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Empowered advocate and leader: Doreen's Journey with She Leads

August 7th, 2023

As a passionate advocate for Girls and Young Women's rights, Doreen joined the She Leads programme, where she received training, mentorship, and guidance. Her efforts in local and national level engagements, sensitization initiatives on girls' rights and gender equality, advocacy, mentorship and skills training have had a profound positive impact on other girls and young women.

Doreen, an empowered She Leads Advocate

Life Prior to She Leads

Doreen, 23 years old, lives in Kyamatyasi village, Ngoma Sub-county in Nakaseke district, Uganda. She lives with her mother and 8 siblings, with her being the third born. Doreen pursued her dreams beyond primary education. For her O-level education (S1-S4), she attended Nabiserwa Progressive Senior Secondary School, continuing her studies in Nakasongola district. Determined to carve a path for herself, she then joined Kisoboka Institute for Hairdressing in Iwemba sub-county, Bugiri district.

Like many young girls growing up in difficult circumstances, she faced the daunting reality of lacking basic needs not because her parents didn't want to provide for her, but due to their economic limitations. Completing her studies up to the senior four level proved to be a real struggle for Doreen. Her mother relied on farming to sustain their family's food needs, and she would sell any surplus produce to gather funds to support Doreen's education. Doreen would often work on other people's farms, earning money to supplement her school fees and pay for essential items whenever her mother's contributions fell short. Before joining She Leads, she actively engaged in farming activities, cultivating crops like Soya beans, Maize, and Ground nuts, and selling the produce for income.

Transformative Path with She Leads

Doreen´s journey with the She Leads programme began in June 2021 when she was informed about it by a Village Health Team (VHT) member. She joined She Leads and received training in advocacy during that same month. She took the initiative to mobilise her fellow girls and young women in her community, forming a She Leads group. She was later selected by her group to attend the She Leads training that was conducted during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The training focused on crucial skills such as advocacy, lobbying, and negotiation. Subsequently, Doreen also participated in business skills training on Selection Planning and Management. This training equipped her with the knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions about business selection and she managed to establish a saloon that now earns her 1.7 Euros daily.

Beyond these formal training sessions, Doreen actively engages in mentorship sessions provided by Girl and Young Women advocates. These mentorship sessions focus on continuously improving her skills and further empowering her as a leader. The sessions cover an array of pertinent topics, from girls' rights and gender equality to communication skills, advocacy cycles, child safeguarding, and the legal and policy framework surrounding gender equality and girls' rights. Doreen's knowledge has expanded in gender concepts, including the distinctions between sex and gender, gender norms, and stereotypes. She has also gained insight into the factors that contribute to gender inequality and discrimination against girls, as well as the barriers that hinder their active participation in community and national-level leadership platforms.

¨As a result of these trainings, I felt empowered and confident, the trainings enhanced my capacity in advocacy, widened my understanding of gender-related issues and improved my interpersonal skills that have enabled me to easily reach out to the stakeholders without any difficulty.¨Doreen stated.

Empowered leader and advocate

As a passionate She Leads Girl and Young Woman Advocate, Doreen has been actively advocating for the rights of girls and young women in her community. She has engaged in various awareness creation initiatives, including community sensitization meetings, public debates, and dialogue sessions, all aimed at addressing critical issues like child marriage, teenage pregnancies, child labour, forced marriage, and the denial of girls' rights. These efforts have been made possible with the support of local and religious leaders and male champions, fostering collaborative solutions to these challenges.

Through her guidance and counselling, Doreen has played a crucial role in encouraging girls and young women to delay marriage and teenage pregnancies, enabling them to stay in school and secure a brighter future. Her involvement in district biannual reflection meetings has facilitated meaningful discussions with stakeholders, leading to concrete actions like the enactment of a bylaw on child protection in the late-night markets in Iwemba sub-county. Furthermore, she has advocated for the equitable distribution of teachers by gender in schools, emphasising the importance of female representation in educational institutions.

Doreen's advocacy efforts have extended to the national level as well. She has participated in engagement meetings with Members of Parliament, addressing issues affecting girls and young women in Bugiri district. Additionally, she took part in a Girls' conference during the 16 Days of Activism in Kamuli District, jointly presenting a position paper developed by girls and young women to stakeholders, aiming to eliminate harmful practices affecting children.

Through her work, Doreen has not only created awareness of girls' rights and gender equality but also trained girls and young women in various skills such as mat-making, tailoring, and hairdressing. These hands-on skills empower them to earn a living, especially for those who have been unable to return to school due to teenage pregnancies or child marriages. Her efforts have led to tangible results, linking girls and young women in her group to resources and opportunities, such as connecting them with the Rotary Club of Bugiri for tailoring services and support. This support has enabled them to build on their skills and work towards a better future. In addition to her advocacy and training endeavours, Doreen continues to foster learning and sharing among her fellow girls and young women through dedicated learning meetings, where she shares her experiences and expertise to inspire and uplift others.

¨I feel good because in my community I am also participating in decision making and I have a right to do what I want.¨she explained. 

Doreen's dream is to empower Girls and Young Women by providing them with valuable skills in tailoring and hairdressing. Her passion for this cause is undeniable, but she faces challenges due to limited resources. With just one tailoring machine and a significant number of girls to be trained, she is determined to expand the training centre with support from the She Leads programme so as to train more girls and young women who cannot attain formal education.

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