“I miss school. I miss my friends and teachers. Sometimes, I even want to read at night when I’m free, but we have no electricity at home and I cannot keep the candle burning throughout the night.”
We are so proud that the story of one of our Big Sister’s, Fortunate Ayomirwoth, and our Covid-19 response work was recently featured in the CNN op-ed written by Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates! This provided us with the opportunity to amplify the voice of Fortunate on the CNN global platform and provide a glimpse into what life is like for many of the girls that we serve in the slum communities of Kampala.
Below, we give you a sneak peek into Fortunate’s full story and why it is so critical that we put adolescent girls at the center of Covid-19 response efforts:
15-year-old Fortunate Ayomirwoth is one of our star Big Sisters who completed our Adolescent Girls Program (AGP)in 2019. Thanks to the AGP, she gained the confidence to run for the position of Head Girl at her school, even though other children at school tried to discourage her. With her built up self-esteem and confidence, she went for the position and won!
Since Uganda was hit by the COVID-19 global pandemic, life has not been the same for Fortunate and her family. School has been closed since March 2020, and Fortunate has spent all that time at home where she helps out with different house chores. With new COVID-19 lockdown procedures, everyday holds many uncertainties for Fortunate and thousands of the girls we serve in Uganda.
Now, Fortunate spends her days at home helping her mother with house chores, hoping that she and her siblings will have enough food for their next meal. She shared,
“Mummy lost her job. She used to wash clothes for different people. But now, all her customers are at home and can do it for themselves.”
Since losing her job, her mother has faced many challenges providing for her family and sometimes transfers her frustrations to Fortunate and her siblings.
Thankfully, Girl Up Initiative Uganda came in to support Fortunate and her family through the distribution of COVID-19 family relief packages. They were provided with food, salt, soap, and sanitary towels to support them in this challenging time. The pads helped Fortunate and her sisters maintain menstrual hygiene during their periods.
Given the increased risks faced by adolescent girls during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Girl Up Initiative Uganda has also been, and still is, offering psycho-social support and counseling to all program participants, of which Fortunate is among. This ensures that Fortunate can still access the support and safe space from our Coaches that she needs to continue on her leadership journey and not give up in the face of the pandemic and amplified hardships.
Fortunate is extremely eager to get back to school and work harder than ever to make good grades.
“Having an education has not been an easy thing given the situation of my family. My education is very dear to me. I believe that an education will make me a better person one day and I will be able to improve the situation of my family.”
At Girl Up Initiative Uganda, we are committed to doing everything that we can to ensure that when schools re-open Fortunate and girls like her can return safely to school.
Right now, thousands of our girls like Fortunate are eager to continue their education, knowing that it may be their only way out of poverty. Without interventions aiming to break this cycle, it is often perpetuated from generation to generation.
Since 2018, Girl Up Initiative Uganda has been a proud partner of the Girls’ Opportunity Alliance - working together to empower young women and girls to access educational opportunities. Michelle Obama clearly understands the value of girls’ education,
“When we give girls the chance to learn, we give them the opportunity to fulfill their potential, build healthier families, and contribute to their countries' economies for generations to come.”
The Girls’ Opportunity Alliance Fund invested in us to make our 2019 Big Sisters Camp a reality and, recently, supported our COVID-19 Emergency Fund to assist women and girls seeking medical, legal, financial, and other help due to the increased prevalence of gender-based violence experienced during this pandemic.
On The Today Show in 2018, Mrs. Obama called the audience to action to support grassroots organizations, like Girl Up Initiative Uganda. She powerfully said that day,
“One of the best parts of the [Girls Opportunity] Alliance is the fund that will allow people to….support them in real time. And that’s what people like Monica [GUIU Executive Director] need. They need resources on the ground.”
(Monica with Michelle Obama and other celebrities during her appearance on the Today Show in 2018.)
In Uganda, the phrase “Are we together?” is often used in a classroom setting to ensure that everyone is on the same page and paying close attention. It is imperative that we are now standing together to make sure that girls everywhere have a chance to learn, stay healthy, and stay safe during and following COVID-19 times.
If you haven’t already read it, we invite you to read the recently published CNN article highlighting Fortunate’s powerful story and GUIU’s COVID-19 Response.