For girls like Hellen Okuo, education is the only opportunity to escape the vicious circle of poverty in their community and contribute to economic development. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 which led to prolonged school close came with other risks such as limited access to study materials and exposure to child marriage.
The limited access to study materials meant that Hellen could not comfortably sit for national examinations. Even when she did, she failed.
“I sat for Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) and failed since COVID-19 reduced my access to study,” Hellen narrates.
“And because I had failed UCE, my parents wanted me to get married. I however refused because I wasn’t interested. I knew I could find a way to get money to support myself,’” she says.
Hellen notes that life became so difficult at home and the community especially from people who wanted to marry her off in exchange for dowry even when she was not of legal age.
Life for Hellen however changed for the better when she was introduced to the AGENCI project by the Senior Woman Teacher.
“I was glad when the Senior Woman Teacher (SWT) of my former school (Itula Secondary School) told me that a project called AGENCI was seeking for vulnerable out of school girls to enroll for apprenticeship vocational training. I was given a form to fill in. Thereafter, I was asked which vocational training course I was interested in enrolling for,” She narrates with a smile.
“I opted for hair dressing and I was successful with the application process. I am currently studying applicable hair dressing styles which I believe can earn me some income,” Hellen noted.
With the support of Windle International Uganda, “I am excited to be a beneficiary of the AGENCI project which has rejuvenated my life, hope and zeal through the practical income generating skills from which I will believe will enable me become economically independent.”
Plans for the Future
Hellen notes that she plans to be economically independent woman. “At the end of my training, I want to open up a well-organized and manageable beauty salon which will employ, train female youths (school drop outs) and serve the community within and outside Obongi district.”
“I would like to thank all the donors of AGENCI project and Windle International Uganda (WIU) for the support to the adolescent girls and other vulnerable youths in our district.”
She urged and encouraged all individuals and organizations involved under AGENCI project to continue training youth in marketable vocational skills to motivate them in playing a part in the development of the district and the nation at large.