BLOG: Suzan Lagum - CYEN Women Empowerment program - Uganda
My name is Suzan Lagum, I am 16 years old and I was born in a place called Pader, in Uganda. Growing up was not very easy for me, l grew up with a single parent which was my mother. My father divorced my mother after two months of her pregnancy. A man who claimed to be our father did nothing to support us, he left us with nothing but my mother took good care of us and did everything she could for us.
At the age of 6 I started school at Paipir primary school. Unfortunately, in Uganda, many children, 35% of girls and 43% of boys are not in school at this age. I was lucky, but it took a lot of hard work to be able to attend. My mother would bake bread and l would be sent out door to door every weekend to sell the bread. My mother and my sister/brother would fetch water for breweries. This money was used to pay our fees and to feed us.
By the time I reached primary seven, l would sit inside our classroom wondering about the future because my mother told me I would not be able to proceed to another level of studies because she couldn’t afford to pay for it.
Around the same time, we had some visitors arrive in the primary school. It was Ben and Mego Grace from the Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network (CYEN). They had set up a school in Kampala called Chrysalis Secondary school. The school takes the best of the Ugandan national curriculum and supplements it with training in social entrepreneurship, current affairs and global challenges such as climate change and international relations.
Through a unique focus on board gaming, athletics and music they provide children in the region with a modern, rounded education, teaching them that anyone can become a change maker if they are given the opportunity.
They were offering scholarships for their Butterfly project. The butterfly project trains young people from village and slum areas to be change-makers, teaching them a range of subjects, to help them learn to be international citizens. The aim is to help to find young people who can bring change and improved living standards to the most challenging parts of the country.
In my heart, I knew I wanted to be a change maker in our society, I knew with my background and the struggles we had as a family and local community, I could do many things to help my fellow people. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the scholarship recipients and left my hometown to start my senior one at the Chrysalis school in Kampala and to start my training as a change Maker.
I joined the Butterfly project in 2017 and since then, I have started a series of projects and today I now consider myself a young social entrepreneur.
The first project I set up in 2017 was called “Drama for change project” A project I set up with the aim of creating social change in my community to help deal with issues such as early pregnancy and child abuse.
I came up with this idea because, l thought, it was the best way to sensitise my community about the immoral ways. We would sit down together with the kids in the slum areas to talk about the issues and create ideas on how we could dramatise the issue to highlight the negative impact they are having on our children and community.
The Girls Empowerment program is at the centre of the projects I work on to help young women in our communities. "The Female Empowerment Programme was instigated by girls in Omoro district, Uganda, who saw their friends and peers being married off to men way earlier than they were ready for, often caused by the Uganda's lengthy delay in resuming school post lockdown.
Some had become pregnant and this would mean an end to their schooling and a complete change of life prospects. The Butterfly girls, with their agriculture teacher, devised a programme of training to inspire self confidence in the girls in Omoro, so that they could assert their rights.
In addition they have been teaching the girls how to make re-usable sanitary pads, to help give them some further independence. So far we have four groups of girls, some more than 100, that we are working with in the district, with numbers increasing at every session. We have also recently started operating a liquid soap business, as this product can generate income for the girls, which will help them develop further independence."
I started a Radio Talk show which I run every week in my community. The purpose of the Radio show is to be able to empower my young ladies to develop their confidence by sharing educational information, encouraging and inspiring words. I want young girls to hear positive stories of women. We hope to raise support so that we start up our own Chrysalis FM.
The empowerment program also trains girls to stand up for themselves, teaching them the effects of Early pregnancy. We train them with skills like, Tailoring, Hairdressing and cooking because we can't only empower them with words, we must also help them to sustain a living, because so far, we have 100 young mothers at our centre in Koro.
I hope to be able to give our young mothers opportunities like painting, driving and carpentry to open up more opportunities for them and to show them they are capable of more but also because women think these skills are only for men.
In my opinion, l want African women to be treated the same as other women around the world. We wish for some financial support so that we give these young mothers the chance to have a better life for them and for their children. This will help them not to depend on men, but they can through our support to them. I am still young but l do see my fellow friends having a brighter future.
Recently, on the 8th of march this year, we had a powerful International Women's day celebration at Lamaro Studio. It was a fashion show and our girls got to meet with other great Women around Northern Uganda in Gulu. It was really amazing to see how our project girls got motivated. l hope they believe that if other girls can make it out and they can stand out on their own then they can too. That day was such a courageous day for our young members and through the support from Formula Female, we were really proud to wear our Formula Female T-shirts.
My future plan is to start up a motivation centre both in our home village in Pader, and here in Lagwe dollar, Omoro district. The motivation centre shall have great motivational speakers like some of our Butterfly members, and we shall lift Ugandan girls from being inferior people with low status up to the level of high status.
For more information on the Chrysalis school click the link below
If you would like to support the Chyrsalis Youth Empowermnet Netowrk program you can donate using the link below
reach out to Ben Parkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on how you can support.