A doctor, an accountant, a nurse, a teacher- these are the aspirations of the young girls who participate in Shanti Uganda’s Teen Girls Health and Empowerment Program and these are the bright souls who surround me at the beginning of my journey. I come from Canada while they come from Luwero and its surrounding towns; despite our diversity it is apparent that as women we share one goal: to educate ourselves and prepare for our futures as independent and contributing members of society.
We too share one major difference: accessibility. The path to my aspirations has been made possible through my ability to travel to Uganda and learn from this experience at Shanti. The path to their aspirations lies in their ability to overcome the inaccessibility that hinders their future.
Stella to the rescue! Who better to empower and educate the women of the community than women of the community? Stella is one of two facilitators of the Shanti Uganda Teen Girls Health and Empowerment Program.
In the week long workshop, Stella covers various topics that range from sex education, healthy relationships, nutritional health, the female body and confidence. Stella – born and raised in Uganda, educated and employed in nursing and midwifery – serves as a great mentor for these young girls who find courage in Stella’s example of a young successful woman in Uganda.
In addition to classroom discussions, Shanti’s Teen Girls Health and Empowerment workshop offers a combination of fun activities while skill building. Ritah, Shanti’s agriculturalist and facilitator extraordinaire conducts yoga classes, pad-making workshops and baking lessons.
The girls complete the week-long workshop with a graduation ceremony where they serve the delicious cake they have now learned to make as well as receive graduation certificates from Shanti.
The best part of the week most certainly is this day. These girls have brought their parents and community members to join in the celebration and the atmosphere is positive, hopeful and joyous! Despite having shared their concerns regarding issues such as school fees and accessibility, each girl seems to have taken something useful from this workshop.
Watching Stella and Ritah in action is quite impressive as each offers knowledge specific to these young women and their daily challenges and aspirations. There is much to be done for young women in Uganda (as is for young women elsewhere in the world); fortunately, Stella and Ritah work to bring Shanti’s vision alive, prioritizing women centred care and ultimately impacting the community at large.
After having heard from their friends about the great leadership received from Stella and Ritah I am hopeful that Shanti’s next Teen Girls Health and Empowerment workshop will attract many new faces. I look forward to learning more about these passionate, young members of society as well as witnessing two inspirational women offer such hope and wisdom!