Youthhubafrica’s Rotimi Olawale caught up with Prudence Nyamishana in this exclusive interview where she shared about her work, successes, challenges as founder of the African Girl Initiative in Uganda. Edited by Sola Fagorusi http://youthhubafrica.org/2012/12/11/we-have-been-able-to-infiltrate-the-slums-in-uganda-prudence-nyamishana/
Q: What inspired you to set up African Girl Initiative, Uganda?
Girls from less privileged families were dropping out of school at an early age. This left them with no choice but to get married. Those that would not get married would be subjected to teenage prostitution as a way to put food on their table.
Q: What is the African Girl Initiative all about and what have you set out to achieve?
It is about giving an alternative to girls by giving them a new hope by empowering them with entrepreneurial skills, business skills and social skills to live a successful and productive life. Ultimately,
AGI-Uganda is set out to restoring the dignity of the girl child that has been abused for generations.
Q: How have you been able to successfully raise support for the initiative?
Networking with other organizations has helped us raise support for the initiative an example is the Women of Uganda network and the Man up Campaign. We have also worked with young people from Universities around Kampala that have given freely of their time.
Q: What are your major achievements till date?
We have been able to infiltrate the slums of Bwaise that were unreachable before we ventured in. Many Ugandans feared the crime that was there but when we set up a Girls project in the slums, many other organizations picked interest and several other related programmes are being run in and around the slums.
We were hosted on a Live show on NBS a local television where we talked about the plight of the teenage prostitute in the urban areas and there has been an overwhelming response from the public stirring fire in the hearts of many Ugandans to reach out to the girl in the slum areas.
Q: What are your major challenges?
Our major challenges are sustainability, sometimes we run out of finances to run day to day activities. That makes it very difficult for us to work effectively. However, we encourage the girls to make products such as bags, jewelry, cloth designing and chair cushions for sale so that other girls from the slums can benefit from this project.
Beneficiaries of the African Girls Initiative Training learning to make cards
Beneficiaries displaying cards they made
Q: What problems do young girls face in Uganda and how best can they overcome these problems?
They include statutory rape, teenage prostitution, child marriages, forced marriages and child labour.
Q: One of your projects for girls under the initiative is a ‘Pay–it-Forward-Loan’. How did this work and how successful has this been?
The Pay-it-Forward-Loan is an amount of money that is given to the girls that successfully complete the entrepreneurship training programme. The girls are given three months grace period before they can start repaying the money. The intention is to encourage ownership of the businesses they have set up and to use that money as ‘pay it forward loan’ for the girls that are taken on in the next intake. So far paying back the loan is a very big challenge because of the high mobility rate in the slums. Following them up has posed a great challenge.
Q: Where do you see the initiative over the next 10years? What are your ambitions?
I see a strong network around East Africa that champions relentlessly for the girl child. I see the lives of Girls empowered to stand tall and make a difference in their generation. I see thousands of girls rehabilitated from teenage prostitution and a notable reduction in child marriages, and other forms of abuse.
Q: Do you see a conflict between family and career for women in Africa?
Most of the families in Uganda are breaking up because the women do not have time for their families. This has posed a challenge in Africa that is a male chauvinistic society. Therefore there will always be conflict caused by divergent gender roles. Unless men are empowered to drop the chauvinism that has been carried on from generation to generation, this conflict will always rage on.
Q: What advice do you have for young girls and women on the African Continent?
Women of Africa must take their place for such a time as this; the African women should continue to burn the candle that the women in Liberia set for them. The women of Africa should know that they are not second class citizens therefore must strive hard to prove to the world otherwise. The women of Africa should work hard and prove to the world that what a man can do a woman can do better.