The Real Uganda’s Girls Get Skills practical skills training program launched in September 2021 with much enthusiasm from the mothers and daughters of Lugacraft Kiteza Rural Women’s Group, in Buikwe District, Uganda.
As schools in Uganda have been closed for the better part of 2 years, rural teen girls have been kept close to home. While this may keep them safe from sexual exploitation, taking care of younger siblings all day moves them right into assuming home making roles.
With no viable skills.
The Real Uganda offers 2 – 12 week locally-led communty-based volunteer programs.
Young rural women in Uganda don’t have consistent control over their lives. They go where they’re told to go and do what they’re told to do. In many cases, they’re simply raised to become someone’s wife. Upon reaching high school, formal classroom education is found to be of poor quality and irrelevant, considering the daily demands of housekeeping, child care, and the garden. (Makerere University School of Health Sciences, 2019, Young African Leaders Initiative, 2021) The biggest reason high school girls in Uganda leave school? Pregnancy (Government of Uganda, 2012).
Before COVID-19 closed our schools, secondary school dropout rates had actually been on the rise. Dropout rates for lower secondary in Uganda doubled from 18% in 2013 to 37% in 2016. To compare, Rwanda’s rates fell from 34% to 16% (The Daily Monitor, 2020, citing UNESCO).
Ugandan girls, like their counterparts all over the world, want to be protected, and keep their brains active and days fun and interesting. Research shows access to handicraft skills, social skills, and sexual reproductive health information all go a long way toward securing bright futures for Uganda’s young women (Nabugoomu, 2019, Borgen Project, 2018).
The Real Uganda is in full support of that.
So far, 47 young women learned hair care and styling techniques and 38 young women are currently enrolled in our new baking program. Young women, aged 13 to 18 are gaining portable money making skills to build their lives, no matter where their futures take them. Yes: Girls Get Skills!
They’ve also attended 5 social skills workshops and 4 sex ed classes as well.
GoAbroad Foundation is happily processing tax deductible donations via PayPal, on our behalf. Thanks to quite a number of small (and not so small!) donations from former volunteers and well-wishers, our open air skills training programs are ongoing.
For now, the girls are masking up, asking TONNES of questions, and getting their hands dirty! It’s absolutely wonderful to see them so engaged.
Girls Get Skills combines practical skills with social skills and sexual reproductive education to ensure the girls have a full toolbox to build productive and meaningful lives.
The main takeaways from our first and second social skills and sexual education workshops include:
•Collaborate and surround yourself with friends who make positive decisions and take positive actions
•Don’t pass up any opportunity, have a plan, set personal goals
•Don’t make excuses, don’t listen to that negative inner voice, practice persistence
•Personal and menstrual hygiene are important, shower daily
•Love what you do and don’t undervalue any job
•You can even get pregnant if you have sex during menstruation
•Trust yourself and be aware that men and boys can lie to lure you into casual sex
•Be creative, learn new things
•Know why you’re doing things, don’t get distracted with silly things
•Look boys in the eye and tell them firmly “no” and then tell them why
•Don’t listen to discouraging words
•When cash for personal items is needed, ask the women in your family. Should they say no, ask another. Keep asking.
•Be principled, decisive, determined, and brilliant!
While these are early days for Girls Get Skills, we already have an success to report: A student, Stella, showed such promise that the course trainer has given Stella a job in her Lugazi hair salon!
Otherwise, we’re looking forward to seeing where things go. Here are a few hints about the future:
1. These initial 47 girls will complete their practical (and social/sexual) course. The most promising and serious 20 students will continue with hair care and styling in the new year, to perfect the more complicated, in-demand styles.
2. 45 to 60 girls will begin training in modern vegetable gardening in early 2022. This 10 week program will focus on intensive, small-scale cultivation of fast-maturing, cash crops such as onions, french beans, spinach greens, red cabbage, and tomatoes. The aim is to show that cash crops can be grown in a small space, efficiently, anytime, and not be dependent upon rain water. The girls will improve their families’ incomes now and take their skills with them when they marry.
3. A new 10 week course in cookie and cake baking skills training began in early December 2021. Cakes and cookies are popular and affordable local snacks in Uganda. Decorated cakes are in high demand for functions like birthdays, weddings, and graduations. Basic cakes and cookies are easily packaged at home and sold to shops wholesale or pedaled in the street for direct sale. Baking is taught using local methods, meaning start-up costs are minimal and all baking is done using saucepans over a charcoal stove, which are found in almost all households.
Our ultimate Girls Get Skills program goals are to avoid early marriage and teen pregnancy, and increase confidence and effective decision-making in the young women we’re working with. We’ll also be watching to ensure they’re able to earn a sustained weekly income with the skills they’re taught.
We can’t wait to see what the future brings.
Ensure this transformative skills training program continues into 2022.
The Borgen Project, 2018 https://borgenproject.org/girls-education-in-uganda/
Government of Uganda, Ministry of Education, 2012 http://www.education.go.ug/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Dropout-Report-in-USE-schools-2012.pdf
Josephine Nabugoomu, 2019. Education Journal https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336517654_School_Dropout_in_Rural_Uganda_Stakeholder_Perceptions_on_Contributing_Factors_and_Solutions
Makerere University, College of Health Sciences, 2019 https://acres.or.ug/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/final-causes-of-school-drop-out.pdf
Young African Leaders Initiative, 2021 https://yali.state.gov/five-ways-to-keep-girls-in-school/ (website view, September 16, 2021)