Adolescent girls in Uganda face numerous challenges due to ignorance of their inherent rights including the right to education and sexual and reproductive health knowledge, among others.
African norms position boy children above the girl child and in many cases has resulted in girls dropping out of school to give way for the education of the boys. These norms and traditions are widespread in Kasese District in the Rwenzori region in Uganda. This is why National Youth Organization for Development (NAYODE) with support from the Independent Development Fund, a DGF partner intervened to protect the sexual rights and other human rights of adolescent girls in 11 sub counties in the district. To achieve this, NAYODE embarked on promoting awareness on these rights using multi-channel approaches including community dialogues and edutainment through drama, radio programmes and interpersonal communication aimed at increasing their understanding of their rights.
It envisaged that this knowledge would empower adolescent girls to challenge the deeply rooted norms and traditions. 17 year old Agnes Mbambu is a senior four student of Saddex High School located in Muliba sub-county, Kasese district. Agnes has become an ambassador for girl child education in her school and community. According to her teachers, she is responsible for encouraging girls to stay in school. Recently, she convinced Kabawo Jesca (a pregnant S.3 student) to continue her education, even when she was facing stigma from her peers and had lost hope for education. Many years back, Agnes lost her father and grew up with her mother and siblings. Due to financial challenges, the mother preferred to educate Agnes’s elder brother. Fortunately for Agnes, she came to know about NAYODE, a partner of IDF that promotes girl child education in Kasese district. After an interface with the promoters of NAYODE, she came to understand that she had the right to education and her parents were responsible for ensuring her school fees was paid.
Subsequently, she gained confidence and reported her mother to the local council leaders of the area as well as to the police, who summoned the mother and advised her to pay Agnes’s school fees. This happened for a while but after facing difficulties, Agnes’ mother failed to raise her school fees. Agnes decided to relocate to Muliba Sub-County to live with her brother, a family man and a nursery school teacher in Ibanda. Agnes has faced and overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties in paying her school fees. Occasionally, she appeals to her brother, relatives and friends, who provide only a small fraction of her school fees. However, she has not given up. When the DGF team met her, she had been asked to leave the school due to outstanding school fees arrears totaling UGX 150,000. NAYODE fundraised and enabled Agnes to meet this demand. Even amidst these challenges, Agnes still raises her head in determination; “I want to become a teacher and I will work hard to ensure this dream comes to pass”.