Written by Samantha Sarra
International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the strides we have made towards a more equitable world and a commitment to continue the work that still needs to be done.
Every day is International Women’s Day at Shanti Uganda where everything we do is about working towards a world where birthing mothers and women living HIV/AIDS are supported, empowered and able to develop their full potential. For us, today is a day to celebrate the advances in the community while also reflecting on the challenges that are ever present.While many women currently enjoy the benefits awarded by the struggles and fights of our grandmothers, mothers and sisters, it is important to reflect that there are still great challenges to face around the world. 99% of maternal health deaths occur in the developing world, 1 in 7 girls in developing nations will marry before the age of 15 and 1 in 5 girls who are enrolled in school will not finish their primary education.
Connecting Girls and Inspiring Futures is the theme of this year’s International Women’s day and we are proud to run programs that help bring this theme to life for the girls and women of Uganda. Here’s what invite you to celebrate with us:
Turning Poverty into Empowerment: Not having basic needs such as menstrual pads can have far reaching consequences. In Uganda girls often miss school or refrain from daily activities due to menstruation. We have supported over a hundred girls through our Teen Empowerment program that provides workshops which focus on health, HIV/AIDS prevention, menstruation and feeling confident in your own body. Each girl also receives a washable menstrual pad kit that allows her to not miss school because of menstruation, ensuring a brighter future for herself and a more empowered participation in her own life.
Turning Oppression into Opportunity: A country marked by struggle and conflict has left the legacy of high maternal and infant mortality rates with many women in Uganda not having access to the medical care or supplies needed for healthy pregnancy and birth. The Shanti Uganda Birth House and many other amazing grassroots maternity centres offer a safe place for women to birth their babies and receive care. A community garden to feed the birthing mothers, birth kits for community midwives, employing local men to help run the centre, offering weekly immunizations for babies and support groups for teen moms, helping to reduce HIV/AIDS transition rates from mother to child and midwifery education are just some of the ways that our Birth House has already had a reach of over 10,000 people. Averaging 10 babies born every month, each healthy birth is a new opportunity to help strengthen women, families and the community.
Turning Marginalization into Momentum: Shanti Uganda’s Income Generating Group provides HIV positive women with the skills and training they need to earn a living. Whether she is a grandmother taking care of multiple grandchildren, a woman living in extreme poverty or a widow, we are helping HIV positive women to create better futures for themselves with business training, health and nutrition educational workshops and our financial savings program. In the last year alone, we have supported our Women’s Income Generating Group with more than $18,000 in funds through the fair trade sales of the jewellery and textiles they produce.
A better tomorrow starts with a more hopeful today. Empower a young girl and you are nurturing the strong woman she will become. Decrease infant and maternal mortality rates and you increase the health and safety of families. Support women struggling in poverty and you inspire sustainable communities. Join us in creating a better world by making every day International Women’s Day.