Written by Dr. Gregory Bartha
The Ugandan government has made women’s rights and employment opportunities a high priority. There is a national holiday to honor women. Women hold many high government offices including directorships of a number of ministries and the positions of Prime Minister and Vice President. The President’s wife is very active in government. Each of the districts in Uganda elects a woman member in Parliament in every 5 year election cycle.
Girls’ education is emphasized but there remain many obstacles in the rural villages – lack of parental support, early marriage, and poverty. Many girls leave school when they start to menstruate. They have no menstrual pads and are ashamed to show that they are bleeding.Pads which can be washed and reused for up to one year are made in Uganda. The organization I work with has purchased and distributed these pads to girls at school. The girls and the schools are very pleased with this program. Poverty also creates problems for girls. They may accept offers to trade sex for money to help their families. In the recent lockdown periods many girls have become pregnant. Some have tried to abort themselves resulting in miscarriages and serious infections.
I help to support a vocational school which serves young women who never advanced in their education because of early pregnancy. They are trained in hairdressing, tailoring, and early childhood development so they can be nursery school teachers. With these skills they can support themselves and their children. In addition I have provided scholarships for many girls to attend secondary schools, colleges, and universities. Clearly the greatest challenge to overcome is poverty.
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