November 16th was a special day to remember with uncountable smiles and never ending celebrations and memories here at Girl Up Initiative Uganda. This was the day when we celebrated the young, vibrant girls who graduated from our year-long Adolescent Girls’ Program (AGP).
The day was filled with so much joy and happiness, in addition to the excitement from the parents as they watched their daughters shine. This year was our biggest Girl Up Day ever as we graduated over 1,000 girls from the program! We also extended the program to seven more schools so that the girls’ empowerment program was active in 14 schools, brought more coaches (facilitators) on board, and hosted our first ever Big Sister Camp.
The Girl Up Day celebrations were held at Kiswa Primary School playgrounds and kicked off with arrival of the guests who were warmly ushered in by the Girl Up coaches.
Having settled in, the celebrations commenced with amazing performances from the girls, including poems, music, dance, and drama that centered on what the girls had learnt throughout the course of the training program.
The performances revolved around topics such as: human rights and responsibilities, violence, leadership, life skills, and so many others. From watching the girls perform before the large crowd, it was evident how confident the girls had become.
The Boy Champions were also present to support the girls on this joyous day. They made their own presentation on the dangers that girls face and the importance of preventing gender-based violence.
Right after the performances, Clare Tusingwire, our Director of Programs acknowledged the parents and teachers for the support rendered throughout the year and encouraged them to continue to support the girls.
At Girl Up, we love to dance, therefore, the Girl Up coaches decided to excite the girls, parents, and teachers by pulling off some rare dance moves.
The coaches put everyone in the mood of dancing and some parents found themselves on the dance floor! It was a pure, memorable moment.
Face painting was also offered as part of the activities for the day and the girls got their faces painted with a design of their choice.
The day was not only about celebrating the girls and having loads of fun, but also, it was an avenue for the girls to access sexual and reproductive health services. In partnership with Naguru Teenage Centre, we provided free health services to the girls throughout the day. The services offered included: HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, general ailments, counseling sessions, distribution of informational materials, and so many others.
Speeches were also given during the day. Teacher Agatha from St. John Baptist Primary School, Kabalagala gave a speech on behalf of the patron teachers of the different Girl Up clubs.
“I thank Girl Up Initiative Uganda for the good work done. Our school is new in the program, but I must say there is a huge change in the school now. The girls are more confident than before and we, as a school, are greatly appreciative.”
After her speech, she gifted a beautiful doormat (that was made by the girls) to Monica, our Executive Director.
One of the parents from Bright Angels Junior School also gave a speech.
“I want to thank the organization, together with the coaches, for empowering our daughters in different skills, such as making reusable pads, bangles, necklaces and so many others. I promise to buy my daughter the materials she needs so that she keeps doing something productive during the holidays.”
Our guest of honor was Enrika Mijumbi, a Big Sister and graduate of the AGP in 2018 from Uganda School for the Deaf, Ntinda. She is an inspiring and passionate girl who loves to model and has received a number of awards, like the Next Generation Award from the Malengo Foundation and others for her commendable work in positively representing differently abled girls.
She wrote a speech that was read by her teacher:
“I would love to thank Girl Up Initiative Uganda for the good work that you do. Our dear parents, teachers, and coaches, I am proud to have been part of the program. Being a vulnerable child, these are some of the things that we miss out on. Our experiences are unique. Personally through this program I have been equipped with different skills, I have made friends, and I am proud to be part of the strong bond we have created through the Big Sister Network. I had little motivation of pursuing my dream of being a model, but the coaches kept encouraging us during the different sessions. To the graduates, congratulations. Keep working hard, believing in yourselves, and you will achieve.”
After the speech from the guest of honor, Monica Nyiraguhabwa, our Executive Director awarded the teachers a small gift of appreciation for their commendable work. This was followed by the awarding of certificates of AGP completion to the graduating girls and the girls were officially welcomed into the Big Sister Network. Cake was cut and shared by all, which was followed by a luncheon.
The day was a beautiful one full of energy and excitement! We are excited to see how the girls take their new knowledge, skills, and tools to spread the message of girls’ empowerment and gender equality. Special thanks to all the different stakeholders for supporting us in empowering adolescent girls; we couldn’t do this alone!