I am concluding my second visit to Rwanda. Over the last few days we hosted a truly international summit that brought leaders and thinkers together, to strategise and to identify actions that will improve education and life outcomes for young people in rural areas of developing nations
Joining the summit was my new friend, Alice, an advocate for the education and career aspiration of girls in Uganda. She was a child during the conflict in Northern Uganda. She has witnessed the violence perpetrated by the Lords Resistance Army, and decided to act.
Five years ago she started a school in Northern Uganda for girls who are orphans, rescued from oppressors or other difficult circumstances that negatively impacts potential.
During the summit we drove through towns and villages in rural Rwanda. We met with the community, teachers and children. Alice was able to provide insight into cultural elements that ultimately inhibits the opportunities for girls.
As we drove along, we regularly saw women carrying large loads and collecting water, while men and boys gathered talking in groups. When I mentioned this observation to Martin, our driver, his response in ‘this is Africa’.
Alice explained that from a young age girls are cultured into domestic work. We regularly saw primary school aged girls with babies attached to their backs. She pointed out, for many families, once a daughter is strong enough to carry a baby it is her responsibility to care for her younger sibling, while the mother returns to work in the fields.
Generally, girls rush home to help after school, while boys are able to play. Martin also commented that girls don’t ride bicycle, boys only. Girls wear skirts and it is not considered acceptable for them to ride a bicycle, so their freedom of movement is limited.
30% of girls in Northern Uganda are orphans or in girl-headed households, with responsible for their younger siblings. This makes them vulnerable to abuse and forced marriage.
Alice’s school is committed to transforming the life of a girl, because educating women is a critical element of eradicating poverty. She said that woman are business savvy and can generate income for the family. For $1 they can buy a chicken and over time raise $50 by selling the eggs.
Through her school and community efforts Alice advocates for changes to:
1. Culture – an appreciation of girls, a commitment to their value and education
2. Support girls who are orphans or in child-headed households
3. Judicial system in Uganda. The weaknesses in the system enables perpetrators of rape and abuse to avoid prosecution
Innovation within developing nations needs to specifically address the issues that inhibit education and career choices for girls. A deliberate strategy is needed. Our Rwandan driver, Martin, works very hard so his children can attend a good schools. He has chosen one for his daughter that has a reputation for educating leaders. He gets it.
(Read more about Alice and consider supporting the great work that she and her team undertakes: giftsforwarbrides.com)