Monday 20th April 2015, was filled with jubilation and celebration as we witnessed the first ever graduation of Bonga adolescent girls in Nebbi district, Uganda where West Nile Private Sector Development Promotion Center Ltd (WENIPS), a partner to Stromme Foundation East Africa (SFEA) runs the program. The ceremony kicked off with an awareness match on the streets enlightening people about issues surrounding adolescent girls.
276 girls successfully completed their 9 months Bonga adolescent girl’s empowerment program which equipped them with basic life skills, literacy, numeracy and vocational skills. For six months, the girls were taken through topics like primary health care, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, women and child rights among others. Most of these girls who previously dropped out of school have dropped out of school due to various reasons such as early pregnancies and forced marriages now acquired both numeracy and literacy skills to keep them going. Sharon one of the graduates excitedly while scribbling her name in a note book remarked;
“Before I enrolled in Bonga, I could not write my name or even read it. But now see what I can do with my life.”
In his speech the Chief Executive Officer of WENIPS, Mr. Onegi Jenaro, highlighted that WENIPS partnership with SFEA has enabled them to boost the education in the region. Through the support received, WENIPS has extended services among adolescent girls who had dropped out of school and others forced into early marriages and also trained communities in matters of savings and developing themselves through the Community Managed Microfinance (CMMF) program. WENIPS has also been able to support primary schools sanitation by constructing toilet stances in selected schools. This support from SFEA and her development partners including NORAD and DFID is well appreciated.
Oyella Mary, one of the graduates gave remarks on behalf of all the other Bonga graduates. She extended appreciation to their parents, WENIPS and SFEA for the support rendered to them through the program. Mary said she chose hair dressing as her trade for the vocational skills part of the training because she has always loved making women look beautiful. Other vocational trades that were availed to the girls included bakery, tailoring and handcrafts.
Now that they are all equipped with something to earn them a living, the girls have gained self-esteem, are more in charge of their lives and no longer playing victims of circumstances. Mr. Jenaro committed to continuous empowerment of the young ladies through various training that were being organised. In addition, WENIPS together with SFEA handed over start up kits to the girls to enable them start their small income generation projects following the skills that they had acquired.
The Regional Director, SFEA Mrs Priscilla M Serukka congratulated the girls upon completing the training and attaining the great achievement. She expressed disappointment towards some of the parents and guardians who had not taken the program seriously leading to drop out of over 20 girls.
“51% of Uganda’s population are women. Uneducated and unskilled girls are very vulnerable and therefore a threat to the development of society especially in today’s global village. Protecting these young ladies should be a task to everyone in society.” Remarked, Mrs. Serukka.
She further urged the new empowered lot of ladies to continue working hard and saving through the micro finance program so that they can be able to stand on their own.
Mrs. Acayo Christine Cwinya-Al, Woman MP, Nebbi district graced the ceremony as chief guest. Also present were the Local Council Five, chairperson and local government leaders, community leaders, parents and policy makers in Nebbi district.They all cautioned the girls and parents to actively participate in development programs brought to them so that they can altogether put up a fight against poverty and its associated vices.
It was indeed a great day of jubilation crowned with a great lunch feast for everyone that had gathered to celebrate the liberation of the girls.