Ayikoru Christine, a 24-year-old Ugandan dropped out of school after her Primary Leaving Examinations. She lost both her parents when she was 16 years old. She doesn’t have any siblings and lives by herself. Christine refused to stay with her relatives for fear of being mistreated and being forced into early child marriage which is a common practice in many rural communities in Uganda.
“When you are a girl, there is a way society looks at you like a burden. Actually, they don’t value girls at all even in this era. Very many girls are suffering in my community because they don’t value their future like allowing them to study,” she said.
Christine’s only hope to living a better life and becoming the powerful person she wanted to be was in studying. Her dreams were however fading away because of the circumstances she was born into. She saw her peers pursuing their dreams through education while she sat at home doing nothing and this hurt her so much.
“For several years after the death of my parents, I had been struggling to get by. I was surviving off petty trades like fish mongering since I stay along River Nile. I was saving some money so I can possibly join any skills-based training like tailoring, hair dressing and any others but that was not easy,” Christine said.
Luckily for Christine, she didn’t let her circumstances determine her future. This she attributes to the AGENCI project.
“Before the AGENCI intervention, life was not good. I was so miserable because I wanted to pursue something to better my life but there were no available opportunities. I even joined a women’s saving groups so that I can save and make money,” Christine noted.
Christine got to know about the vocational training opportunity by Windle International Uganda from her former head teacher. That is how she applied and was successfully. “I prayed to God after filling the form. After sometime, I got a surprise call from Windle telling me that I have been selected but given a different course from what I had applied for. Even though it wasn’t what I had applied for, I was extremely excited because I felt like this is my opportunity to improve my life,” she says.
“I am among the 73 beneficiaries benefitting from bakery training under the AGENCI Project,” she says with a voice of contentment.
The Adolescent Girls’ Education in Crisis Initiative (AGENCI) Project is funded by the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and implemented by Windle International Uganda (WIU) in partnership with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and Aga Khan Foundation in the refugee settlements and host communities of Obongi and Moyo districts in West Nile region.
The project focuses on improving equitable learning outcomes for adolescent girls and female youth in formal or non-formal upper primary and secondary school education as well as skills training program.
“Ever since I began this training my life has been getting better. The interaction and words of advice from our trainer and the supervisor from the organization has kept me going because at one point I wanted to drop out, but the supervisor kept on encouraging me and told me “you can use any opportunity given to you to turn things around “and indeed, that is what I am doing now,” She excitedly narrated.
Adding “I feel happy to have got this opportunity in bakery training. I have learnt and I am still learning how to make different kinds of bread and cakes. I believe after this training; I will be able to bake cakes for weddings.”
For Christine, learning is an everyday process and she relishes the opportunity.
“I intend to concentrate and improve in areas that I don’t feel so confident about for instance baking bread. After mastering bakery, I intend to join the tailoring training that I was most passionate about and develop both skills of bakery and tailoring” she says.
Christine encourages fellow peers who refused to join bakery or other trades to not always throw away any opportunity whenever it comes. “I encourage young girls in my community who have dropped out of school to always be patient and not rush into early marriage because of frustration.” And to the donors of the project that support us, thank you for giving us this kind of opportunity; a second chance at life for most of us who had lost hope. We pledge to do our best and live a meaningful life putting to use the skills we have been taught,” She concluded with a note of thanks.