According to the UN, COVID-19 has wiped out 20 years of education gains, globally. Uganda—a country with the longest school closures—is grappling with these education losses and their impact on learners. But, unfortunately, formal education is no longer accessible for many adolescents and young people. This is especially true for women, girls, and young mothers living within resource-scarce slum communities. Now, there is an urgent need to boost access to relevant, vocational education for these girls and young women, as quality, lifelong opportunities are vital to realize each person’s human rights and get back on track to reaching global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Girl Up Initiative Uganda’s flagship vocational education program, Mazuri Designs Hub, engages vulnerable, out-of-school girls and young women with hands-on training in tailoring and fashion design. Throughout this 10-month long course, our trainees are equipped with vocational, financial, and entrepreneurial training sessions to facilitate economic independence while also promoting confidence, self-empowerment, and important life skills. Since 2014, we have reached 298 girls and young women aged 15-35, many of whom have been able to start up their own businesses or gain employment with reputable fashion and design companies. This year, we received the largest number of students below the age of 18 to date, as girls’ education has seen an immense deprioritization by parents in the current tight financial environment.
Recently, we were able to reach a huge organizational milestone of expanding our Mazuri Designs Hub thanks to our new partnership with Tools to Work. Tools to Work believes that every person should be given the opportunity to build an independent existence and participate in the economy. Through this partnership, we received 45 additional sewing machines and a complete machine repair toolkit—giving us the ability to reach a greater number of women and girls.
“With the new machines in place, there is more production and better skills-development since these machines are more advanced than the ones we had before. And with many students enrolled this year, there are enough machines for everyone and room for training." ~Coach Annet, Mazuri Trainer and Seamstress
Prior to their generous donation, our Hub had 24 manual machines, limiting the number of students to be trained, as well as program accessibility for those living with disabilities. The beauty of these machines is that they are designed in a unique way, which caters to persons with disabilities. To GUIU, having an inclusive learning environment not only portrays equality and opportunity for all but also recognizes everyone’s ability to reach their full potential.
This was only the first of many accomplishments this year for Mazuri—we also acquired additional training space! Our new, bigger space accommodates our growing vocational hub so that each participant can utilize their own sewing machine during training sessions. Along with this new and improved training center, we also received a highly sought-after certification from the Uganda Directorate of Industrial Training, enabling the students trained to be nationally examined and recognized for their professional skills gained. This also leads to greater employability, thus aligning with one of our 2022-2026 organizational Strategic domains: Skilling and Employability of Girls and Young Women.
“I feel better that we acquired a bigger space for Mazuri because it shows growth and progress from last year. This gives me the courage to work harder because people out there can also get to see the good work we do.” ~ Coach Annah, Mazuri Trainer and Seamstress
In order to push forward progress on SDG 4, governments must recognize that intentional and creative shifts must be made to ensure that vulnerable communities are not left behind. Alternative forms of education must also be acknowledged as valuable, and girls must be put at the forefront of all recovery efforts.
This blog was written by Program Assistant, Ekel Fiona.