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A young advocate determined to achieve her dreams and inspire other girls like her.

November 26th, 2022
Shakira, empowered GYW advocate

Shakira, 19 years old, was born with a disability. All her life, she faced many obstacles which made her feel hopeless. One day, she met a She Leads male champion who helped transform her life for the better. She was supported to get a wheelchair. She also attended peer to peer advocacy sessions, mentorship, coaching and skills training which made her feel empowered. She is now ready to pursue her dreams and confident enough to inspire other girls who are just like her.

Living with a disability

Shakira, 19 years, lives in a village in Bugiri district, Uganda. She grew up living in a semi-permanent house with her parents and her 5 siblings. Shakira’s parents depend on subsistence farming as their main source of income to support the entire family.

Shakira was born with a disability, she cannot walk and has difficulty speaking. She heavily relies on her family to help her both inside and outside the house. She has never gone to school due to her disability. She has to wait for her parents to come back home and clean and cook for her. She is also unable to go to outside events unless she is supported. Her siblings and parents try her best to support her and make her life much easier. 

“I was left behind in everything, I thought I was not human and would never be part of this world because of my disability.” Shakira says. She felt hopeless and a burden at times, a feeling she could not shake off easily.

A new beginning

In April 2021, Shakira was identified by the She Leads male champion and religious leader when she went to church. She was linked to MUCOBADI (She Leads Partner) Father’s Heart Mobility who connected her to the community church responsible for the coordination and giving of wheelchairs to those with disabilities. The team helped her register and get assessed for eligibility. Fortunately, she met the criteria and was extremely happy to get a wheelchair which she now uses to help her move around. 

Thereafter, Shakira was invited to attend regular one on one peer sessions and mentorship sessions with Girls and Young Women (GYW) advocates. She is now a proud member of She Leads. SInce she joined the advocacy programme, she is more hopeful and determined, with a more positive outlook on life. Shakira gained confidence and grasped that she can still pursue her dreams. With support from the group members and her brother, she is able to attend the peer to peer advocacy sessions, mentorship, coaching and skills training. She also has time to unite and discuss common issues with other members with different disabilities.

Empowered

Shakira has been engaged in different She leads programme activities such as community sensitisation meetings, public debates and dialogues, mentorship sessions and quarterly subcounty reflection meetings to amplify her voice. She feels more encouraged and proud to be part of such engagements and is now sharing her experiences with other girls with disabilities within her community.

``I used to feel bad with no hope of moving anywhere nor doing anything but now am supported to move to different areas. I hope I can be supported to enrol in school so as to achieve my dream because I now feel better and empowered,``she explains.

The She Leads team conducts routine monthly home visits where they counsel and mentor her to ensure that nothing prevents her from achieving her dreams. Shakira is eager to start school and attain the education she missed all these years. Her parents now feel that she is in a better place and would like to support her to pursue her education once their financial situation improves.

Revived hope and dreams

Shakira was able to get some hope through the intervention of She leads and support from  the GYW advocates, male champion and the religious leader. She also developed hopes of going back to school as she wants to join primary one at her age and start studying. She is very determined to pursue her dreams. “I want to start studying and achieve my dreams.” she says. “I  want to become a teacher of young children because I love being with children so much and supporting them.” she concludes, with a smile on her face.

For many girls and young women with disabilities,stigma,discrimination and lack of access to education are everyday experiences they have to endure. Through the She Leads programme, we empower girls and young women like Shakira. We sensitise them on their rights, help boost their confidence and overcome their personal and societal obstacles, enhance their knowledge and skills to enable them to advocate for their meaningful participation in decision making spaces and make decisions that help advance their lives.

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