session)
Already, the AGP girls are learning critical skills for success.
As Vivian, a girl from one of our new partner schools, Summit View Primary School, told us after the life skills session:
“I have learned that values are things I stand for and believe in. For example, always being myself, being a happy person, and being true to my friends and myself.”