Lilian, her family and the characters who people I am Change are fictional, but their circumstances are real. The long, dangerous walk girls make to school, the hunger in their bellies, the leaves crammed into underwear to soak up their blood, the fathers who leave for second and third wives, the mothers lost to disease because there isn’t money for medicine, the bad touches from teachers, the lack of money for schoolbooks, the forced marriages and unmet dreams …
Every one of the thirty girls I interviewed while researching the book in Uganda had experienced a number – sometimes all – of these hurdles before they turned sixteen. And they were the lucky ones, the ones I met through aid organisations that were now helping them achieve their dreams. Organisations like Girl Child Network, Uganda who run empowerment clubs for girls; AAFCAD, who improve the lives of the people who live in Kampala’s poorest slum; Girls Not Brides, a global partnership committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential; Concern for the Girl Child, who empower vulnerable girls through sponsored education and The Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and Adolescent Health, who educate young people about the dangers of early sexual activity to enable them to stay in school longer.
I saw the difference these organisations made to the girls’ lives, how they’d saved them from unwanted pregnancies and marriages to older men, fed them when they were hungry and sat them at desks. Girls who’d been forced to sell their bodies on the street were now able to read, women who’d grown used to being beaten now lived independently and ran their own businesses.
I couldn’t leave Uganda without doing something to improve their lives, so on my return to Australia, I established Help Girls Learn, Uganda, an initiative to get girls into schools and keep them there. It is 2019. Over 200 million girls around the world are being refused an education. One in four girls can’t read this sentence. It’s time we speak up; time we do something. If you want to help better girls’ lives, click on the link below to donate. The money you provide will go to the five incredible organisations I worked with and will be used to empower and protect vulnerable girls in Uganda. Anything you can offer will be deeply appreciated.
To read more about the five charities you will be supporting:
Girl Child Network, Uganda http://www.gcnuganda.org.
Girls Not Brides https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/take-action/
Concern for the Girl Child http://www.concernforgirlchild.or.ug
The Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and Adolescent Health https://www.uyafpah.org/