Girls' Empowerment Bootcamp
“Please, Muzungu. Let me do that for you” the young girls said while giggling at me sweeping the floor in Uganda. At first I thought: “Am I doing this the wrong way?” or “Do I stick my butt out the wrong way?” But I realised that it had nothing to do with my posture or abilities to clean the floors.
It had to do with the fact that I am “muzungu” – my skin is lighter than theirs ………….!
It is one of the many reasons I am putting together a Bootcamp for girls in Uganda. This bootcamp is about self-worth and empowerment. Learning that we are all equally worthy and capable of sweeping floors, building businesses, taking control of our own lives. We don’t need men to help us make a living or go for our dream. The social construction of skin color shaping a hierarchy belongs to a dark past that we need to move away from.
Some of these girls are raised to believe that they are less important than their male peers (and obviously also their white peers). That they should obey and never disagree with the elders. That their voice should never be heard.
It was so hard for me to learn their names in the beginning, because they speak so silently that I almost couldn’t hear their voices. And they state their full name, family name first, so I had to try to figure out which of the three names was their own private name. Like Grace, Precious or Prisca.
I want to help them discover their worthiness and own it. Own their voice. Stand in their own power and say NO when needed. Fight for their rights to educate themselves. Build a life for themselves where they do not need any man to support them, but can find a man who lifts them up and encourages them in their endeavors.
After this initial meeting with Ugandan young girls, facts and stories about Ugandan girls have been rolling in. Facts that make this bootcamp and all other initiatives aimed at girls very urgent.
4 out of 5 girls don’t make it to high school.
Living in Uganda is hard work if you are part of the enormous lower and lower middle class. You wash by hand, you cook on fire, you often live 1-2 hours from your workplace and work (if you have a job) 12-14 hour workdays with only Sunday off. This means that someone has to do all those domestic tasks. Often this is the young girls and therefore they never really make it further than Secondary school.
40 percent ! of girls are married (off) before age 18
…that is, if they get to stay within the family. They might be lucky to be sent off to help another family as babysitters or maids. But a staggering 40 percent are married off to, often times, older men because it releases dowry.
Girls are very likely to skip school during their menstrual cycle.
In one year this means that they get about 2-3 months less education than their male peers. The reasons for skipping school are many. Some cannot afford menstrual hygiene products. Some are using leaves in their underwear and are worried they might fall out when the teacher beats them (!). Grrrrr. Some are ashamed of bleeding because there is no sexual education telling them that it is natural and a great gift. I could go on….
24 percent of girls get pregnant while they are still teenagers
That is one in four. Often times this is one of the girls who really wants to go to school during her menstrual cycle. She may have been using leaves to try to protect her clothes from the blood, but then this young man tells her that he will pay for her pads. Great! How lucky she is…. She thought. He wants something in return and she ends up out of school with a baby. The young man? He left and takes no responsibility.
These are just a few of the facts and stories I have heard over and over again. There are plenty. Every woman has a story, every girl is silent about hers. Or she shares only when she is absolutely certain that it is safe to share.
We want to invite groups of 20 Ugandan girls aged 13-15 to join us for a 10-day Bootcamp away from home. All costs covered by the Girls Empowerment Bootcamp project.
The Bootcamp includes Physical Exercise (yoga, dance, self-defense, stomping etc.), Meditation to quiet the mind, Practical Learning (menstrual pad production, healthy cooking etc.), and Theme Based Teachings using various teaching methods (forum theatre, group work, presentations, and more).
THE SAFE SPACE
The area of the bootcamp will be for us only and the girls and most teachers will be staying on site together. There will always (day and night) be someone available to share with or talk to about anything that has come up during the bootcamp. Intensive trainings like these can cause things to come up and we are all there to process through it and learn from it. All girls and teachers will be supporting each other in these processes and learn from other’s experiences.
I order to create this safe space, it is important that the girls stay in the camp throughout and that we move them away from their homes.
When supporting this project, you don’t donate – you buy into it.
You can buy 1 HOUR OF CLASS for one girl, a 1 DAY PASS for one girl. A FULL BOOTCAMP PASS for one girl or FULL BOOTCAMP PASSES for several girls depending on your budget.
1 HOUR PASS = 40 DKK (app. 6 USD)
1 DAY PASS = 400 DKK (app. 60 USD)
FULL BOOTCAMP PASS = 4000 DKK (app. 600 USD)
The price of the bootcamp passes includes safe accommodation, healthy vegetarian food, teaching materials, branded bootcamp clothes (most girls only own dresses and this is not practical for yoga, self-defense training etc.), safe transportation to and from the venue, salary and transportation for the teachers and a max 10 % admin costs.
Companies choosing to buy one FULL BOOTCAMP PASS or more will be offered promotion deals depending on the scale of their purchase.