'Global Grassroots gave me the knowledge and skills to help people'

— Ishimwe Vanessa

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2018 Young Women's Ventures

Our 2018 Young Women's Academy for Conscious Change welcomed 24 vulnerable high school graduates from Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia, some of whom are refugees now living in Uganda. These 24 dynamos designed and implemented social change ventures that impacted 10,304 beneficiaries across 24 communities, including one refugee camp, in four countries.

Ventures addressed girls' education and/or school drop-outs (tackled by nine participants), teen pregnancy (six participants), economic opportunity for young women (three participants), hygiene (two participants), and depression, literacy, self-esteem and self-confidence, and street children (one participant each).



UGANDA

Anena JoanAnena Joan

Issue: School drop-outs

Solution: Joan has been working in schools and talking to girls about the benefits of education and how to cope with situations such as menstruation. Joan is also inspiring them to have goals for their future. She is also teaching girls creative skills to keep themselves busy over long school holidays, helping to them to avoid making poor choices.


Lalam Vicky Lalam Vicky

Issue: Inferiority Complex and Teenage Pregnancies

Solution: Vicky has been focusing on groups of about 200 young girls and women between 13 and 20, speaking to them in schools and market squares. She has been inviting successful women from neighboring areas to join them in activities to help motivate the girls and inspire these young women to realize their dreams, regardless of their backgrounds.


Atto SheilaAtto Sheila

Issue: School Drop-outs

Solution: Sheila's project concerns sensitizing parents and their daughters on the importance of education and the dangers of dropping out of school. Her aim is to make the whole community aware of the need to support education and reduce problems associated with dropouts. Dropouts are guided and encouraged to return to school with the goal of 60% to be re-enrolled in school in Gulu Municipality.


Gloria CheropGloria Cherop

Issue: School Drop-outs

Solution: Gloria's goal is to have a weekly radio spot to reach out to those girls who have dropped out of school who she has been unable to reach personally. She meets with a group of dropouts weekly and works within schools with current students to reinforce the importance of completing their education.


Aber Diana OyellaAber Diana Oyella

Issue: School Drop-outs

Solution: Diana visits schools, sensitizing about school dropouts, and creating clubs to keep girls in school. These clubs present in radio stations, raise funds (such as by sweeping the local markets), and they do charitable work. She also started a traditional dance group to give dropouts a skill while also raising money to start a micro-finance saving group.


Ishimwe Shem VanessaIshimwe Shem Vanessa

Issue: School Drop-outs in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement

Solution: Vanessa, a South Sudanese refugee living in Kyaka II Settlement, is mentoring, sensitizing and working with a number of girls in the camp to reduce high school dropout rates. In a bid to change the attitude of some fellow refugees about school, Vanessa engages them in activities on daily basis.




ETHIOPIA (but living in Uganda)

Tasfanesh Markos (Hope)Tasfanesh Markos (Hope)

Issue: Poor Hygiene

Solution: Hope is also a refugee, from Ethiopia. She and her family live in Kampala. She is working to ensure a supply of clean water to the camp, establish public latrines, sensitize the community, and allocate a garbage depositing site.




KENYA

Elizabeth Mukinya KokiElizabeth Mukinya Koki

Issue: Teen Pregnancy

Solution: By visiting schools, churches, and homes Elizabeth is looking for new ways to fight teen pregnancy. She is emphasizing greater care of daughters by parents and encouraging the community to show appreciation of all girls regardless of their abilities in school. Elizabeth believes that when young girls have confidence and self-esteem they will be less likely to get pregnant.


Christine Muthoni Christine Muthoni

Issue: School Drop-outs

Solution: "I will focus on the root causes of school dropouts. Challenges like early pregnancy will be dealt with through sensitization and involving girls in fun activities to cut short their idle times. I will open book clubs and teach them better communication skills and boost their self-esteem so that they will be better equipped to step forward and ask for assistance whenever they hit rough patches in their schooling."

"I chose this issue because it comes from people I know—one of my dearest friends dropped from Form 4 because she unexpectedly got pregnant. She missed her exams and now she cannot go to higher education. She was a talented student! She is trying to go to technical schools but she is not sure. She was so close to university but now she has lost hope, all because she is too ashamed to repeat her final year as a young mother."

Christine is working at five secondary schools in her district and tells the students about government programs that can fund their studies since many of them don't know that they have that option. "Of course, poverty is a big cause of school dropouts, so I am working with parents as well. I am helping parents form savings groups and plan for their children's future. I also speak at churches to get support for scholarships for the poorest students."


Natalie Mary Natalie Mary

Issue: Depression

Solution: Natalie is increasing awareness of depression, working with families, schools, and institutions and providing information about available resources to help deal with depression. Natalie's ultimate goal is to provide a supportive home for those who suffer from severe depression while they receive care.


Naisiae Margaret TumpesNaisiae Margaret Tumpes

Issue: Literacy

Solution: Margaret knows that illiteracy is a barrier to development and a motivator of marginalization in her community. She is approaching the issue from multiple directions: poverty, a substandard educational system, poor leadership, and ignorance.


Glorofina Akarukoit OpejoGlorofina Akarukoit Opejo

Issue: Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Solution: Glorofina talks to girls with low self-esteem and self-confidence. She started discussion groups, connecting groups of girls with motivational speakers and using inspirational movies, music, dance, drawing, and painting to help build their confidence.




SOUTH SUDAN

Mundua Scola GamisMundua Scola Gamis

Issue: Girls' Education

Solution: Scola wants to see that all girls who have the chance to go to school complete their studies and those who do not yet have the chance learn about their right to an education.


Anywaro EvalineAnywaro Evaline

Issue: School Drop-outs

Solution: Evaline is a South Sudanese refugee, living in Kiryandongo Refugee Camp in Kiryandongo District, in Uganda. Her work addressing dropouts includes visiting radio stations, churches, and schools, sensitizing her community, forming clubs to perform dramas and songs, and showing educational films.


Sijali PamelaSijali Pamela

Issue: Hygiene and Sanitation

Solution: Pamela is a South Sudanese refugee who has lived in Koboko district in Uganda for 15 years with her maternal grandmother and her two younger brothers. She does not know her father (who left when her mother was pregnant) and her mother has since died.

Pamela has been teaching 45 girls in two schools about personal hygiene and how to make reusable sanitary pads.

"These schools had no pads at all—they just offer emergency kitenge (brightly colored and patterned local fabric) to cover girls who had dirtied themselves. I had to teach these girls that to bleed is not a sin or a sickness... The disposable pads are expensive and many of these girls are too ashamed to talk with their parents. They share used pads with each other or use leaves. I asked the school to buy some simple materials and organized a training on how to make reusable sanitary pads. Now each girl has a pad that will last for 6 months and she has the knowledge to help herself and to teach others, too."

Pamela has also partnered with the health inspector of Koboko municipality to teach people about sanitation and hygiene. Together they visited 50 homes in two villages - just two of which had any place for washing their hands.

"The problem is particularly bad for the South Sudanese. They are just renting their homes—they don't have a long-term mentality and they do not care for themselves. Disease and dirtiness are big problems. Plus, the landlords are Ugandans and don't care to help these Sudanese. The refugees don't know their rights."

Pamela also convinced the Health Inspector to build nine rubbish bins along the main road and she has partnered with shop keepers to clean the road and put trash into bins.

"Shopkeepers now tell me that the community is transformed—I have made it into something new, something beautiful...I organized a community clean-up with a secondary school in Koboko. I led 150 students as we cleaned the community—they were very excited to be the first school ever in Koboko to do a volunteer project! People in the community were so impressed, saying: 'Oh, these young people, look how they are helping!'"

Pamela has now sent letters about the clean-up projects to 18 other schools: "As long as there is money for gloves, all of the schools are willing to help."




RWANDA

Dukundane MediatriceDukundane Mediatrice

Issue: Unemployment

Solution: "Medi" has been training girls and young women to create their own job using overlooked resources. She is also encouraging couples to use family planning and financial management resources to save for their children.


Kabatesi Winny Kabatesi Winny

Issue: Girls' Education

Solution: Winny is working to make all girls in her community understand the importance of getting an education, not only for their own sake but for the future of their country and their continent.


Rachel MubantageyeRachel Mubantageye

Issue: Teen Pregnancy

Solution: Rachel is providing sex education to students in Kineza Village to reduce school drop-outs due to teen pregnancy. She is also providing entrepreneurship training to parents to ensure that they have enough money for their children's education and sensitization about the importance of education to children and youth aged 7-20.


Niyonkuru Esther Niyonkuru Esther

Issue: Early Pregnancy

Solution: Esther has been trying to get on TV talk shows and radio. She is teaching girls how to avoid becoming pregnant and how to change their thoughts about themselves and their lives - and look to the future.


Abuzirweki Karasi GraceAbuzirweki Karasi Grace

Issue: Teen pregnancy and low self-esteem

Solution: Grace is working hand-in-hand with local leaders and teachers to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy and improve self-esteem in girls in her community.


Nabasa NaomeNabasa Naome

Issue: Unemployment

Solution: Naome is providing sensitizations about early pregnancy, teaching job creation skills to girls and young women, teaching improved farming techniques for women to get enough capital to start enterprises, teaching girls and women about saving, and sensitizing about the impact of illiteracy on women's unemployment.


Tumukunde ChantalTumukunde Chantal

Issue: Unemployment

Solution: Chantal is sensitizing women and girls to use their passion and skills to avoid different problems caused by unemployment, such as poor standard of living, unplanned pregnancy, etc. She is also training members of the community about birth control.


Abanjye Vanessa Abanjye Vanessa

Issue:Street Children

Solution: Vanessa's Burundian father and Rwandan mother were refugees living in Kabale, Uganda, when Vanessa was born. The family moved to Kigali when she was very young and she now has one younger brother. Vanessa's goal is for 15% of the street children in her community to attend school and be well-cared for. She is helping to sell art through a local gallery that uses the proceeds to support street children and to teach them traditional music and dance from which the revenue also contributes to their support. Vanessa also welcomes street kids to her home each evening so they have a place to do homework, study, and get extra help.


Ukuweze Grace NeelymaUkuweze Grace Neelyma

Issue: Teen Pregnancy

Solution: "I chose this issue because I saw it all through primary school, among my friends, even at young ages of 12, 13 or 14... I was friendly with the house girl who worked for my neighbor but one day she disappeared. Later, when the family hired someone new, I asked her what had happened. I learned that the husband had raped the girl, who was just 13, and she got pregnant. When the wife discovered the pregnancy, they chased the girl out of the house and back to her village. Her family feared the town family so much that they did not do anything and they shunned my friend for bringing them shame...

"The distance between the city and the village is so much. The rich man in town, my neighbor, he could bribe the police to avoid arrest—my friend even feared he might even bribe the police to arrest her family if they accused him. Rich men can also pay girls to keep quiet...

"Later I heard that the young girl's family tried to help her deliver the baby at home but they had no money for hospital and she passed away."

Neelyma has formed young mothers into a hand-craft cooperative where they make earrings, kitenge bags, and similar products. The mothers' greatest needs are financial: the younger ones have plans to resume their studies (at vocational schools, e.g. hair-braiding schools) but the older ones are poor and have low-education, since they come from the village. One said to Neelyma, "I thank God for you because I think now I am no longer a beggar."

Neelyma has also met with 800 girls at four schools in Kicukiro, a suburb of Kigali, and she meets with boys and parents who can "increase the value of the girls from home." Neelyma is doing advocacy in the village, too, through sensitizations about both the rights of women and child protection. (Below, Neelyma teaching a large group of boys)

Neelyma teaching a large group of boys

In 2014, Neelyma started a small NGO called Nyampinga Ushoboye ("Miss Who Is Able" that aimed to "empower girls through their talents." She even made a short film that won best short film in Rwanda.

"It was made by me with the young girls—girls were holding the booms, the microphones, the cameras, everything...I had the idea, but back then I didn't know the missing pieces. I did not know the value of stakeholders. I did not know to register with the government. Global Grassroots pushed me to be better and now I can knock on any door and I know they'll support me."



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