Our projects improve quality of life for women and girls in the Rwenzori region of Uganda in sustainable, empowering ways. We focus primarily on improving access to education and income generation opportunities. Read on to see our current and past projects.
Support and Advocacy for Girls’ Education
Kasese district has low literacy rates, especially among women. This is common throughout rural Uganda, where people traditionally see girls as inferior to boys and destined for a life of domestic work, and therefore not worth educating. This cultural bias, combined with early marriage and pregnancy (often in a girl’s mid-teens) and family labor demands, means few girls complete their schooling. Many parents even encourage their girl children marry at an early age to earn bridewealth, the payment (usually goats) that a new husband traditionally gives the bride’s family at the time of marriage.
Although the government of Uganda officially recognizes the value of educating both girls and boys and enacted the Programme for Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1998, many girls in rural areas are unaware of their right to an education. This limits their ability to help lift themselves and their families out of poverty and ignorance, thus continuing the negative cycle.
In 2007, community consultations were conducted in Kyarumba sub-county to better understand why so few girls complete their schooling. In response, the Roots of Hope Foundation initiated a collection of projects to enhance participation, performance and retention of girls at all levels of education. This is our strategy:
- Teach communities about the importance of educating girls. This work was started by the Bwimaniro Women’s Club and its affiliate groups throughout the sub-county, who periodically travel around the villages and talk to residents and cultural leaders about the advantages of educating girls in a way that makes sense in the local cultural context.
- Increase parental involvement in community and school initiatives for improving girls’ access to education.
- Encourage girls to value their own education through confidence building workshops, exposure to outside information, and mentoring by role models.
Kyarumba Girls’ Education Fund
This fund is a collective community resource that supports girls’ access to quality and affordable education at all levels. Families pool their available savings in the fund, request distributions when needed for their daughters’ education costs, then pay back the loan when they are able. By pooling their resources in the fund, families are able to keep their money safely in the bank where it earns interest. Loans from the fund also help them cope with seasonal variation in the money they earn from agriculture, their primary income source.
Although many government-run schools in Uganda are free or inexpensive, the cost of basic requirements like school uniforms, books and even meals are enough to prevent some poor families from sending their children to school. Large families are common, averaging six children, often more in rural areas. Additionally, the timeline for school fees often does not line up with the timeline for income from seasonal crops. These factors combine to make education prohibitively expensive for some poor families, and when money is tight families will choose to educate their boys but not their girls. The Kyarumba Girls Education Fund helps to relieve some of this economic pressure, enabling more girls to stay in school longer.
Vocational Skills Training
In addition to helping girls stay in school, The Roots of Hope Foundation supports a vocational skills training program for girls who have dropped out of school due to early pregnancy, marriage, or financial problems. With financial support from the Swiss League of Catholic Women, over 100 girls have been trained in vocational skills identified as important by a local market survey, including sweater knitting, tailoring, hairdressing, basket weaving, and jewelry making.
Training takes place at a small training center in the village with the expertise of local teachers and craftswomen. Once graduated, the girls and women use their skills to earn income to support themselves and their families and sometimes study for further vocational certifications. The most recent training class, which graduated in May 2019, successfully trained 15 girls and women in tailoring and hairdressing. To learn more about the program and students, please see the end of course report here.
This very effective program has the potential to help many more girls and women, but is limited by lack of funding for more trainers and equipment. If you would like to help, you can support our work here.
Homestay and Volunteer Hosting
The Roots of Hope Foundation started a homestay and volunteer project in 2007, fueled by partnerships with volunteer programs like Interconnect Uganda (ICU), NGOAbroad, and the Nabuur Foundation. Sixteen tourists and volunteers have taken part in the program since its inception, bringing valuable income to the women in Kyarumba to help fund their community and education projects. It also raises awareness of the challenges they face, brings outside ideas into the remote region, and provides visitors with an unforgettable experience that is very difficult to find in the traditional tourism industry.
Visitors stay in family homes and experience life in the village as the residents do. They learn about the culture, hike in the mountains, and meet the women and girls in the programs. They also have an opportunity to volunteer with our projects.
Poultry Keeping for Income Generation
Poverty is one of the biggest obstacles to education of girls in Kyarumba. To address this, the Roots of Hope Foundation piloted a project to improve economic security through poultry raising, an effective and sustainable method of income generation in the region. The project, supported by a $2000 donation raised from a fundraising event in the United States, distributed 200 chickens to 50 women organized into 7 groups. The women received training and support in poultry keeping, book keeping, savings and credit. Within a year, the number of chickens doubled and members were able to pass on new chickens to other families within their groups. The women were able to save 2,100,000 Ugandan Shillings, about $590 USD, from selling eggs and chickens. We would like to build on this successful idea at a larger scale to help even more families in the future.
Roots of Hope and the women of Kyarumba are full of ideas to address the challenges their communities face. When funding allows, we plan to expand our work to include these important issues:
- Scholarship fund: For girls who not only continue their schooling but excel at high levels, we would like to establish a scholarship fund to sponsor their continued education.
- Reproductive health: In a region where a woman’s children often number in the double digits, it’s impossible to address a woman’s quality of life without considering her reproductive health. Local health centers and hospitals are not well-equipped and women suffer and even die from preventable issues related to reproductive health, pregnancy, and delivery.
- Family planning: Many women give birth to more children than they can financially support because they lack access to family planning information and resources. Their husbands often do not view them as equal participants in the decision-making process, if there is a decision or process at all. It’s vital to teach both women and men that women are entitled to participate in these decisions, and to enable them to do so.
- HIV/AIDS prevention: HIV is prevalent and claims many lives in the region. Campaigns elsewhere in Uganda and Africa as a whole have seen success in reducing the spread of the disease, but none have reached the Rwenzori region.
- Children’s health: Children in Kyarumba suffer and even die needlessly from preventable causes like malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition. Spreading information about mosquito avoidance, safe food and water practices, and the importance of eating a balanced diet can go a long way toward keeping children healthy and allowing them to stay in school.
- Domestic violence prevention and assistance for victims: Domestic violence is common in this region, as it is in many rural regions. Women remain trapped in abusive relationships because they do not want to leave their children and cannot afford to support them without a husband. These women need to understand their options, and their communities need to be exposed to outside points of view about the harmful nature of this unfortunate cultural norm.
Support These Projects
The projects on this page are sustained by the generosity of donors who believe in our mission. Please consider donating to Roots of Hope Foundation and the women and girls of Kyarumba.