Many teenage adolescents in rural areas in manafwa district (Uganda) are not in school, partly due to being (single) teenage mothers. Especially this group of young people is vulnerable and deprived, having few opportunities for education, work, marriage, and social acceptance; and due to their dependence on others (mainly males) for income, they face a relatively high risk on sexual and reproductive health problems, including HIV/AIDS.
Income generating activities can improve their (economic) independence, self-esteem, and as a result their well-being and health. Teenage mothers themselves have decided that they prefer a goats-project as income generating activity because it is relatively easy to manage.
Since the year 2000, 160 goats were provided to single teenage mothers in ARDIís project area.
Each girl in the project receives her own goat. The first-born female goat has to be given back to the project 6-8 months after birth. The girl can keep the other newborn goats as well as the Ďhe-goatsí. She can sell these and generate some income.
The benefits for a girl to own a goat is that the milk provided by the goat (approximately half a litre per day for between 2-4 months after it has given birth) is nutritious for both the child and the girls; that young mothers raise income when selling the small goats; and that it gives her a chance to participate in ARDIís other activities.
When girls want to participate in the project, they need to show their commitment to the project. She has to sign an agreement and needs to commit herself to participate in a group that meets once every 2-4 weeks. Volunteers facilitate the group meetings.
This setting is used to educate the girls about many things they find interesting, and they can find support from each other. In addition, the girls who are doing well are positive models for new members, and others in the group. Each group consists of approximately 10-15 girls.
The groups also provide an entrance to select girls who can participate in other ARDI-activities, such as the tailoring project, training courses, the youth centre.
The groups provide an entrance for counselling of the girls involved. Aim of counselling is to provide support and to try to get the girls go back to school. Parents are also counselled to convince them of the importance of the girls going back to school and the parents taking care of the baby of the girl.
So far, 36 teenage mothers have gone back to school and one is even studying at university level. These are major achievements considering the fact that only few young people in rural Mbale are able to study at a university.
Each time a number of goats are officially handed out to the girls, ARDI organises a ceremony. During the ceremony all parents and girls are invited and are educated about the project. The ceremony is also used to create awareness around HIV/AIDS and gender equality.
Government officials are invited and represented during the ceremonies, which is important for the acknowledgement that ARDI is complementing government efforts to bring development in the community.
In January 2005, ARDI started with sewing lessons. A tailoring teacher provides the lessons, especially to single teenage mothers, as well as other girls and women of the community. A total of 11 lessons are provided, taking half a year to complete the whole course. The lessons are both theoretical and practical, including design, fashion, cutting, measurements, understanding sewing machines parts and marketing.
The participants receive a certificate if they have successfully finished the course. After finishing, the participants can think of setting up their own tailoring company. So far, 20 girls/women have participated in the training every week. 7 Sewing machines are available and participants share these sewing machines.
Volunteers provide education to young people and the wider community. Life Skills education consists of education about HIV/AIDS, STIís, pregnancy. How to prevent these? With life skills training, reproductive health and family life education.
Aim is to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to domestic violence and other social ills. The volunteers carry out sessions with young people, as well as other people in the community.
ARDI bought 100 birds and looked after them for a period of 6 months and they started laying eggs. The eggs are sold to raise some income for the organisation so that office operations are sustained
ARDI has hosted up to 4 internees all from FSD in USA since 2002. They stay and work with ARDI staff, reaching out to the communities. With educative programmes on various development subjects as they also learn from the communities and the staff. Every year at least one internee applies for summer internship with ARDI and she/he stays for 8 weeks.
It was observed that one of the root causes of underdevelopment in this community is illiteracy. ARDI established 10 functional adult literacy classes. A total of 320 illiterate adults, 256 females and 64males, were enrolled for this lessons and are able to write read and add simple sums. This helps them to do things on their own. They can buy and sell their products without involving another person. This type of education does not only focus on reading and writing, but helps them to be functionally literate. The learners are given skills that enables them to improve in agriculture production, family planning and participating in other developmental programmes in the community, some are now being elected to positions of leadership in the community.
ARDI gives out soft loans between 10,000= and 50,000= Uganda shillings approximately (4 to 20 US dollars) to the child mothers and community women to carry out petty business like vegetable and charcoal selling etc. This helps the child mothers /women to raise some little money to be able to buy household items or buy some drugs for malaria treatment which is always claiming many lives of children. Because money is lacking to seek for medical treatment.
There are only 6 people in Bumwoni sub county who have got university education to date this unfortunate trend of many people not accessing university education is attributed to illiteracy of the parents, poverty, and poor basic educational foundation. This prompted ARDI to start a community nursery school to prepare pre- primary children to compete favourably with their counterparts in urban schools a total of 45 children are enrolled.