Life Skills Camp for Girls During School Holiday Breaks: Initial Stages

Life Skills TrainingPCE Foundation recently won a Women’s Safety Challenge Grant funded by Amplify and UKaid. This funding is intended to support low-income urban communities for the next 18 months (starting September 2014 and ending in February 2016). Our Life Skills Camp for Girls During School Holiday Breaks project will benefit 120 girls in the low-income slum community of Namwongo, as well as 50 girls from rural Tororo and Buteleja districts. We estimate that the project will ultimately benefit over 35,000 people.

The slum community called “Soweto” in Namuwongo, Bukasa Parish, Makindye Division , Kampala  is divided into 7 zones:  Industrial Area View, Go-Down, Kasanvu, Namuwongo B, Namuwongo A, Kanyogoga/Masengere and Yoka. These zones house over 20,000 people that are living in very confined spaces, averaging 2 rooms for a family of at least 4 -8 members.

In the early kick-off stages of the project, Beatrice Achieng Nas and project manager David Kaggwa recently visited with the people of the Namwongo community. Beatrice and David were struck by the intense poverty they encountered in the slum. These residents seemed to be living in far more dire conditions than the people of rural Uganda.

“The environment is very crowded, no water drainage system, few toilets and very poor hygiene, mud structures with falling debris… there are night clubs and bars, cases of robbery, rape, drug abuse… which is risky for especially the young generation, more so the girls,” says Beatrice.

One of the women in Go-Down Zone was in agony after a government railway project destroyed housing that was situated close to the rail line.

“My house was destroyed one week ago. Since then, me and my grandchildren have been sleeping out here. It rained two days ago but we had nowhere to run… we got soaked in the rain here and in the nights lots of mosquitoes feed on us,”said Kadija Bazacebwa, 61. “Almost ¾ of the people in this zone have been displaced with very little or no compensation,” she said.

The local council representative of Kasanvu said the behavior of the young people in his zone is very bad, especially among those engaged in drug abuse. “There are also some girls engaged in prostitution because of lack of support from their families. They sell their bodies to earn a living,” said John Gasihbrake, the secretary for the local council.

There were two young ladies chatting by the roadside during the site visit. Beatrice and David stopped to greet them and asked a little bit about their lives. Docus Akello, 19, dropped out of school in 2011 because of lack of school fees; she came to the slum a year ago to live with her older sister while looking for a job. “There are many tempting men here but I do not accept them. They call me, I just go,” said Docus.

Margret Anyango, 26, said she has lived in Kasanvu for 3 years now. She left her village to come look for a job in the city and found a cheap place of residence in Kasanvu. “I don’t like living here but I cannot go back to the village because there is no way of making money in the village. I will be forced to get married in the village.”

The residents of Namwongo A and B face the same crisis as the rest of the zones. In general, the entire intended community of support in the Bukasa parish is struggling with congestion, poor infrastructure, unhealthy living conditions, and high crime rates.

In the initial stages of implementation, we are making connections with the local leadership, schools, churches, and individual residents of Bukasa parish. This will be followed by the identification and selection of project beneficiaries. For Tororo and Buteleja districts,  we are already actively working with the locals and our activities therein are running smoothly.

PCE Foundation’s emphasis is on community participation and leadership, which helps community members work together, “own” the achievements facilitated by our programs, and sustain positive change.