Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My Secondary Project

Deciding on what to focus on in a sea of seen issues is daunting. Right now, there are children screaming below my building. I can hear them being beaten. Making my presence known so that they stop this one time will not solve the problem. Breaking the cycle of violence is an overwhelming task. And really, what can I do?

I came here having an idea of what I wanted to do as a “secondary” project. I wanted my focus to be trauma healing from war, rape, and domestic violence.  Though that is still a major need, after working in certain communities, different-though related needs have presented themselves as vital as well. One thing I still know for sure is that I want to focus on women. 50% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 18, meaning that 25% of Uganda’s population is young women. I believe the answer to many of Uganda’s standing problems is to educate and empower these 25%. If there was ever a time for feasible change, it is now.
My original project idea was to provide sponsorship for girl’s secondary education. Secondary school is kind of like high school, and I decided on it as my focus for the following reasons:
1. The government “somehow” provides funding for primary education, making primary school more affordable.
2. Many girls drop out after they have completed primary school because many families can’t afford to send all their children to secondary school, and the girls “don’t need it as much as the boys” since their future in the village has already been laid out for them.
3. This is the time when many girls get pregnant, and/or married.
In addition to sponsoring these young women, I would also provide continuous mentorship in the form of business management, assertiveness and life skills training, and sexual health education. Of course, this would just be the beginning. A long term (and maybe very long term) goal I have would be to start a progressive girls school that would focus on areas like these.
This project took a turn in development when I ran into a Peace Corps language teacher/mentor/friend. He noted that I seemed to have a lot on my mind, so I proceeded to tell him that I felt overwhelmed by all the pending needs I see on a daily basis, and asked him for his advice. I told him about my project idea.
He suggested a different approach.
Instead of providing sponsorship for school fees, I could work with these young women on an income-generating project that would allow them to fund their own ways through school. I could provide these girls with chickens, and give them the tools to generate income through breeding. Such a project would be sustainable as the chickens would continuously breed-long after I was gone.
I loved this idea, and held onto it fervently even when others discouraged me, until recently when I discovered that it wouldn’t work for two major reasons:
1.  Secondary school is much more expensive than primary school (roughly $1,000), and it would take a hell of a lot of chickens-not to mention time to earn that kind of money. I fear that it would be during this preliminary fundraising stage, the girl would get married and/or pregnant.
2.  To provide a good education, girls need to be sent to boarding school, thus the responsibility of breeding would fall onto the parents who may or may not be interested, and who may or may not be willing to use the income generated from this project on their daughter’s education.
So as it goes in the field of development, my project plans have once again changed-or progressed depending on how you look at it…

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