How Joan is Empowering Uganda Girls with the Girl Power Project®
Just Like My Child Foundation has worked with thousands of adolescent girls in rural Uganda through our Girl Power Project® since 2009. Our mission is to transform the world one girl at a time by empowering them, then teaching them how to build self esteem in others through mentoring. The impact is exponential!
We are incredibly excited to have recently added one of our Girl Power Project® alumna—Nabatanzi Joan—to our Uganda Team as a paid intern. Joan is a Girl Power Success of the very best kind and we want to share her story with you!
But, first…a little bit about the environment Joan comes from and one of the ways we are fighting hard for our girls.
The Plight of Ugandan Girls
Joan lives and studies in Katikamu, a rural community in the Luwero District of Central Uganda. This is an area where the vast majority of 12-15 year old girls are enrolled in primary school, but once they reach puberty something distressing happens—nearly 50% of them drop out of school by the age of 15.
Many have extremely low self confidence and low self worth. Instead of being encouraged to pursue an education, they are often forced to become child brides. They become sexually active and begin producing children before their bodies and minds are fully developed, contributing to the health risks of teenage pregnance and a distressing teen pregnancy statistic — the leading cause of death for 15-19 year old Ugandan girls is childbirth.
Sadly, one of the many consequences of teen pregnancy and child marriages in Uganda is violence — nearly 65% of women in this area experience violence by the age of 24.
About The Girl Power Project®
Just Like My Child Foundation’s Girl Power Project® is a transformational program currently targeting girls in central Uganda as they enter the most vulnerable time of their lives—adolescence.
This project begins just as girls face the choices that will determine their ultimate path in life — underage marriage, pregnancy, and disease OR an empowered life of education, economic independence, and delayed marriage.
Our Girl Power Project® has been proven to be an effective way to create a global shift at the grassroots level by counseling children and teaching adolescent girls, ages 12 to 15 years, life skills, as well as providing mentoring training so they are equipped to stay in school and avoid forced child marriage, early pregnancy, and disease.
We do this through an exceptional multi-step program that includes education, self esteem activities and self acceptance exercises, as well as various team building activities for teens.
Meet Joan, Our Girl With Power
Nabatanzi (na-ba-tahn-zee) Joan enrolled in the Girl Power Project® when she was nine years old. From the start, she was an active and very bright participant who always stood out due to her tenacity and passion for improving her nation.
Statistically, Joan has a myriad of social and cultural norms stacked against her, but she is blessed to have been raised by two very loving parents, both trained educators, who committed to keeping her in school and supporting her participation in healthy activities, such as The Girl Power Project®.
Sadly, her father passed away when Joan was 14 years old. JLMC’s Mandela Project Sponsorship Fund helped her family keep her enrolled in school.
In Joan’s own words:
I am nineteen years old and a first born of seven. I have four brothers and two more sisters. I have been the president of the Motivational forum at school, aiming at encouraging students to love their dreams.
I am an alumna of the 2017 women in science girls STEAM camp in Malawi, the 2017 Pan African youth leadership program and have represented Ugandan girls on many more platforms, including the 2017 Africa Debate Competition and the 2017 Just Like My Child Foundation gala at SLS Hotel in Los Angeles. It goes without mention that I have grown an undying passion for the well-being of girls all around the world because I strongly believe that a country with empowered females is a blessed ones since these groom and nurture a very responsible generation.
I have done and worked on various community service projects including the most recent one of providing menstrual sanitary towels to vulnerable girls and teaching them how to make simple pads using cheap and easily available materials. It was in my regime as president of the Motivational Forum at Katikamu SDA Secondary School that we worked collectively as a club so as to ensure that polythene is banned from school, after explaining the disadvantage it has on our environment.
As a mentor, I have personally accomplished a number of things with the aim of empowering girls to reach their fullest potential. My motivation to encourage the young is due to the presence of a lot of untapped potential among African girls. I know we are actually going to achieve much more with time. We shall actually change the world, one girl at a time.
Becoming a Girl Power Program Peer Mentor
After participating in multiple Girl Power Project® Workshops and Camps, Joan took the initiative to develop her own Girl Power Project® Club at school when she was only 12 years old. She recruited girls entirely on her own who were complete strangers and are now close friends. She leveraged the detailed notes she had taken in previous Girl Power Project® workshops in order to share the critical and life saving information in the Girl Power curriculum with them in monthly club meetings.
Here’s a video of Joan from several years ago in her role as a Peer Mentor:
In March of 2015, Joan brought five girls from her school’s Club to help lead some of the activities at a Girl Power Project® Camp for the first time, uplifting them with the same leadership opportunities that she’s been able to experience.Here’s another video from several years ago where you can meet some of the girls in Joan’s very own Girl Power Project® Club — and hear what they learned from her:
Joan’s Girl Power Club Impact
Since joining the Girl Power Project® in 2010, Joan has been an incredibly active participant, taking every opportunity she can to practice her life skills and share her knowledge with other vulnerable girls in her community.
Joan’s actions are ensuring that more girls are able to avoid human rights violations and the deadly pitfalls of poverty that come with sexual and gender-based violence, early pregnancy, child marriage and disease. Her humble and open-minded approach to building relationships, coupled with her integrity and strength of character, makes her a very popular leader amongst her peers.
She has directly impacted an estimated:
- 350 Ugandan girls (ages 12-15 years) with empowerment training focused on building personal empowerment, leadership, healthy bodies and healthy relationships through activities at multiple Girl Power Project® Camp Girl Power events—in addition to the development and facilitation of a Girl Power Project® Club at her school.
- 10 American girls (ages 13-15 years) through video exchanges focused on cultural and social norms.
It is difficult to quantify the broader reach of Joan’s impact, but we certainly consider the families and communities touched by the hundreds of girls she has directly empowered—who are voicing their concerns to their parents, sharing critical information with their siblings, modeling healthy behaviors to their peers at school, and taking up leadership positions at home and in their communities.
Today, Joan continues to serve as one of Just Like My Child Foundation’s top Peer Mentors and a Girl Power Project® Ambassador, leading Girl Power Project® activities alongside our Ugandan staff members. As of February 1, 2019, she became an official member of the Uganda team as a paid intern.
What the Future Holds for Joan
We consider it a great privilege to witness Joan transform over the years from a young Ugandan girl, to a girl with power, then into a driven, confident and assertive young lady who is actively committed to mentoring as many girls as she can reach with the critical knowledge and skills she has gained through The Girl Power Project®.
Joan is highly motivated by her passion for social justice. We have watched the fire of advocacy grow in her belly over the years as she began to really understand and internalize her own personal legal and human rights as well as those of her own family, community and nation. She is a born leader and will do whatever is in her power to stop human rights injustices against women and girls in their tracks.
Joan’s career goals have evolved into becoming a gynecologist and obstetrician so she can continue to help Ugandan girls. She has developed a set of long-term goals and is focused on making the decisions and pursuing the required degrees that will enable her to achieve her dreams.
In the short term, Joan is committed to the Girl Power Project® and the Just Like My Child Foundation, to sharing her knowledge and skills with other vulnerable girls, and to seeking out opportunities that will allow her to advocate for those who do not have a voice or platform.
Joan’s mother is committed to ensuring that Joan stays in school and will continue to support her personal and career pursuits in whatever way she can.
And, of course, JLMC is very committed to continuing to encourage Joan’s tenacity and supporting her professional development. In her position as a JLMC intern, Joan will be actively working and learning with us from February through July 2019. She will be working closely with our Ugandan Country Director, Audrey Kanyesigye helping to:
- facilitate Girl Power Project® and our Mandela Sponsorship program
- support partnership developments
- assist with visits from the U.S. office
- provide mentorship to JLMC’s program beneficiaries
- gather stories and photos from girls in the field and highlight them for posting on Instagram and Facebook.
- be a JLMC “Spokesgirl”
- travel to the U.S. as needed as a representative of Girl Power Project®
- collaborate with our Founder and other JLMC team members on developing talking points and presentation materials
Watch for Joan on Instagram
One of the ways Joan will expand her reach in order to help more girls in Uganda is through our very own Instagram Stories. Follow us there — @justlikemychild — to meet this extraordinary young woman and help her transform the world, one girl at a time!
How YOU Can Spread Girl Power
Just Like My Child Foundation is extremely proud and driven to be a leading women empowerment organization. We couldn’t do what we do without YOUR help!
Follow Joan’s lead of combining ideals AND action and help bring the Girl Power Project® to more vulnerable adolescent girls who deserve to stay in school and reach their full potential. Let’s work to stop child marriage and educate girls together!
You can do this by doing one (or MORE!) of the following through our Girl Power organization:
Click on one of the buttons below to start making an impact TODAY: