Promotion of Girl Child Education

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Mentoring of students

Despite the successful introduction of universal education in Uganda in 2007, overall school enrolments have remained very low, especially for girls. It is evident that the enrolment rate for girls remained unchanged even after the introduction of Universal Secondary Education (USE) in 2007 according a report by Global Development Network. Only one third of girls that graduate from primary school are still in school by the age of 18 years—compared to 50% for boys. Furthermore, not all public secondary schools are under the USE programme. With free secondary education limited to few public and private secondary schools, majority of Ugandans continue to pay to access secondary education. Because of the traditional preference for boys over girls and low incomes, girls are less likely to stay in secondary schools due to a number of reasons; notably, unwanted pregnancies, gender inequality, lack of finances and lack of sanitary towels among many.

 

Our School Mentorship approach defines our way of working and is to foster positive development of the girl child through provision of the relational support to help them believe in their abilities and overcome difficult life challenges. The mentorship programs help especially the girl child develop the confidence, self-esteem and skills they need to be successful in school and in life. With this, we are sure that there will be increased high school completion rates, increased sense of belonging in the school community, improved attitudes about staying in school, enhanced academic motivation and achievement, improved social skills and behavior, strengthened peer, school and family relationships by the girl child. We focus on girl child development and critical decision-making skills and ensure that education is relevant to the realities in their lives as an important foundational approach to preventing pregnancy and other challenges that limit the girl child from studying.

 

Increased access to rewash-able sanitary towels

Menstruation and menstrual practices are still clouded by taboos and socio-cultural restrictions resulting in women and adolescent girls remaining unaware of the scientific facts and hygienic health practices, which sometimes result into adverse health outcomes. Menstruation is a phenomenon unique to the females. The onset of menstruation is one of the most important changes occurring among the girls during the adolescent years. Adolescent girls constitute a vulnerable group is often not given as much attention as the boy. Menstruation is still regarded as something unclean or dirty in these societies.

The reaction to menstruation depends upon awareness and knowledge about the subject. The manner in which an adolescent girl learns about menstruation and its associated changes may have an impact on her response to the event of menarche. In some cases, girls in school will stay away from class during menses to avoid the stigma associated with this natural phenomenon. Although menstruation is a natural process, it is linked with several misconceptions and practices which sometimes result into adverse health outcomes. Hygiene-related practices of women during menstruation are of considerable importance, as it has a health impact in terms of increased vulnerability to Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI).

The interplay of socio-economic status, menstrual hygiene practices and RTI are noticeable. Today millions of women are sufferers of RTI and its complications and often the infection is transmitted to the offspring of the pregnant mother. Women having better knowledge regarding menstrual hygiene and safe practices are less vulnerable to RTI and its consequences. Lack of access to sanitary towels is one of the leading causes of school dropout, early pregnancy and STIs. Therefore, increased knowledge and coping skills about menstruation right from childhood may escalate safe practices and may help in mitigating the suffering of millions of women. TGCI conducts knowledge share sessions about menstruation in schools and increase access to sanitary towels by the girl child so as to make schooling comfortable for vulnerable adolescent girls.

 

Sexual reproductive Health

Adolescents are confronted with life threatening health risks related to unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). HIV/AIDS remains the leading cause of death within the most productive age ranges of 15-49 (PEAP 2004-2008). Adolescence is a life period of experimentation and frequent risk taking. Key factors for adolescent vulnerability to sexual and reproductive health problems include lack of awareness and lack of correct information about the risks of unwanted pregnancies and STIs, peer and other social pressures, lack of skills needed to resist such pressures and to practice safe behavior, lack of youth-friendly sexual health and counseling services, poverty, traditional cultural norms that give young women a low social position, and little power to resist persuasion or coercion into unwanted sex. Some of the major reproductive health problems adolescents experience include early sex, pregnancies, abortions, early and forced marriages, transactional sex (some of which is subtle), trafficking, defilement, and STI/HIV.

 

Goal club conducts Reproductive Health activities in especially schools through conducting sexual reproductive health education, meetings for parents, teachers and community leaders to discuss health/sex education issues, formation and supporting of school health club and conducting trainings for senior women tutors and science teachers to improve their skills as health educators.

Breaking cultural barriers

A social norm around unequal gender roles create expectations about women being wives, mothers and caregivers and downgrade them to a domestic role in society, together with lower education and unemployment expectations. These norms reinforce gender inequality and mostly affect girls whose main achievements in life are expected to be as a wife, a mother and in the home. The most important option for a girl is a “good marriage” so she is able to ensure a future of security and prosperity. Cultural norms around the value of abstinence until marriage fail to acknowledge that today a high proportion of adolescents are sexually active before marriage. Stigma and discrimination perpetuated by teachers is different and more complex: some teachers embrace negative social norms viewing early and unintended pregnancy as a sign of moral failure. They contribute to stereotypes describing teen mothers as lazy, distracted, low-performing and at risk of ‘contaminating’ other female classmates with their immoral behavior. In Uganda, infertile men are not supposed to exist, and women bear the full responsibility for a couple failing to have children (Beyeza-Kashesya et al., 2010).

 

We conduct “Changing minds, Changing Lives” awareness session to value virginity, increasing knowledge and skills to support girls’ empowerment, foster behavior change and prevent adolescent pregnancy and other related challenges. We acknowledge the need to consider attitudes and values in relation to gender and relationships, while critically analyzing cultural and social influences on decision-making. We conduct skills training to support the girl child make healthy choices, refuse and unwanted sexual intercourse so as to stay focused at school.

 

We work with schools to build the capacity of teachers to improve gender equality and reduce the prevalence of violence that also contributes to unintended pregnancy and perpetuates harmful gender norms.

 

Men engage

Gender equality cannot be achieved without the involvement of men and boys. It is widely recognized that improving women’s status and advancing their rights yields benefits for whole societies, not just women and girls. Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services gender norms, power dynamics, and protection from gender-based violence, among other important measures, improves the health of families and the economic well-being of entire communities.

We engage men at the community level in questioning and ending gender-based violence building on those interventions that have shown evidence of changes in men’s attitudes and behaviors related to gender-based violence and empowerment of women. At the school lvels, we involve boys in pregnancy prevention education. As future partners and parents, boys need to be aware that early pregnancy will have educational and socio-economic consequences for them as adolescent fathers, and health consequences for their young pregnant partners. Furthermore, in Uganda where child marriage is customary, boys need to be educated on gender equality and gender based violence (GBV), to increase the chances of changing social and cultural norms towards child marriage and, more generally, to eliminate gender inequality.