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Irene, A Girl Advocate trained to change discriminative gender norms

December 14th, 2021

Irene, 23, was born into a large polygamous family in Uganda´s Moroto District. Being the 10th born, and a girl, she did not receive as much attention from her father as compared to her stepbrothers. This bias is common where Irene comes from and often puts girls at a disadvantage because they do not have the same access to opportunities as boys.

Discriminatory gender norms

Sadly, Irene´s father died when she was in her first year of high school. Due  In some cultures, it is often difficult for girls to get their share of inheritance from their parents and for them to come out openly to voice their concerns. The root cause is mainly attributed to discriminatory gender norms that exclude Girls and Young Women (GYW) from their rights. As a result of this, Irene´s uncle took the property (including land, cows, goats and sheep) that her father had left behind. Despite Irene´s mother's struggle to get income, she managed to ensure that her daughter completed secondary school. Due to financial constraints, Irene could not further her education studies. 

Becoming an advocate

Luckily, Irene was among the different Girls and Young Women (GYWs) selected during a beneficiary-mapping exercise for the She Leads programme. After being identified by a parish chief, Irene proceeded to attend training and mentorship sessions that covered advocacy, gender concepts, human rights and communication skills. She was also equipped with knowledge on how to address and advocate for issues that affect her as an individual and the rest of the Girls and Young Women in her locality. 

As a girl’s advocate, Irene has also actively participated in community engagement meetings with an aim of amplifying the issues that affect GYW including involvement, inclusion and participation in decision-making processes. Irene, through the different advocacy interventions, was able to gain public confidence, public speaking and knowledge on equal rights. It is with these different empowerment activities that Irene summoned the courage to invite her uncle, who had taken their property, to the community advocacy dialogues held within her village, specifically the one on property ownership.

Creating positive change

With that, Irene was able to approach her uncle on her inheritance issue. To her surprise the uncle did not react badly but instead, he promised to get back to her after having a discussion with family elders. Later on, Irene´s uncle approached her and invited her together with a few family members to a meeting during which he allocated her three acres of land and four cows to Irene. ¨I am very happy about my piece of land and the four animals. This will change my life and that of my mother especially now that I have a plan to sell the animals and start a business and use the land for cultivation.¨

A better world

23-year-old Irene dreams and hopes for a world in which girls and women’s rights are respected and not abused. Every fortnight, she links up with other girls to plan and implement She Leads youth-led activities such as community dialogues. For now, Irene is working towards being a successful businesswoman and training others as well. 

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