To empower the women we need to
enable the community to change
We believe that empowerment - be it women's empowerment or economic empowerment is the responsibility of the whole community. Today, men hold the power and until they are equipped with the knowledge and enabled to change nothing will change.
We work with the whole community, educating and encouraging the men to work together in partnership with their wives and families.
Through teaching men to be carpenters (and girls and women if they want) and women to sew and make beads (and boys and men if they want) we are seeing a positive shift in attitudes.
Men and boys now share the workload of fetching water and firewood, working in the gardens and sharing responsibility of the money they are earning from the crops.
The Child Mothers
Their stories are heart breaking.
Their courage is unbelievable
We met these girls early in 2011 and couldn't walk away from them after hearing their stories and seeing these young teenage mothers who had suffered so much. Here is one of their stories
"We walked for three days and nights with no food or water until we arrived at a camp and were told to rest. There were many people of my age there.
We were separated so the women were together and the men. The men took their tops off and the girls had to choose a t-shirt – that was the man you would be with. I chose a very big t-shirt and was given a very old man. If I refused him I would have been killed immediately.
You were forced to do terrible things and if you refused you were killed or they chopped you into pieces. I gave birth to my firstborn when I was 13 years of age and stayed in the bush for a long time. One day there was a big fight between the rebels and government forces. I managed to escape but they shot my baby.”
They formed their group in 2010 after discovering they all shared these things in common:
Abducted by the rebels
Forced into marriage as children
What we are doing
First of all we worked out how the girls could be supported by being mentored by another group close by.
Farming: We gave them seeds to grow an acre of beans each and move to commercial group farming.
Paper Beads: We arranged for the girls to be taught how to make jewelry from beautiful paper beads. On each visit we buy some, paying the girls the price they ask (and if it is lower than the retail price in the tourist shops in Kampala we increase the price). We then sell the beads in the UK to raise funds for our projects.
Football: We suggested they set up a football team. They now win tournaments and train every week. There was a visit by 4 football coaches from Burnley Football Club – who also provided enough shirts for each girl to have one! The wonderful NGO Kit Aid also provided us with enough shirts and shorts for the team.
Sewing machines: The kindness and generosity of Beverley Jenkins in the UK meant that we could buy nine sewing machines for the girls. They now make bags, clothes and have secured contracts with 4 local primary schools to make their uniforms!
Saving Scheme: They have also formed a saving and lending scheme, which is helping pay for roofs for their homes, school fees and the paper and materials for the beads.
The original child mothers are grown up now. The wonderful thing is that all of their children go to school, getting the education that was cruelly taken away from their mothers.
In this photo their children are reading old Seeds for Development brochures (before they were turned into beautiful paper beads).
They now mentor and support a group of younger child mothers and two of the original girls have set up another group that we call The Child Mother Breakaways. You can read more about them on the farming page.
"Tell the world about the challenges that face women in northern Uganda"
This was the message given to Seeds for Development Founder Alison Hall in 2015.
At an impromptu village meeting The Twenty Club was born. There were 20 women there wanting to make a change in their community.
They had nobody to turn to and felt increasingly isolated as their families (often their sons) would force them from their homes, following the death of their husband.
The women were banished to the bush where they had to rely on kindness or forage for food and water. At that meeting we decided to start a group to give them a collective voice.
That simple act of solidarity, and some new T-Shirts, has transformed these women from victims to leaders.
The group holds regular meetings (no men allowed) and membership has grown to around 50, but they are still called The Twenty Club!
They now feel empowered and move around the community, visiting women, families and schools. They talk to girls and parents about the importance of staying in school. They explain about periods and how you get pregnant. They educate families and classrooms about basic hygiene and sanitation, helping prevent diseases such as Malaria. Their confidence is contagious and we can see how their own lives have improved as well as the lives of everyone they meet along the way.
Everything they teach was taught to them through the Community Workshops that Seeds for Development fund.