Kampala weekend, June 14-16
Last Friday morning, I took a mini-bus taxi, a boda boda, and another mini-bus taxi from Ddegeya village to the capitol city, Kampala. My first stop was Sseko Designs (http://ssekodesigns.com/). Founded by American, Liz Forkin Bohannon, Sseko is a socially conscious company that makes organic shoes and accessories. Sseko began as a way to generate income for high potential, talented young women to continue on to university. Sseko has graduated three classes of women. Every woman who graduated from Sseko is currently pursuing her college degree. In addition to the university-bound team, Sseko employs a full-time team of women from all walks of life. By creating an environment of dignity, honor, creativity and dedication, Sseko Designs provides the opportunity for women in East Africa to end the cycle of poverty and create a more equitable society.
Sseko’s US headquarters is in my home city of Portland, OR. I visited Sseko Portland before I left for Uganda, and was excited to see the facility where the women make the beautiful shoes. Two of the women gave me a tour, explaining the shoe making process to me from start to finish. Sseko is a wonderful company – producing excellent products, and giving women the skills and resources to live their dreams.
After leaving Sseko, I meet the tireless and inspirational Beatrice (http://worldpulse.com/user/6478). Less than two years ago, Beatrice founded Rural Girl Child Mentorship (RGCM Uganda), a project under her Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation (http://pce-foundation.org). RGCM is a one to one, mentor to mentee global mentorship project that helps poor rural Ugandan girls attend school. Each girl is connected with a mentor who pays her school fees and nurtures her vision for a bright future. RGCM chooses the poorest, most vulnerable girls from the Tororo and Buteleja Districts of Eastern Uganda, where Beatrice herself grew up.
Beatrice took me to visit the three schools her girls attend, Muyenga High School and St. Noa Girls School in Kampala, and New Horizons Secondary and Vocational School in Mukono. Beatrice brings them from the village to the city in order to give them a different perspective and expose them to a life different from what they know. The goal is to educate and empower them so that they return to their communities to make their own contributions to breaking the cycle of poverty.
Beatrice’s girls are all bright and beautiful, with potential limited only by circumstance. Currently, sixty-seven girls are enrolled in school through RGCM. However, the organization has over 1600 pending applications. RGCM needs more mentors and support to give these girls the opportunities they deserve.
The weekend culminated with a very special gathering. Beatrice and I meet with six members of the World Pulse community in Kampala. Several others were prevented from attending due to the traffic jams caused by the Uganda/Angola World Pulse qualifying match (Uganda won 2-1!). Although our group was small, it was mighty. I organized this meeting because I not only wanted to meet my World Pulse sisters in Uganda, but to bring these women together since most of them had never meet each other. We spoke about our work and our goals. The Ugandan sisters expressed a desire to form a tight network of World Pulse members in Uganda in order to use their combined resources to affect positive change. They set a goal of organizing regular World Pulse meetings in Kampala, and encouraging members in other parts of the country to do the same. I am happy to support and help them implement their plan.
I am in awe of the strength and determination of my World Pulse Ugandan sisters. I am inspired by their passion and dedication to empowering women and girls. I felt humbled in their presence, and resolve to increase my own efforts here in Uganda, and when I return home.
(Photos to come when I have a faster internet connection!)