Please Journey with me to Alwa, a small village in Uganda, that not even many Ugandans may have heard of. I was brought up in this village, with the privilege of attaining an education that most girls are continually denied. Which brings me to the story of a young girl named Brenda. Brenda comes from a family of eight children, and being the fourth child and the eldest female child carries a lot of responsibility. Her father passed away from health complications related to HIV/AIDS in 2007, leaving Brenda, her siblings and mother who battles daily with chronic illnesses related to HIV/AIDS.
When I first met Brenda, I had been called to Teete Primary School to encourage and motivate the students about to take their primary school examinations. These exams would determine whether they go on to secondary school. In America this would be the equivalent to taking examinations to qualify one to go to high school. Brenda happened to attend school in Teete. Something about Brenda reminded me of my self when I was a young girl. A girl going to school midst a culture that continually reminded me that as a girl, I was a second class citizen and that I did not deserve an education. If it was not for my beloved father, and his going against his culture, when it came to the education of girls, I would not have been one of the first women in my village to have gone to a university. Thus as I spoke to the students, more so to the few girls in the classroom, I promised them all, that if they did well, I would pay for their secondary school tuition.
Play forward, Brenda and another girl by the name of Asiyo passed their examination with flying colors. Asiyo was fortunate enough to have a brother who was working and capable of paying for her continuing education. For Brenda, this was the end of the road for her. It appeared that the odds were against her. She was the eldest girl in her family, at the tender age of thirteen,she was considered ready for marriage and to make the matter worse, her brother had brought himself a wife, could not afford the dowery. And poor Brenda was about to be forced into a marriage to help provide the dowery for her brother to have himself a wife.
On discovering Brenda’s plight, I felt it my responsibility to advocate for Brenda, I contacted the diocese and attained a scholarship for Brenda to continue with her secondary school education and utilized funds from the Alwa Learning Center to contribute towards Brenda’s basic needs. Brenda’s mother was also offered a micro loan to help start a small business of her own, that would help her support her family.
Brenda, continues with her education, her younger sister, Fiona, was however not as fortunate. When she failed her primary school examinations, she was forced into marriage. Brenda has three younger sisters in need of school tuition and the Alwa Learning Center’s vision is to establish a scholarship fund to help support more girls like Brenda, attend further education, or embark in small sustainable business that would empower them and minimize the likelihood of young girls been forced into marriages.
There are hundreds of Brendas in my village of Alwa, facing the same fate. Alwa Learning Center might be the only beacon of hope for these girls. Alwa Learning Center’s vision is to empower children through literature, but more so to empower girls. We believe that the success of families, communities and the village of Alwa rests in the empowerment of girls and women.
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Co-founder Alwa Learning Center