Sarah had a big task. She was elected by 1,300 classmates to teach sexual and reproductive rights, how to stop violence against girls in school, and what it means to be a leader. The then 16-year-old from Kampala, Uganda, rose to the challenge.
“Because it was a big school, one of the best in Uganda, you would think a leader would need to be someone from a rich family,” said Sarah. “But people trusted me and I believed in myself.”
Sarah learned the importance of self-esteem and education through course work at Global Fund for Women grantee partner, Mentoring and Empowerment Programme for Young Women (MEMPROW). There, she talked about young women’s rights and choices without fear of intimation, stigma, or discrimination. Most importantly, by sharing her knowledge with friends, she became a role model.
“I became something I wasn’t before; I became a role model,” said Sarah. “People used to not take me seriously, but after my training, people at school and at home started to take me seriously.”
She took it a step further and represented Uganda at a women’s leadership conference in Kenya. There, she was elected to advise the Kenyan students on how to replicate the MEMPROW model.
Global Fund understands the importance of this approach in times of globalization, where competition for work is stiff. In Uganda, like elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, we notice young women have fewer opportunities and limited mentoring and career guidance. As a result, many stumble into jobs by accident with no preparation on how to advance in a competitive environment. According to MEMPROW, the number one issue facing young women is sexual and gender violence in their workplace, places of learning and homes. Violence creates an oppressive environment, inhibiting their ability to perform well.
The MEMPROW Girls Network works to change this by giving girls information to develop confidence and make informed decisions about their future. MEMPROW is so successful that the program has been copied in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Now, Sarah is enrolled in university, majoring in economics and statistics. She still gets calls to answer questions and mentor young women from her secondary school.
“I get called to back to my school not because I was born a genius, but because of the training I got from MEMPROW.”