The Girls Arise Program (GAP) is an initiative of Edu Child Foundation Uganda that is championing gender-responsive interventions to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls in rural communities of Jupangira and Pawong Parishes – Nebbi district through advocacy, educational support and sensitization on gender inclusivity for better societal development.
Gender inequality has been one of the key contributors to poverty, and girls across Africa still face huge challenges with this form of discrimination and most of all with getting a quality education (9.5 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa cannot acquire formal classroom education). In many rural communities, including Nebbi where we serve; a mix of poverty and cultural practices means that families often struggle to prioritize sending their daughters to school, leaving many girls excluded from the important decisions that will affect their lives. One key result of this is missing out on education which ends up leading girls to experience discrimination, abuses, even child marriage, and early pregnancies. A girl without an education is also less likely to send her own children to school, creating a vicious cycle of inequality.
Through the Girls Arise Project (GAP), Edu Child Foundation Uganda advocates for policy development and monitoring at the local council and parish level in the communities served and engages in educational and awareness-raising activities on gender for the achievement of sustainable development in the communities served. Currently, an innovative aspect of our programming has been shaping and informing community conversations (community dialogues) – bringing together local council leaders at the parish and village levels; elders and other key members of the local community in our areas of operation to enlighten them about gender challenges such as rights abuses, girl child education, child marriages, access to menstrual health support, child protection policies, among others to encourage engagement and policy formulation and monitoring that offer redress to these gender challenges affecting girls and women in Nebbi district as a whole. Additionally, apart from providing education scholarship opportunities for vulnerable girls through the “Educate A Child” program, we have also been championing various media campaigns on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook) – that challenge the current status quo in regards to gender inequality and creates awareness regarding the need to stand up for the rights of the girl child.
Our hope for the vulnerable girl child in our communities of operation is to ensure that they are adequately supported to enjoy their full rights, have access to all their tools for healthy living, find redress in cases of rights abuses or violations, and most importantly attain their primary, secondary and vocational education; through the provision of school fees, books, school materials (pens, pencils, mathematical sets, rulers, and school bags).
The Educate a Child Program is an important part of our work because it aims at giving an opportunity to totally orphaned and very vulnerable children coming from extremely impoverished families – to access quality education, a tool we believe can greatly empower them to fully live to their highest potentials. 80% of the children who benefit from this initiative are girls and we currently have a total number of 76 children who are under the sponsorship program which number we hope to scale up to 100 this financial year (2020).
Edu Child Foundation Uganda, therefore, directs its work in rural communities in Uganda (Nebbi District in particular). Consequently, these communities face:
# – High rate of school dropouts especially among the young girls (According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the average dropout rate for girls in Nebbi District is 53.8% as compared to boys at 46.2).
# – Girls are particularly disadvantaged as cultural attitudes in many communities prevent them from supporting their daughters’ education. Discrimination, abuse and child marriage often become obstacles to their potentials – as such, cases of teenage pregnancies are very high in this district among young girls.
# – Offering Education Scholarships. 80% of all the vulnerable children in our “Educate a Child” sponsorship program are all girls – implying 80 out of the 100 total number of children under our support are all girls. We are championing the idea of giving the girl child a chance at living to her highest potential by empowering her with the powerful tool of education.
# – Gender rights. We sensitize communities we serve on gender rights as a means of helping in combating the negative attitudes towards women and girls.
# – Sexual and Reproductive Health. We work with girls and boys to understand their rights and relationships within the community. In this, we carry out sex education in schools and communities to sensitize the young girls and boys about their sexuality and educate them about the dangers of early pregnancies and Sexual Transmitted Diseases/Infections.
# – Tackling discrimination and abuse. We help communities to respond to cases of neglect and abuse against girls.
# – Gender-friendly teaching. We have encouraged teachers on gender-friendly teaching methods that understand the unique problems faced by girls
# – Menstrual health. We help girls stay healthy, provide them with reusable sanitary pads and teach them the valuable skills of making these reusable sanitary pads.
# – Role models. We inspire the girls under our care to believe in themselves and share stories of other powerful women who have become positive change agents in different communities to motivate these girls to work hard. We support the girls to explore further education or training as a tool for personal and community development.
# – Economic empowerment. We help young mothers to provide for their families with access to important support (productive practical life skills and business development) and small business loans.