A year ago we set up a sewing room with a view to address the lack of skills amongst girls in Ntungamo District in SW Uganda. Our focus would be on girls aged between 17- 25 Not in Education, Employment or Training, the so called NEETS.
We set up a sewing room and invited girls from the village to come hang out with us, The results were amazing
Last month, we invited a new set of girls to join the program. It was heartening to see parents turn up with their girls. We were surprised by how young this group of girls are.
This is Abias and Catherine and they are 16 and 15. Both are being raised by single mothers and did not finish their primary school education.
This is 15 year old Olivious and 17 year old Marion. They both completed Primary school but were unable to continue in further education due to lack of school fees.
The girls have hit the ground running and their first task to to find their way around a sewing machine.
78% of Uganda’s population is under 30 years of age and sadly the incidence of unemployment amongst this age group is high. This has implications for poverty levels amongst the youth and some of the reasons for this are due to a lack of skills.
Our skills program for NEETS seeks to mitigate both poverty and unemployment amongst girls in Itojo sub-county. We currently do not have space to offer a wide range of skills and can only take in 15 girls a year on our sewing program. We would like to change this by scaling the program and you can help us by making a donation at our Virgin Page
If you are a regular here, you will recall that following the success of the first micro poultry program called Send a Chicken to African womanwe launched a second program in December of last year.
This second program has been a challenge in ways that we never expected. The first challenge was to do with very heavy rain that meant that the women found it hard to keep the chicks warm. The second challenge was avian flu.
As a result of these challenges, some of the chicks died leaving the women with roughly 8 chicks out of 15 and the price of eggs fell as nearby countries stopped buying eggs from Uganda.
Notwithstanding those challenges, the women have now started selling the eggs from the project and on average they are earning £1.66 per tray. In Uganda a tray of eggs is made up of 30 eggs and the women are collecting unto 8 eggs a day. We would ordinarily expect a tray of eggs to sell at £2.60 but for the problems mentioned above.
But we still have some good news.
For instance Dezranta Nyakato, a 59 year old woman is currently earning £3.32 a week from selling eggs. She used to earn 51p a week prior to joining this initiative.
Our initial aim for her, was to increase her income to £1.75 a week as it is the income a woman in her village needs to send three kids to school per term and feed her family. This has exceeded our expectations and for that we are truly grateful for your support.
I caught up withe women at the end of May and most reported that they were very happy to have eggs to sell as they had no income prior to taking part in this program and also as part of their diet. Whilst here in the West we are discouraged from eating too many eggs, in villages such as Rwentojo, an egg as part of one’s diet is a real luxury.
The next steps are an experiment to see if the women can hatch chicks from this breed of chickens. This is because this is not ordinarily possible without an incubator but it is apparently achievable if the hens go from a semi intensive program to a full free range feeding program. Some amongst the women already have their hens on a full free range program whilst some don’t.
The theme of this year’s International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) was education. The founders of MHD argue that education on menstrual hygiene changes everything. They call for improved information and menstrual hygiene education for boys, men, teachers, health workers and other professionals so that they can break down negative social norms and provide accurate information and support.
They have argued for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene management as a critical component of reproductive health training for adolescents, building the capacity of teachers to teach about MHM with comfort, the breaking down of taboos around periods, the availability of water and sanitation facilities in schools and work places in order that women and girls have privacy and dignity as well as policies that reduce the cost of menstrual absorbents and are kind to the environment.
We have spent the past year looking at access menstrual hygiene in schools in Ntungamo district SW Uganda . The program focuses on the provision of information on menstrual hygiene as well as ensuring that girls can access menstrual absorbents.
In the course of the year we learned that 53% of girls we spoke to did not know what a period is before they experienced it. 42% of the girls regularly miss between 2-5 days of school each month during their period because they do not have access to sanitary products.
We also learned that some amongst the girls use unsanitary products such as old rags, mattress stuffing etc. during their periods.
Education about menstrual hygiene should concern us all. As part of this year’s MHD activities in Ntungamo, we distributed free Menstrual Hygiene kits to women in the village of Rwentojo SW Uganda. We have been working with this group of women on income generation.
This got me thinking about the role of business in the promotion of menstrual hygiene. For instance, how and where does business fit into the promotion of menstrual hygiene? Is it through their supply chains or perhaps in places of work? Is this even an issue that business concerns itself with?
Do employers for instance, provide flexible working conditions that enable women that suffer painful periods to take time off or work from home should they need to? What about access to female only washrooms?
In my opinion, that sort of statistic would have huge implications for a business’s bottom line because it would impact productivity and outputs.
Menstruation hygiene matters to business in other but perhaps subtle ways such as the availability of skilled workers. Businesses need skilled people to grow and thrive and this cannot be achieved if the education system is not producing the necessary skills or female employees miss workdays due to periods.
With respect to education, in countries such as Uganda, access to Primary School Education is free under the Universal Primary Education initiative, but gaps exist in addressing issues that prevent girls from dropping out of school and some of these reasons are to do with poor menstrual hygiene management in schools.
This includes the availability of water, toilets, washrooms and hygienic menstrual products. It is not enough to increase school registration for girls who then drop out due to a lack of menstrual hygiene management.
In the long run this has direct implications for a country’s economic development due to a large number of girls who become adults that are trapped in poverty due to a lack of skills which they can use to create their own employment or access employment elsewhere.
The founders of MHD have argued, that in order for countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12, nation states must pay attention to menstrual hygiene management. This being the case; Governments, Civil Society as well as Business should take menstrual hygiene management seriously.
New Kids on the block : As you will see from the photos above, we now have 7 kids (3 females & 4 males) as the goats started delivering in December. The icing on the cake thus far, is the birth last month of female twin kids by Maria’s goat. We do need more female kids as these are the ones we pass on to widows waiting in the queue for a goat of their own. The new round of distribution will be in July when the new borns are six months old. The selected widows have started work on goat shelters.
Milk production: Most of the women whose goats have delivered have access to at least 1 pint of milk every day. But some are not milking their goats at all such as Merida whose goat gave birth during the dry season and Maria whose goat had twins.
The other part of our program is crossbreeding. Through this program, everyone in the district is able to crossbreed their local goats with the three 100% pure diary bucks. The aim of this program is to create a new breed of goats.
The bucks have been busy,
Alejandro has four offsprings (3 females and 1 male) and mated 3 new females in February. The community is super impressed with the offsprings and have started spreading the word about the program in the nearby villages of Migorora, Kakiizi and Nyamuhani.
Force has mated 2 females so far and has 2 offsprings which are males.
Ronaldo has mated 2 females so far and has 1 offspring which is a female.
A word from our program manager
The widows are extremely happy with the program and have shared this with the local leaders as well as those in the community that are not yet part of this program
The women who have milk have different opinions: Lydia is enjoying it very much, Vairot says it is ok and Jovannis says it tastes different to the one from cows but is still drinking it.
Take up of the crossbreeding loan is still low in the villages of Rwentojo and Kytinda where Force and Ronaldo live. It would appear the communities there are not aware of the program we therefore need to run a program campaign
The kids are developing well with the exception of the male from Merida’s goat – it’s a 25% male which didn’t seem to get enough milk at the beginning of its life.
It seems half of the widows take their goats with them to the gardens so they’re on a semi-free range systems. Althoughthe50% goats can live like a local goat but it’s better to keep them in a zero grazing environment if possible to maximise the amount of milk they produce.
We are all looking forward to the day when more families can readily access milk as part of their diet.
It is International Women’s Day today and the question I am preoccupied with today is whether such days help ultra poor women in any meaningful ways. In the current times of hashtags the International Women’s Day has its own hashtag #IWD2017 or if you prefer #IWD17.
But are hashtags enough to effect the sort of change ultra poor women are looking for? Do such women get to see hashtags and social media memes?
Ultra poor women are said to
have no assets to generate their own income
engage in casual labour
and are poorly paid.
As far we are concerned here at LTHT, hashtags are not enough and International Women’s Day should mean more and be inclusive.
We have over the last year and half focused on providing ultra poor women with assess to generate their income. We believe that
“decent work is central to women’s #economicempowerment given its inherent importance to women’s well being and ability to advance in areas such as acquiring income and assets – ODI”
This has had an impact in the lives of women such as Night Barema who have managed to increase their income from £2.43 to £17 a month. You can read about Night’s story here
Today, women and girls in rural Uganda cannot access information and materials to manage their menstruation. It is International women’s Day 2017 and yet some school girls still use leaves during their periods, miss 2.6 days of school each month and women use rags. To that end we launched a menstrual hygiene program last year to change this but we still have a long way to go.
Widows and older women in rural Uganda are vulnerable to poor diet as they are almost always the last to eat. We started a goat program that provides an income generating asset to such women and gives them access to milk in their diet.
As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we should reconsider where and on what we focus on as hashtags will not help ultra poor women. This day should also be about equality for women regardless of their social and economic standing. We can make a real difference in those women’s lives with very little input.
The first term of 2017 in Uganda sees the launch of the Ruhanga Bursary Project, a locally managed project that aims to assist young people in Ruhanga whose families are in short term financial distress which can lead to their children having to leave school often for extended periods until the charges can be paid, perhaps following a harvest, sometimes to a point where no catch up can be achieved requiring a further year’s education which is beyond the means of many already struggling families.
It would perhaps be useful to note that families in Ruhanga are nearly all self-employed and have no access to loan facilities to pay for education as they are neither salaried nor have equity in their homes.
As such, fees and school charges have to be paid for in cash and this places an enormous burden on already struggling families who have little or no capacity to save money after paying for daily living expenses.
That many do is remarkable but many face regular setbacks from periods of low earning due to ill-health, or, as recently in the village, when freak storms damaged crops leaving nothing to sell at market.
Piloting at Team College in the village, and funded by LTHT, the project aims to make funding available to ensure no child is forced to abandon their education due to short term financial difficulty.
The project provides loans to the school to cover the required charges until the family is in a position to repay the funds. This way the school ends the term with all charges received, the parents end the term with all charges paid and the young person ends the term with a full term’s education better equipping them to maximise life’s opportunities.
You can help by donating through this fundraising page:
It really is the gift that keeps on giving as the donation will help a child remain at school, then once repaid to the Bursary Project, the money can help another child etc.
Make a difference today 🙂
For volunteering opportunities at Team College in Ruhanga visit their website here: volunteer-uganda.org
Oe of the aims of dairy goats program was to enable women to access milk as part of their diet and the good news is that the widows whose goats have kids are getting 1 to 2 cups of milk per day for their own consumption.
We have had some bad news too. One of the 50% male goats we bought for the cross breeding program died. He was housed with one of the female goats who was already pregnant. We suspect that he tried to mate with her and because she was not on heat (due being pregnant already) she fought him and injured him with her horns. This resulted in an eye infection that spread to both eyes and unfortunately, after treating him with antibiotics, he didn’t respond well and died.
The program is now under way and we are expecting 3 more baby goats next month so keep an eye on this space for updates.
I caught up with some of the women that are part of the program last month. It was interesting to hear about their experiences of caring for the goats and how excited they are the prospect of having access to goat milk.
On 14 December Paige and I finally got to meet that are part of our Skills Development Initiative in person. It was end of semester 2 and we were in for a treat. The girls had to make something to wear for our visit as part of their end of semester 2 exams.
We were treated to a fashion show too.. this was such a fun afternoon . The girls told us what it means to them to be part of this program as well as their aspirations. It was interesting to note, that most would like to go into business as teachers so they can pass on the skills they have learned to other. girls like them.
The girls have one more semester to go before they out and out those skills to work. Keep an eye on this space and we will keep you posted as to their progress.
The school term at Team College ended on 14th December 2016 and there was a lot to celebrate this year.
For instance, the school’s students’ successes over the past academic year and mark the undertaking of a major infrastructure improvement programme to the school.
Attended by students, former students, local officials and a wide cross section of the community, the keynote speaker was local MP Mr Gerald Karuhanga who gave a well received speech stressing the importance of education to the future development of the local community and Uganda.
The improvements to the school, which include refurbishing the classrooms, new doors and windows and upgrades to the sanitary facilities, were funded by the charity and long term supporter of the school LTHT, whose chairperson, Ida Horner, attended the event together with trustee Paige Kilroy, and presented awards to students celebrating their achievements over the past year.
Headmaster of Team College, Karamira George, hosted the event which was considered a great success by all those who attended.
The new academic year starts next month and we hope that the improvements will attract more students to the college.
Following the inspection of chicken coops, it was time to bring the chicks home to Rwentojo.
This is always an exciting time. The chicks are two months old and at this age it is easy for anyone without prior experience of poultry farming to look after them.
For this round of the program, we reduced the number of participants and increased the number of chicks per participant.
The village Chairman was part of the house to house assessments to introduce us. He did a preselection of the women who are head of households in his village – most of them are widows but there are some who apparently cannot rely on their husbands either because they’re never around or they’re alcoholics.
We are keen on investing in women in this part of the country as most have no assets that would enable them to generate income.
The next steps will involve monitoring the farms to ensure that the women are looking after the chicks properly as this has implications for how well develop into hens.
The women will receive training on how to vaccinate the chicks, book keeping and marketing.