Girls Leadership Summit
On Friday August 17th Uganda For Her hosted our very first girls’ empowerment summit! 80 girls from different schools in Kampala and Mpigi, ages 9 to 16, gathered together to participate in our workshops.
We were so fortunate to have Hope from Girls Not Brides help us kick off the day with a fantastic speech! She encouraged girls to stay in school, advocating that child marriage is not okay. Child marriage is a form of abuse that disenables the girl child and strips her of her rights. Child marriage can negatively impact the rest of her life and propels gender-based violence and inequality.
Who is most affected by unprotected sex, child marriage, or teen pregnancy you ask? Always the girl child; the girl must leave school early, cannot compete in the job market without a completed education, must stay at home to raise children, is at risk for maternal death, forced to grow up too quickly, and becomes dependent upon a man. Child marriage takes girls out of school and removes opportunities for equality. This issue is one of many reasons that we need to keep our girls in school and educate them on their sexual and reproductive health and rights! Our workshops were designed to empower these girls to stand up for their rights and abolish any stigmas and myths surrounding a girl’s purpose. Hope concluded her speech by asking the girls about their dreams and career aspirations, reminding them that those dreams are only possible if they believe in themselves and stay in school.
We then had the girls share with us some myths that they have heard surrounding the female body and its natural functions. Girls began sharing information that they had learned from loved ones: the belief that if a girl stays in school she will not be able to find a husband, or that if she uses a sanitary pad while on her period she will not be able to become pregnant. One of the most heart-wrenching stories shared with us was about a young 14-year-old girl that was raped by her father for years yet believes that it is okay because he uses a condom! This behaviour is not appropriate and girls and their communities need to be aware of their rights to understand various wrongdoings and how to prevent them. We cannot allow this to continue and will be reaching out to this girl. We were provided with several other examples of myths that had been told to these girls by leaders in their communities, proving just how necessary sexual education is. We hope to not only educate school age girls and boys but adults and parents in the community to fight the stigma and these myths. Education on sexual and reproductive health should no longer be taboo, as the silence surrounding this topic hinders the development of this country and its girls.
Next, the girls gathered together to make new friends over tea and samosas as an early morning snack. Followed by three workshops, the girls were divided up and rotated through the different sections. The first workshop focused on developing self-esteem to encourage girls to believe in themselves and start making goals. Together the girls wrote down the things they loved about themselves, their dreams, and life aspirations. The second workshop taught girls all about menstruation, which even included a fun interactive quiz that the girls loved! The third and final workshop focused on healthy communication and consent to enable girls to develop self-empowerment. The girls participated in a fun interactive activity that had them determine whether consent was given or not in each scenario. The teachers even joined in to participate in all these workshops! The girls had plenty of great questions for us and the material really resonated with them.
Next we all mingled and shared conversation over a lovely lunch provided by our cooks! Lastly as the day came to an end we taught the girls how to use and clean reusable sanitary pads and distributed a kit to each girl that attended! Some teachers were even interested in the pads and took one home and later attended our pad-making workshop!
When it was time to say goodbye at the end of the day we had several girls come up to us afterwards for hugs and to say thank you. We would not have been able to make this event possible without the support of our donors! A big thanks to all the schools and girls that participated in this event and to everyone that made it possible. Our Summit was a huge success!
By: Lauren Shoniker