Problem & Solution Explained
This Cause is about HOPE, about making a direct difference to a girl’s life, and about breaking the cycle of poverty. It works towards achieving the 3rd Millennium Development Goal of empowering women and promoting gender equality amongst society.
How can we break the cycle? In order to answer this it is important to understand what actually keeps the cycle of poverty going.
Drop Out Rates
Secondary high school drop out rate is the biggest factor that prevents women from gaining the kind of skills that will allow them to seek better employment or to move on to tertiary studies to make something of themselves. High secondary school drop out rate exists for many reasons:
Poverty In most cases, usually the result of large family size, there is not enough money in the family to send every child to school. The question for parents becomes, “which of my many children should I send on to secondary school?” Due to deeply held beliefs that women are inferior to men and that men have natural superiority; the boys in the family will always be the priority candidate to receive secondary education.
Early Pregnancy & HIV AIDS Sadly these are both common occurrences. Culturally, women in Uganda are expected to submit to men and often men will abandon women after demanding sexual intercourse. If, under these circumstances, a woman falls pregnant or contracts HIV or AIDS she becomes a curse to the family, a curse to the village, and has lost her opportunity for secondary education. Thus she is left with no choice but to submit to the back breaking agricultural work necessary to earn enough money for her and her children to survive.
Energy & Concentration
High levels of concentration and energy are vital in helping a girl to focus on why she is conducting her schooling, and what she wants for her future. Without having firm answers to these questions it is hard for a girl to work at her studies. Factors contributing to a lack of energy and concentration for females are varied:
Travel Distance Long distances traveled by foot are time consuming and deplete energy and concerntration that should be being spent on schoolwork.
Poverty Good nutrition is necessary to fuel the high energy and concentration levels required to perform well in class. Many cannot afford the appropriate dietary requirements or expensive, nutrient rich foods like meat. Poor nutrition leads to poor performance in the classroom.
Domestic Duties In Western culture, we often take for granted mechanised assistance for domestic duties such as washing machines, dish washers, microwaves and ovens. At home, Ugandan girls are expected to wash clothes and dishes and cook manually which is physically taxing & time consuming. This expectation is a deeply engrained cultural hindrance – the attitude that a woman’s place is in the home or the garden doing mundane tasks.
Distance from the Capital City (Kampala) At an approximate 9 hour drive, many rural locations, like the school, are very far away from the centre of productivity and jobs. This makes it hard for families to see the benefits of continued schooling and how it actually affects their own and their children’s lives. Not seeing the immediate need, many lack the motivation and inspiration needed to help them prevail against the many obstacles a poor girl child faces in her efforts to transcend her situation of poverty.
Reports by the UN and others point to social investment in girls as the solution to making poverty history in that it effectively works towards breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty – example – “research shows: women reinvest 90% of their income back into the household, whereas men reinvest only 30% to 40%.” Nike Foundation. The Girl Effect (2009)
Structures & Buildings
One of the key project milestones is to build the physical structures required to house the all-girls boarding school. Staff housing will also be built to allow teachers to stay on campus. The ability to board eliminates many of the burdens currently experienced by young Ugandan women. These include:
Safety Living on campus limits contact with males, protecting female students from early pregnancy and various sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. These dangers have been large contributing factors to the lack of female education in Uganda.
Family Commitments Boarding means students are no longer overburdened by the many household chores and domestic duties that they are expected to do whilst at home, allowing them a safe environment where they can focus solely on their future and schooling.
Travel Distance Boarding limits the time spent traveling to and from school. It allows access to education for a greater number of students and removes another of the key factors that has contributed to limited female education to date.
Teachers & Mentors
With teachers staying on campus, it will allow them to maintain a strong focus on moulding the girls into role models of the future. It will allow them to be “at arms length”, always there for the girls to provide tutoring with their homework and guidance with life’s troubles.
Building a Community – building a better society
Such a school and boarding environment will help to cultivate long lasting friendships and support networks where the girls will be able to encourage each other and stick together in their struggle for transcendence from poverty. It will allow them to become organised and active voices in society so as to collectively challenge the deep seated, oppressive cultural norms and practises which have long cemented the poverty cycle in Uganda.