Fall ArmywormMachine learning, a variation of artificial intelligence that includes the development of algorithms that independently learn new information, has innumerable applications. An example of this can be found in Africa, where the fall armyworm pest in Uganda has ravaged crop yields. Amid the destruction, a new machine learning-based app created by a Ugandan developer has the potential to stop the spread of the crop-destroying pest.

Agriculture in Uganda and the Fall Armyworm

Approximately 22% of Uganda’s GDP comes from agriculture, with most Ugandans working in the agricultural sector, often engaging in subsistence farming. With the nation’s economic performance relying on successful agricultural harvests and the population’s everyday food source coming from their own crop yields, any invasion of pests in Uganda can have serious consequences.

In 2016, Uganda experienced its first invasion of the fall armyworm pest, the larva of the armyworm moth. A native of the tropical regions of the western hemisphere, the fall armyworm pest eats through crops for nourishment before its transformation into a moth. By mid-2017, the fall armyworm had been detected throughout Uganda and was estimated to have caused $192 million USD in maize crop losses alone. In some regions, up to 75% of crop yields were lost.

Despite the severe threat posed by the fall armyworm pest in Uganda, local developers have created a machine learning-based tool to assist Ugandan farmers with detecting the presence of the fall armyworm in their crops and preventing its spread.

Machine Learning to Protect Crops

In the aftermath of the arrival of the fall armyworm pest, Nazirini Siraji, a Ugandan woman from the city of Mbale, began work on a modern solution to the age-old problem of pest invasions. After attending one of Google’s Codelabs events, Siraji used Google’s TensorFlow platform to develop her Farmers Companion App. TensorFlow is an open-source machine learning tool that enables developers like Siraji to create digital solutions powered by artificial intelligence.

The Farmers Companion App enables farmers to use mobile technology to identify this specific pest on their crops and their lifecycle stage. Using this information, the app notifies the user about the threat level faced by their crops and the extent to which the fall armyworm has the potential to spread. The app also recommends specific pesticide treatments that can be used based on the situation of the farmer’s crops.

According to Google, the app has already been deployed in the agricultural lands surrounding Mbale, where Siraji partners with local farmers in utilizing her Farmers Companion App.

Big Tech Meets Local Developer

The global expansion of the internet has been accompanied by a rise in local innovation aimed at solving local issues. In Africa, pest invasions have been responsible for countless crop shortages and famines, which exacerbates problems of instability and poverty. While invasions from pests like the fall armyworm will inevitably occur in the future, they will not happen again without opposition from new technology.

John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

Baseball Around The World
Baseball has been known as America’s game since its creation in 1839. It has served as an entertainment outlet for many Americans, bringing about positive feelings of nostalgia and pure competitive joy. As time went on, baseball proved to be a popular sport around the world, allowing kids to chase dreams of home runs and perfect games. With anything long enough to be a bat, and round enough to be a ball, people around the world have found numerous ways to create the game of baseball.

Kids Chasing Their Dreams

Many people in impoverished countries have used baseball as a way to express their competitiveness. With most professional teams coming from the United States and Korea, many kids in impoverished countries dream of one day making it to the biggest professional stage for baseball. For these kids, that starts with the Little League World Series. The Little League Baseball organization has put young kids on the world stage since 1939. Little League teams can represent their region in a world tournament every August. Historically, the United States and China have produced powerhouse teams that dominate consistently. However, every few years, the tournament experiences new young talent from countries like Uganda and Mexico, showing how baseball around the world has been expanding.

In 2012, the Little League World Series tournament said hello to its first team from Uganda. Though the team lacked skill, they made history by appearing in the tournament. Then in 2015, Uganda made its second appearance, showing great improvement since its original appearance. According to Roger Sherman, “Ugandan baseball is young and has faced a lot of obstacles. But these kids have gotten really good really fast, and they aren’t going away any time soon.” The sport has become a staple in Uganda as they continue to build up their baseball communities. Creating leagues and supporting kids in developing countries is one way that baseball has historically helped impoverished communities grow. Baseball around the world has impacted kids, and it continues to do so.

Fighting Poverty With Baseball

More recently, baseball has proven to be a huge supporter of ending poverty around the world. According to Stuart Anderson, 27% of major league players are foreign-born, with the majority of those players coming from the Dominican Republic. About 30% of the Dominican Republic population is living below the poverty line. It is only natural for major league baseball players to use their popularity and skill to support their home countries.

Food for the Hungry, a global nonprofit organization, has teamed up with many major league baseball players to launch the Striking Out Poverty initiative. For the last two years, players like Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dee Gordan of the Seattle Mariners and Jake Flaherty and Michael Wacha both of the St. Louis Cardinals, have dedicated their skills to help raise awareness for countries below the poverty line. Some play for clean water, some play for food donations, some play for farmers and some play to save lives.

How to Help

Anyone can help by donating. Showing support for a team or player’s personal campaign can make a big impact. With each game played, they generate thousands of dollars to donate. With the help of fans across the United States and the world, they can generate even more.

For decades now, baseball has spread its popularity around the world. It is a sport that, played any way possible, provides joy and escape for many people. The sport itself and the professional players have had a positive impact on communities around the world.

Sophia Cloonan
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in UgandaWomen’s rights in Uganda are notoriously spotty. Ugandan women experience high rates of physical and sexual abuse, at 56% and 22% respectively. Additionally, child marriage is common and 40% of Ugandan girls marry before they turn 18. As a result, many girls never complete their education or gain the necessary job skills to help them provide for themselves and their families. The lack of opportunities for women to thrive economically only perpetuates poverty in the region.

The Gender Gap and Poverty

Uganda currently ranks 65th out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index for equal “economic participation and opportunity” among men and women. With 19.7% of Ugandans still living below the poverty line in 2013 and two in three households that escape poverty and then fall below the poverty line all over again, striving for women’s rights in Uganda is one essential step needed to combat the region’s prevalent poverty. Over the last few years, the Ugandan Government and nonprofit groups have made great strides to advance women’s rights in Uganda.

Legislation for Women’s Rights in Uganda

Over the last 15 years, Uganda has passed a volley of legislation designed to protect women’s rights. These laws make it more likely for women to have the physical health and wellbeing to hold jobs and begin to address the social barriers to women’s economic participation.

  • Laws prohibiting violence against women: The 2009 Persons Act (anti-trafficking), 2010 Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2010 Domestic Violence Act and additional 2011 domestic violence regulations.
  • The Equal Opportunities Commission Act of 2007: This law gives the Ugandan state power to punish discrimination against sex, while also permitting the state to implement “affirmative action in favor of groups marginalized on the basis of gender… for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist.”

Governmental Plans for Women’s Rights

Addressing women’s rights in Uganda is a key part of Uganda’s Second National Development Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20. The Plan explains attaining women’s rights as a prerequisite to desired economic growth and proposes several key initiatives to increase women’s access to business ownership and resources. The initiatives include using technology to promote women’s issues, advancing economic reforms to allow women equal access to inheritance, property and public financial resources as well as addressing widespread gender discrimination. An additional public policy plan, The National Strategy to End Child Marriage, seeks to enhance women’s autonomy and economic opportunity by curtailing child marriage, which stunts teenagers’ abilities to seek education and exposes them to marital violence. Due to child marriage, currently up to 35% of girls drop out of school before age 18.

Organizations for Women’s Rights in Uganda

Nonprofit advocacy groups are playing a part to advance and raise awareness for women’s rights too. Girl Up Initiative Uganda provides programs tailored to educate adolescent girls, teaching job skills and economic empowerment. Additionally, Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment (ARUWE Uganda) focuses on teaching agricultural job skills to women in rural areas.

The National Union of Women with Disabilities in Uganda (NUWODU) seeks to expand ongoing women’s rights work to women with disabilities. In particular, NUWODU aims to end discrimination against disabled women workers in the job market and to increase their wages and access to services.

While there is still plenty of work to do, the progress being made by nonprofits and governmental action taken on behalf of Ugandan women enables them to attain long-term economic equality and prosperity that will help the region as a whole to fight poverty.

– Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr

Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

innovations in poverty eradication in ugandaWhen it comes to the fight against poverty, innovation is just as important as in any other field. Coming up with creative, sustainable solutions for such a massive problem is critical in any nation. However, it is more important in developing countries, where funds allocated for poverty reduction are often limited. By thinking outside the box, governments, private sector organizations and NGOs can effectively accomplish poverty reduction efforts across many sectors. Here are just a few innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda.

The Private Sector

In fact, the private sector is often where innovation originates and forward-thinking people thrive. Normally, many people think of poverty reduction as a job for governments and NGOs. However, by involving private corporations, the fight against poverty can work outside the bureaucracy that often impedes the work of governmental agencies.

Additionally, there is a large incentive for private businesses to get involved with poverty reduction. The world’s poor represents a largely untapped market of consumers. By lifting them out of poverty, businesses will create a larger client base and ultimately more profit. Today, 4 billion people are living on less than $8 a day. This segment of the population provides opportunities for expanded market development and human capital. Indeed, there is no shortage of entrepreneurs looking to work with this demographic.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Uganda

The private sector is where many innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda emerge. One particular business-focused innovation that has taken hold in Uganda is microfinancing. Microfinancing practices give small loans to fledgling entrepreneurs. Recipients use the loans to grow their businesses, create jobs and positively impact their communities. This opportunity for those traditionally excluded from the banking system to obtain credit has done lots of good, particularly in Uganda.

For example, The Hunger Project is taking its microfinancing efforts one step further. Not only is it promoting economic self-reliance, but it is ensuring the inclusion of women. Women even lead its microfinancing program, giving them an influential voice in their communities. Thus, microfinancing is one among many innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda.

Empowering Women

Another success story is the Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI). WMI’s mission is “to establish village-level loan hubs. Local women administrate the loan hubs to provide capital, training and support services for women in East Africa. This is to help them engage in income-producing activities.” Since 2008, WMI has issued over $7.2 million in loans to more than 17,500 women in East Africa. The organization estimates that each loan provides a positive economic outcome for at least 20 people. Overall, this means that this program has reached over 350,000 individuals in the past 12 years.

The anecdotal evidence above as well as the available data show that microfinancing initiatives are effective innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda. According to the World Bank, the percentage of those living below the poverty line in Uganda decreased by 11.4% from 2006 to 2013. The organization credits much of this progress to agricultural innovations, many of which use microfinancing. This goes to show that often, innovation and progress happen from the bottom up.

Moving Forward

However, if this progress is to continue, innovators looking to further innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda need to focus on malnutrition, education, sanitation and electricity. Without access to these services, innovation efforts will fall short. Therefore, a potential approach to poverty reduction in Uganda would be a blend of governmental, NGO and private sector efforts. Long-term, inclusive and sustainable solutions can go a long way toward reducing poverty in Uganda and elsewhere.

Addison Collins
 Photo: Flickr

Elevate in UgandaPresent and pressing obstacles concerning education in Uganda do not center around access anymore. As Uganda improves on how many children will acquire schooling, the significant gaps are now noticeable through the quality of education that the children receive. Elevate in Uganda partners for education endeavors to tackle this precise issue. As stated by the organization, “the poor quality of education delivered in the classroom stops children from thriving and from reaching their true potential.” Without a strong start and foundation to build upon, Ugandan children will continue to face challenging and unjust school and life outcomes.

How Elevate is Improving Education

Elevate’s interventions are increasing the accountability of schools. The community influences the attendance of students as well as facilitates the conduction of teachers. Schools have more responsibility through parental involvement, leading to higher standards in Ugandan education. By engaging the entire community, Elevate makes everyone a part of the solution.

Getting to the Roots

Additionally, Elevate monitors and works with schools that are already established in Uganda. It has become apparent that the problem does not only lie within the confines of the school. Parents who are unaware of the gains that come from education and are unequipped to make the necessary improvements needed in the school often end up unengaged with their child’s education. Many parents of children attending Ugandan government-run schools don’t even know the teacher’s name.

SMC and Scorecard Systems

Furthermore, Elevate initiates community engagement by gathering over 60 members of the community for a meeting. It also provides training in the development of a School Management Committee to recognize significant issues concerning the school. A scorecard keeps track of school quality in areas that need improvement. This scorecard is accessible to the District Education Officer (DEO). It is also an incentive to improve upon. Elevate may introduce the community to these revolutionary actions. To achieve a lasting solution, a trained community representative keeps these programs up every year.

Elevate and COVID-19

From a recent study that included participants that were headteachers of Ugandan schools, Elevate continues to impact education in Uganda during COVID-19 positively. Eighty-eight headteachers were contacted to contribute to a study that revealed the impressive impact of Elevate. This happened after all the school shutdowns of the pandemic. The differences in schools and communities that received intervention from Elevate compared to those who did not receive intervention provide a look into the organization’s sustainable solutions.

Three of the 88 teachers managed to maintain communication with students after the schools closed. All of them were teachers who took part in the intervention program initiated by Elevate. They had fewer dropout rates after the schools closed compared to those who were not associated with Elevate. Within the communities that Elevate affected, members reported much more trust in the headteachers over those who did not receive interventions from Elevate. Headteachers associated with Elevate’s program felt that their role in the community was meaningful during the pandemic.

Overall, Elevate inspires members of each community that it contributes to by helping them realize their voice, their role and their ability to take part in their children’s success. The organization sheds light on the power in unity that lies within communities even as they face poverty.

– Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Akola_women_in_Uganda.jpgDiva Taxi, an all-female transportation company, recently launched in Uganda. As Uganda’s female-run rideshare, it is distinct because of its strict rule of hiring only female drivers. Diva Taxi hopes to alleviate the demand for taxis in the Ugandan capital city, Kampala while providing women with a safe method of transportation. While the company expects to thrive in the rapidly developing capital, Diva Taxi also hopes to expand to other regions in Uganda. Its emphasis on female entrepreneurship, strict screening and affordability will positively affect the transportation sector in the Ugandan economy. Moreover, it will employ women struggling financially. Here are 5 ways in which Diva Taxi will positively influence Ugandan women.

5 Benefits of Diva Taxi: Uganda’s Female-Run Rideshare

  1. Hiring Women. Diva Taxi focuses on hiring women, a demographic typically overlooked on other driving applications. Gillian Kobusingye, one of the managing partners of Diva Taxi, observes that other companies are male-dominated. She estimates that men make up 80% of transportation companies in Uganda. Because of this, companies are less likely to hire women drivers, favoring the status quo. This gender disparity is not restricted to the transportation sector alone: 14.4% of working-age Ugandan women are unemployed. This, compared with 6.2% of men. Diva Taxi eliminates this selection bias as Uganda’s female-run rideshare.
  2. Affordability. Becoming an employee of Diva Taxi is completely affordable. For women struggling financially, the need to purchase technology or equipment often restricts access to desperately-needed jobs. Like Uber and Bolt, Diva Taxi is an application, which means office registration and other bureaucratic red tape is avoidable when joining. Employees only need a functioning car to join the team. Diva Taxi drivers note how the company’s flexibility provided them the opportunity to quickly make money for their families. This is critical during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, jobs shrank in Uganda, enhancing the significance of jobs that remain open to female employees.
  3. Employee Safety. The application prioritizes safety for its employees. New hires are taught basic self-defense skills to guard themselves against potentially dangerous clients. One precautionary measure for drivers includes “Panic Alerts,” a protective in-app function that safeguards employees from potential thieves. Additionally, employees and customers receive a unique registration number when they create their profile. This enables their tracking if things go awry. Lastly, customers must book rides two hours in advance so no relative trip requests can occur that may endanger the driver.
  4. Client Safety. Diva Taxi offers a safe ride home for girls and women. Despite newly-passed laws and policies to protect victims and survivors of abuse, violence against women increased by 4% in Uganda. According to the Uganda Police Force’s annual report, as of 2016 — 22% of Ugandan women between the ages of 15–49 experienced some form of sexual violence. This percentage is equivalent to more than 1 million Ugandans. A safe, female-run company like Diva Taxi is an essential form of transportation for women. This group is among the vulnerable in the bustling streets of Kampala, especially at night.
  5. COVID-19 Precautions. Diva Taxi takes the necessary precautions against COVID-19. All drivers must clean their cars routinely, as well as wear a mask to maintain the safety of the customer and themselves. As of August 2020, Uganda has 2,362 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which means these precautions are still necessary.

By Women, For Women

Diva Taxi was created by women, is run by women and protects women. Although Diva Taxi was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic (an uncertain era for transportation companies) it is a positive influence on female Ugandans which will hopefully keep it afloat.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ugandan OrphansAccording to UNICEF, approximately 65% of Ugandan minors are orphans and categorized as vulnerable children. Specifically, the country has 8 million children that are vulnerable and more than 2.2 million children who are orphans. The organization attributes these high numbers as the outcome of the AIDS pandemic. As a result, this leads to many families losing one or more parental figures in their household. Living conditions in the country lack both quality and quantity, with several structural concerns. This is especially prevalent for impoverished communities and worse for Ugandan orphans. Habitat for Humanity Uganda estimates that 900,000 housing units in the country are below standard and in dire need of upgrading. This is not including the extreme need for additional housing units across Uganda.

Inspiration to Create Weight of Glory Orphan Care

Weight of Glory Orphan Care is a nonprofit established by three college friends from Arkansas who are creating glory for Ugandan orphans. In 2010 Travis, Krystin and Megan spent a semester in college visiting the L’esperance Children’s Aid orphanage in Uganda. Within a couple of days, the three friends became invested in the connections they made with the orphans. They also cultivate a strong friendship with the director Wilbroad. During their five months stay, these three students viewed the orphanage’s daily struggles, especially as they planned to relocate in the near future.

Like many other orphanages, the L’esperance is highly dependent on volunteers and international donations. Upon arriving back in the U.S., the three friends kept in touch with Wilbroad. They discovered that in the relocation process to Lake Victoria, the orphanage had lost much of their regular donation support. In the summer of 2014, only 20 out of the 78 kids had a home. Additionally, many had to be sent to distant boarding schools due to a lack of education funds at L’esperance.

Establishing Weight of Glory

Travis, Krystin and Megan informed their communities of the difficulties the Ugandan children were suffering. They received support in tremendous ways. In addition, the support led to the realization that a U.S. based nonprofit organization that invests in orphaned kids in Uganda was a possibility. Within the first two years of establishing Weight of Glory, the nonprofit was able to assist in rebuilding a Kinoyo Kindergarten classroom. The classroom has the capacity for 120 children. Additionally, the goal of the Arkansas-based nonprofit is to produce sustainable solutions for Ugandan orphanages. As a result, it leads to the construction of a poultry farm that houses 1,000 chicks at L’esperance.

Weight of Glory Helps Ugandan Orphans

The Weight of Glory Orphan Care commits to creating sustainable projects that help the orphans directly. For example, sponsorship for 25 children at L’esperance, taking the primary role as an international partner and holding Gala fundraising events to educate the local communities about orphanages in Uganda. But one of the bigger projects that has had success is the read-a-thons at local schools. During this project, local U.S. children are educated about the daily lives of Ugandan children. The program also promotes donations that assist in providing school supplies to the primary school children in L’esperance. Additionally, they sell merchandise online that helps support their status as a nonprofit organization and goes directly to supporting Ugandan orphans.

From their time spent at L’esperance, the three friends discovered the four categories by which the children find support at L’esperance. Primary school orphans are dependent on the orphanage for their education from a very young age. Meanwhile, secondary school orphans are finishing their education through L’esperance. On the other hand, community students are residents of the local community with limited access to essentials such as food and clothing. These children are invited to the Kinyo Kindergarten at L’esperance for support and education from a young age. But the main group is resident orphans, who are completely dependent on the orphanage, from living quarters to education programs.

Megan, Krystin and Travis drew on their experience in Uganda to build the Weight of Glory Orphan Care nonprofit. The success of the nonprofit lies in partnering with local communities with international partners that can support the orphanages. These friends’ nonprofit is creating glory for Ugandan orphans by attempting to carry the heavyweight of caring and shining a light on the stories untold in global orphanages.

Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

 

Period Poverty in Uganda
Uganda’s Ministry of Education reported that, as of 2019, nearly one in every four Ugandan girls between ages 12 to 18 will drop out of school once they begin menstruating. For those who do attend school, girls’ absence rates triple from 7% to 28% during their periods. Dropping out of school decreases their likelihood of escaping the cycle of poverty and increases their chances of early marriage and motherhood. Like many other international leaders, the Ugandan minister of higher education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, stresses the importance of girls’ school attendance, adding that this must include proper menstrual health practices. He articulates that period poverty in Uganda seriously jeopardizes Uganda’s likelihood of reaching many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those which concern gender equality, education and health care.

Understanding Period Poverty in Uganda

The definition of period poverty is inadequate access to menstrual health care and sanitation, as well as the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation that prevents menstruating women from fully participating in society. Poverty, education and a lack of waste and sanitation management exacerbate the global problem of period poverty.

In 2015, the Ugandan government rolled out an initiative to work alongside NGOs and schools to improve access to menstrual care. However, reports indicate that Uganda’s school system has failed to improve these rates. Poor washing and hygiene facilities that make product removal and privacy difficult, as well as the embezzlement of funding for pads and sanitation infrastructure improvements, have hampered the initiative’s success. A profound stigma surrounding menstruation also exists as people often perceive it as dirty and a private matter. This makes educating girls and boys on the matter difficult without proper funding and insistence. Additionally, despite a 2017 tax removal on sanitation products, they still cost around $2 USD per package, unaffordable for those living in poverty.

Developing Sustainable Solutions

Fortunately, several organizations are working tirelessly to combat period poverty in Uganda. The Red Cross and AFRIpads, a local manufacturer, have partnered with the Ugandan government for the Keep a Girl in School Initiative to provide girls with sanitation products and educational services. AFRIpads’ reusable pads help tackle the problems of waste and affordability. The Binance Charity Foundation uses cryptocurrency donations to directly reach women in need to circumvent corruption within the school systems. To date, the organization has helped over 1,400 girls in Uganda pay for sanitation pads.

PLAN International has worked with schools in Torono, Uganda by adding doors to toilets for privacy and creating “menstrual hygiene management clubs.” Both girls and boys between the ages of 11 to 18 learn about periods and make reusable products for the girls to take home. The clubs use songs and other fun activities to create a positive culture surrounding menstruation, using roleplay to combat social norms. Educators have been highly supportive of this initiative and noticed a change in boys’ attitudes and support and girls’ attendance.

Men Making an Impact

This is not the only initiative that has stressed the role of men in creating supportive environments for girls’ health. One church in Mulatsi, Uganda, realized that period poverty was the biggest problem the community reported. One father, Milton, became motivated to improve the situation for his daughters but noted the high cost of pads. With a church organization, he and his community work to educate and make reusable pads, which cost only $1.50 USD and last an entire year. Other men judged Milton for his involvement in this but Milton has insisted that fathers must involve themselves in reducing period poverty in Uganda for their daughters’ sake. The project’s success inspired more churches to join the movement, which has educated 4,800 boys and girls about periods and proper feminine care.

The Ganda Boys are another male group supporting the cause. This group, made up of male musicians, has helped over 2,000 girls gain access to menstrual products using donations they received from their performances. After moving to the U.K., the men give back by working in refugee camps to improve menstrual hygiene education.

Period poverty in Uganda is far from being solved, and it presents a threat to Uganda’s SDGs. Yet, it has presented several opportunities for innovative solutions that can be learned from. While funding for supplies and sanitation improvements may come from all over the world, local communities are working to untangle deep-rooted stigmas. The inclusion of men and boys in educating about women’s and sexual health has contributed to the success of these projects. With continued government and INGO support, period poverty in Uganda can reduce, and more girls can continue their education.

Elizabeth Stankovits
Photo: Flickr