How a Livelihood Program Changed a Rural Girl’s Life
- By The Global Fund for Children on June 25th, 2015
- Category: Featured, Home, Sub-Saharan Africa, Success Stories
Although the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is no longer active in northern Uganda, the group’s violent actions have left a terrible legacy.
During the LRA conflict, children and schools were on the front lines—teachers and students were often targeted by warring groups. Children endured the unthinkable. They were abducted, forcibly recruited as soldiers or for labor, and subjected to torture and sexual violence. And the LRA is only one perpetrator in the region’s long history of conflict.
Today, communities in Uganda are working to heal from this violent past. But progress is slow. Schools and support structures have been weakened, and the Ugandan government struggles to meet the needs of survivors.
Girls in particular are in need of extra support. Already less likely to get an education than their male peers, girls in post-conflict regions are often left behind without any means of becoming self-sufficient.
Jerish, age 18, knows this all too well. Growing up with six siblings in the rural district of Arua, Jerish has witnessed terrible violence in her life. Raised by a single mother who is a peasant farmer, she worked at a farm from a young age to support her family, and found it difficult to pay her school fees and to have hope for the future.
Thankfully, Jerish’s school recognized her plight and referred her to Rural Initiative for Community Empowerment – West Nile (RICE-WN), a grassroots organization that specifically addresses the needs of conflict-affected young people, especially girls.
Many of RICE-WN’s beneficiaries have been orphaned by conflict, while others have suffered various forms of abuse and are still struggling to either continue their education or gain livelihood skills and vocational training.
With RICE-WN’s help, Jerish stayed in school while being trained in baking and agricultural practices. These skills not only give Jerish a brighter future but also expand her current opportunities.
During the holiday season last December, Jerish was able to bake cakes and sell them, earning enough money to contribute to her school fees and buy school supplies. And during her current school term, she raised enough money to pay fees for her final examinations—an accomplishment that at one point seemed impossible.
All of RICE-WN’s beneficiaries have access to counseling to help them overcome past trauma. They also receive training in small-business management techniques, and they are encouraged to participate in small groups that later evolve into Village Savings and Loan Associations and Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations. After-school programs are offered twice a week to help students improve their academic performance.
And perhaps most importantly, RICE-WN empowers girls with leadership training to help them overcome the obstacles that stand in their way, and to take charge of their futures.
“I didn’t know I would be able to support myself to complete school so soon!” Jerish said of her training. “Only the sky is the limit for me now.”
RICE-WN is one of seven grassroots organizations supported by The Global Fund for Children, in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, to address the complex issues of vulnerable girls in post-conflict environments. For more information on how these organizations are empowering girls in Uganda, click here.