Over Christmas, our Butterfly Project member, Francis Ssuuna, spent a lot of time in his rural village and perhaps for the first time, started to consider the role that girls and young women play in local society and this prompted him to write his recent post The Story of Girls in Impoverished Uganda. It’s an important read for anyone interested in understanding why girls rarely pass through to their secondary education and why girls are considered in terms of dowry, not in terms of their academic potential.
Our work in Northern Uganda has started to demonstrate the importance of developing girls who have a confidence to empower other girls in their communities. This is not a fancy word, it just means that a girl would agree with and encourage those girls, who have aspirations for themselves and then advise, from the benefit of their experience, what action they can take to stand up for themselves and their collective futures.
While Phiona. Francis’ sister, may not be in line for early marriage or prostitution, she is in the unenviable position of seeing the possibility of no further education, having had a blemish-free period of education in her life to date, thanks to Universal Primary Education.
Francis is convinced that we should invest in some of these village girls, who rarely get the level of international exposure as those living in slums and urban areas and hence are less likely to receive sponsorship. Based on our experience with Nancy Lakot and Mercy Moro, who have now become confident advocates for women’s rights, as established members of the Butterfly Project, Francis believes that by educating her in Kampala for a short while, she can similarly become an advocate for girls’ rights in her rural area, having gained the confidence of staying at the Chrysalis Centre, learning ICT, how to type and liaising with international people. Taking this back to the rural village in holiday periods can help change communities, support girls away from early marriage and encourage parents to think outside their own personal financial needs.
Reducing prostitution amongst these girls will reduce the spread of AIDS, as well as encourage girls to think of their real potential, not simply feel forced down a track that other girls are travelling. The Butterfly Project believes very strongly in this idea of Peer Mentoring, but we know how critical it is to support these young people in the early stages in learning about the world around them, especially focusing on ICT. The Butterfly Project also helps them develop the vision for their communities and even their own lives.
Our Project of course is breaking new ground and is funded sparsely. So to train up Phiona, we need money for her food and schooling and daily needs, which for this term will add up to £200. Thereafter we can follow her progress as an advocate for girls’ rights into the future and we can measure how well she is doing at Easter time with a video of her experience to date. We would like to start her back at school this Monday, but if we cannot raise the money for her, then we will have to return her to her village to an uncertain future.
A chance conversation over Christmas between brother and sister could change the lives of hundreds of girls in rural areas, if this concept can be made to work. Can you contribute towards Phiona’s chance?