Forced to Leave School, CARE Uganda Program Participant Shares her Story
Namunyana Mwajuma, a 17 year-old student from Uganda, has participated in CARE programs that helped her family through difficult times and ultimately put her back in school. After her father mysteriously disappeared in 2013, Namunyana’s family suffered greatly. She dropped out of school because her mother could no longer afford school fees. Luckily, her mother joined CARE’s micro-savings program called Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA). The community-based program taught her mother about financial literacy and how to save and invest her money into small business ventures. Her mother used the profits from her businesses to send Namunyana back to school.
Namunyana was selected as the first Student Ambassador for The Girl Project, a collaboration led by Glamour Magazine to promote education for girls around the world. There are 50 million girls worldwide who are denied the right to an education. Namunyana visited Washington, DC, and CARE had the opportunity to learn more about her journey to fulfilling her education.
CARE: How did CARE’s VSLA program help your family?
NM: VSLA has helped me go back to school. After my father disappeared, we, as a family, suffered and I dropped out of school. My mother did not give up on me, and she looked for ways to get me back to school. She joined VSLA and learned how to save and invest money. She used the money to harvest and sell produce and send me to school. The savings enabled my mom to pay the school fees, buy clothes and sanitary pads for school, and we built a new house for my family. She also learned how to set up a vegetable garden and harvest so that the quality is better. We have a more nutritious diet at home now.
CARE: Did the VSLA change your mother’s confidence level? How did it impact you?
NM: My mom became happy because she participated in meetings and made friends. She became a leader because she was a key keeper [for the money box].She helps other people with their problems because she is considered a village elder now. When my mom joined the VSLA group, I became happy too because I went back to school and my friends admired me because they had to drop out of school and could not go back.
CARE: What is your community like? Do a lot of girls go to school?
NM: Some girls are in school, others are not. Some are not in school because they conceived children, because they don’t have sanitary pads, the distance to school is too far, or because it is harvesting season. Boys are the majority in school, the girls stay at home to help with the housework.
CARE: Why is it important for girls to go to school?
NM: It is good for girls to go to school because they are the leaders of tomorrow. When they go to school, they stay focused and delay pregnancy and early marriage.
CARE: What was it like to have to drop out of school? How is school now?
NM: I felt so bad when I dropped out, especially when my classmates were promoted to another grade. I was out of school for two years. I became very happy and excited when I went back to school, I gained hope, confidence, and knowledge.
I like school now because I gain knowledge and life skills. I learned how to play netball and learned about abstaining from unprotected sex. I learned how to be focused, and I got the confidence to talk in public. My favorite subject is geography because I am doing very well in this subject, I got a distinction.
CARE: What do you want to be when you grow up?
NM: I want to be a nurse because I want to support my mom, and I want to be the first line of support for the patient.
CARE: How does it feel to be selected as Glamour’s first Student Ambassador for The Girl Project?
NM: I felt good when I was given the opportunity to come and talk about my life. I felt happy to travel somewhere I never thought I would have the chance to visit.
CARE: What message would you like to share with girls around the world?
NM: I would tell them to work hard and have a vision for their life, and to always stay focused on achieving that. I would tell parents to never give up on girls, and I would tell leaders to support girl’s education.