From Girls to Women
In Uganda, especially the Western Region, Girl-Child Education has been a tag of war and an initiative that was never seen profitable and appreciated. Tradition has it that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and raising children. Years ago, the furthest a girl would be educated, especially in the remote areas, was primary seven. After that, she would be married off and in cases of rejection amidst other co-wives, she would suffer endless poverty together with her children whose effect and impacts would then carry on for generations and generations.
It was in 1989 when Musimenta Medias born in 1971 got married like any other lady at the age of 19 years to a man that was HIV/AIDS positive that later died in 1995. After the death of his husband, she was left very lonely and stressed of the life that she was going to pass through as a young woman who had lost hope of getting married again with her vulnerability to the same virus that took her husband. Out of the entire trauma, she gained a lot of self confidence and having been skilled with tailoring skills from childhood, she started making some small revenues for her survival. In the process, she started discovering more other young ladies who faced similar challenges but never had other hands-on skills and were suffering terrible poverty amidst rejection. “I started mobilizing young girls and young newly married young women, imparting them with skills especially those who faced the same challenges like mine so as to be productive and self sustaining for a better tomorrow”, says Musimenta Medias.
“So far, we’ve graduated more than 1000 students, both boys (a quarter) and girls (three quarters), from the time we started. With these skills, we have seen the youths change their social-economic status through self-employment. Personally, I am very proud of our students who have gone ahead to become job creators,” said the vibrant Medias. She added, “As a matter of fact, I have seen university graduates groaning about unemployment but non among the students who graduate from this institution is crying about unemployment. Most of them have stable businesses and have employees whom they employ.”
Located in Nyabikoni Ward, Northern Division – Kabale Municipality, Shalom Vocational Training Institute now sits on close to an acre of land in a calm, serene environment. The Institute offers several hands-on skills in various courses including general tailoring and knitting, hairdressing, tourism and hotel management, beauty therapy, embroidery, computer literacy among others. The courses are at the certificate level.
Current enrollment at the Institute is around 300 students of which the majority are boarders. One of the students told us how blessed she is to be at that institute. “My father had run short of money to send me to A’level. I sat at home for two years and was waiting for a suitor to come and pay the bride price for me. Then my mother’s friend convinced her to allow me to go for a tailoring course for which she promised to pay for me. My future is now rekindled. I have hopes of setting up a shop with my own designs and even helping my younger sisters to go for the same course.”
The Institute relies on Institute fees paid by the students. Each student pays a small fee of Shs. 300,000/= per semester, for five semesters. “We do not get any funds from the government or any NGO and for that matter, the economy is squeezing us” Medias Musimenta confirmed. She added, “This has forced us into borrowing training materials such as knitting and sewing machines, plus we have not been able to set up the kind of structures that we need as an institution. In other words, we are still operating in rented structures”.
The institute has plans to expand and have a well-established campus and also increase the number of tutors. There are also plans to add several more courses on top of those currently offered.