United Africans for Women & Children Rights

What We Do

Acholi PII-KUC (Peace) Scholarship Project

Introduction

It is a goal of United Africans for Women and Children’s Rights (UAWCR) to propose the establishment of an education scholarship for girls. Uganda is located in the war-ravaged Horn of Africa. The main aim for establishing this scholarship program is to improve the lives of young women and girls who have been affected by conflict through access to education. Several world leaders, including President Obama, have stated that girls and women needed to be lifted out of poverty for a society as a whole to progress, because women are the foundations of families. Moreover, it is investing directly in Africa’s human potential, and not necessarily vast aid to governments, that change the lives of poor people. Investing in education for girls and women gives them the opportunity to earn higher professional wages, start small businesses through vocational training, and provides leadership training for women to vie for political office.

In this proposal, we will first justify the need for the project by highlighting the problem and how it is impacting our specific target group as well as the Ugandan community. In the next section we will outline the goal, strategies and the tactics to be deployed.

Need and Background

Who is experiencing the problem?

In Uganda, majority of the young women and particularly those who have been affected by war and from low income families do not attain both basic and higher education due to war that interrupts their Education and as well as the rising tuition and living costs in the institution of education. Consequently, such women are forced to engage in low paying unprofessional jobs or become sex-workers, which ultimately influence their economic status as individuals and ultimately their families and the community at large.

Evidence showing the existence of the problem:

For twenty-one years civil war raged in Northern Uganda, the people of Northern Uganda have suffered incomprehensible degrees of violence: two million people were driven from their homes and displaced to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Away from their land and living in fear of violence, approximately 1,000 people died every week in a struggle against unsanitary conditions, starvation, and disease between 1995 and 2006. Jan Egland, while the UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs in 2004, called Northern Uganda, “The worst and most ignored humanitarian crisis in the world.” In fact, the mortality rate in Northern Uganda was worse than that of Darfur yet little was known of the suffering in the region.

In the context of great socioeconomic inequality in Uganda, since 1986 to 2007 Joseph Kony the leader and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group have waged this war against the Ugandan government and its citizens. The horrific and prolonged consequence of this devastated the society. Violent deaths of people in Northern Uganda in the hands of the Lord’s resistance army and the government soldiers; burning perpetrated on mass scale in the land; rape and defilement of the women and girls; abduction of young people; the prevalence of a general atmosphere of fear and disenchantment amongst the people; mass displacement of people; and destruction of the infrastructures and continuous decline in socio-economic growth is something that cannot be wiped out by the mere silence of gun shots. If Northern Uganda is gain total peace and development, Northern Uganda has to reclaim it children and youth.

Over 66,000 children have been violently abducted from their homes and schools and forced to kill as child soldiers. The chance of these children to get education is slim as they are taken at young age, and worst still some are forced to kill their parents and they are have no place to return to and no one to support them. More so the schools.

As the world remains blind to the fact that between 30 and 50 percent of child soldiers are female, very few projects focus on the needs of girls. Yet, under the LRA’s violent reign, girl child-soldiers have suffered extraordinarily as they have not only been forced to kill but have also been raped, used as sex objects, and made to serve as “commanders’ wives,” often giving birth and becoming “child mothers.” Taken to Sudan and indoctrinated in LRA killing and torture, they have been systematically dehumanized; some have lived in captivity for more than ten years. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common among these survivors. Aside from the extreme psychological trauma they have endured, girls have also been exposed to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), and although there are no statistics as to the exact number, many have tragically contracted HIV/AIDS.

Although many have escaped back to the impoverished back to their communities, the challenges these young girls and their babies face are only magnified: they are rejected and verbally and physically harassed by the community, called “killers,” “Kony’s wives,” and “prostitutes,” and often beaten and stoned. Their parents may have been murdered, their homes burned down, and distant relatives are generally unwilling to accommodate them. Pregnant or with malnourished babies, they then face the challenges of raising their children single-handedly. Their children may not be old enough to recognize the ridicule but they are not safe either.

At the same time, the Ugandan government has granted amnesty and freedom from prosecution to LRA fighters returning to IDP camps, essentially giving them a license to re-victimize their captives. Preying on girls in this situation, former captor often outwardly threaten or manipulate their victims by offering to provide support to children only if the girls return to live with them. Since community members assign blame to the girls themselves for their “immorality,” they also push the girls to live with these soldiers or other abusive men. With little power to resist, many former girl child soldiers either accept or turn to prostitution. In both cases, they are re-victimized and even more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, STIs, and further psychological trauma. Even if Uganda reaches a peace agreement and displaced Acholi people are able to return to their villages and land, women will continue to lose status since they are legally barred from inheriting land from their husband or family. Instead, they must somehow obtain money to purchase their own land or be subject to potentially abusive relationships. Abandon, with nowhere to turn for help, these teenagers and young adults’ standalone trying to rise the next generation with little or nothing in their hands.

Reason for addressing the need and supporting the young women:

Based on our research, we have found that there are social and economic incentives to invest in education of young women in Uganda. In addition to addressing the aforementioned war and gender inequality that exists in education sector for girls in Uganda, our project will address women’s lack of access to the formal economy. According to Davison and Kanyuka (1992), who implemented a USAID funded project in Malawi, education for women is directly associated with their participation in the labor force. Participation in the formal economy will serve as a sustainable source of livelihood for these women. For their families, it is an indication of economic stability. Bloom et al (2006) of Harvard University state that, individuals can benefit from employment and higher salary opportunities because they can save and invest money, as well as improve their health and quality of life. Therefore, our scholarship program will serve as a stepping stone for these underprivileged women to enhance their potential and enable them to improve their socio-economic status.

Providing these women with opportunities for education also has an influence at the society level. Davison and Kanyuka (1992) argue that “...the critical problems precluding overall development, including shortfalls in food production, inadequate health care, and a rapidly increasing population, will not be solved unless women's pivotal role in the development process and unequal access to development benefits are addressed. Education is the key link in this process.” As mentioned previously, Uganda is a country where poverty is widespread and unmet needs of food and health are prevalent. By addressing the education need of young women in Uganda, we hope to address the underlying causes of gender inequality in the workforce and civic services, Human Rights and health issues such as HIV/AIDS. As one of the most important determinants of socio-economic status, we believe that providing access to education for young women in Uganda will serve as a sustainable means to improving their lives as well as the lives of their families and communities.