Helping Youth Take Actions that Promote Gender Equity, Enhance Community Health, and Develop Entrepreneurial Skills.
Picture a situation where girls are unable to attend school during their monthly menstrual periods because basic hygienic supplies are scarce or unaffordable. Or, due to lack of resources, they are unable to attend school beyond 7th grade and therefore lack opportunities to become independent wage-earners. Unfortunately, these describe circumstances facing families in many parts of the world.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
This Youth Empowerment Program, launched in early 2021, brings together teachers and students from three schools in Gulu, Uganda and Rumbek, South Sudan, which collectively serve over 1200 children, and skilled workers from a Women’s Cooperative in Gulu. They have selected two projects that address these problems on both individual and community levels and closely align with several of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Reusable garments for feminine hygiene are produced at the Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society and the Abukloi High School in Rumbek. These kits include reusable pads, soap, washcloths, and undergarments in sizes appropriate for middle- and high school girls. At the Co-op, experienced textile workers provide on-site training for girls who have been unable to go beyond elementary education levels. During their estimated 6-months of training and production, they will also receive lessons in reproductive health, sustainability, and practical aspects of running a business including digital literacy. These are provided by staff and students at the Concerned Parents Association School in Gulu augmented by on-line workshops by developed by students in other Words Into Deeds programs.
Liquid soaps will be manufactured by students at the UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu and sold in either small reusable containers for personal use or multi-liter jugs for school and commercial uses. This project was initiated by teachers and students at UNIFAT in 2019, and scale-up capacity is already underway. In addition to making the product, students are taught financial literacy, marketing, and computer skills, using the resources of the Digital Learning Center established by Words Into Deeds.
Participants in these projects also attend interactive workshops that introduce them to the Sustainable Development Goals and allow opportunities for them to share their progress, challenges, and goals.
MEET OUR PARTNERS
The UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu, Uganda was founded in 1992 to serve orphans and broken families victimized by nearly two decades of civil war then HIV, and now enrolls over 600 students, PreK – 7. The enthusiastic embrace of the concepts and practical aspects of the Words Into Deeds program by the school’s teachers, administrators, and students served as a model for the more recently-enrolled participants. UNIFAT serves as the soap production site and global communications hub for all Gulu participants, and works closely with the other partners to design and implement community advertising and sales.
The Abukloi Secondary School, located in Rumbek, South Sudan, enrolls nearly 650 students, 250 of whom are girls. Their project focuses on training students in the production of feminine hygiene products. They are sharing educational and project design issues during on-line ZOOM conferences with other participants, but for practical reasons are not able to share material resources.
Founded in 1997, the Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society provides support and training for women ostracized from the community for health issues, disabilities, or societal stigmas. They learn how to manufacture traditional crafts, produce clothing with contemporary designs, and develop skills in the full range of “from cotton to finished product.” By expanding their capacity, including the purchase of additional sewing machines and support for more trainers as well as the new trainees, the co-op is serving as the feminine hygiene kit production site.
The Concerned Parents Association (CPA) of Gulu, Uganda, enrolls 25 students who are mostly late-teen or early twenty years old and were unable to attend high school, which is not free in Uganda. CPA provides vocational training and and support that enables these young adults to launch independent, sustainable businesses, with emphasis on practical aspects of entrepreneurship. CPA is the hub for reproductive health classes and vocational training and beyond basic manufacturing skills.
Teachers and students at the Chung-Hsing University-Affiliated High School in Taichung, Taiwan are enrolled in a Words Into Deeds project that focuses on quality education and gender education, and as part of their outreach project have designed and are presenting on-line computer training workshops for Youth Empowerment Program participants.
FROM PLANNING TO IMPLEMENTATION
This program is an extension of workshops begun in 2019 at the UNIFAT Primary School that introduced Words Into Deeds concepts and practical elements to teachers a few months shortly before the school classes were cancelled for 22 months. Even while closed, teams of teachers, staff and students met on campus to design outreach projects, and funds were raised to renovate, fully equip, and staff a Computer Learning Center and also install solar power to allow uninterrupted use of the computers. This facility was used extensively by teachers and students to acquire skills in digital literacy and participate in weekly ZOOM conference calls with other partners as part of planning for the current program.
With schools in Uganda re-opening and funding for the programs well underway, we are working with our partners to purchase the necessary supplies and equipment, including sewing machines and additional computers, refurbish production areas as needed, prepare training staffs, and enroll new as well as returning students and teachers at UNIFAT and CPA to take on responsibilities for each project.
Funding for this multi-venue program is being provided by a grant from the Ithaca Rotary Club and donations to Words Into Deeds and Friends of UNIFAT.