The Graduation She Never Had

I remember the day I graduated from University. I was sitting in a ski lodge in Pamporovo in Bulgaria, sipping hot chocolate and watching the snow flurries whisk their way across the mountain. On my phone popped-up a stream of photos of my friends at the graduation ceremony. I did a little happy dance knowing that when I returned home from my honeymoon, my transcripts would be in my letter box.

I remember graduating from high school, tears streaming down my face as I realised that this safe haven would no longer be my whole life. The world was waiting for me. I was terrified and excited.

I don’t remember graduating primary school. The moment perhaps has little significance to me. I had a private school education ahead of me and dreams to pursue. Graduating from primary school was the least of my concerns. Looking back, I wish I remembered that day. I wish I had valued and understood the importance of it…

I wish I remembered that day. I wish I had valued and understood the importance of it…

In February this year, I met a girl who changed my perspective. Her name was Sarah and she lived with her mother and four other siblings in a room a small as my bathroom in an outer city slum in Uganda. As we began talking, I noticed that her English was very good. She told me that she had completed primary school but never had the opportunity to go to high school. She was now 19 and in her arms, she held her little baby daughter. Sarah’s life had been altered forever as a single mother. She and her child were both cared for by Sarah’s mother, who was also a single mother. A mother who had done everything she could to keep her in school for as long as she could support her.

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In Uganda, 1 in 4 women like Sarah, have a child before they turn 19. Many of these women are single mothers. They are the most vulnerable demographic in Africa, with 46% of those who were able to attend school, unable to even complete their primary education, and 83% earning less than $1 USD a day. I believe that the best way to combat poverty is through education and programs like Keep a Girl in School, are working towards helping to lower these statistics.

In Uganda, 1 in 4 women like Sarah, have a child before they turn 19.

However, for the mothers across Uganda who haven’t had this opportunity, there is hope. This year, 450 mothers in Uganda, like Sarah and her mother will have the opportunity to experience a graduation for the very first time. They will graduate from Living Hope, a program that teaches some of Uganda’s most vulnerable women adult and financial literacy, a craft or marketable skill and business skills so they can create a sustainable life of dignity for themselves and their families.

We can help see them graduate to greatness, by empowering each of these women to start their own business when they graduate. Hair braiding accessories will enable a woman to start a hair braiding salon. A sewing machine and tailoring accessories will enable a woman to generate income through a tailoring or textile business. These are tools that will empower a woman to change the narrative of her life.

Let’s make it a graduation she will never forget.

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