A group of young adults are gathered around me and a fellow volunteer for CWB in a sports field in Uganda. For the last twenty minutes we have all been playing some cricket, we have been reinforcing HIV awareness messages and also gender equality, boys and girls playing together. We have knocked down, literally, some of the myths around HIV and we now have a few minutes to chat before sending them on to the next group activity.
I love this time as this is when we really begin to learn about the reality of living in Uganda, the day to day challenges and the environment they are growing up in. We split the group into pairs and give them a small white board and ask them to tell us what they aspire to be when they leave school. We leave them for a few minutes and then ask each of them to discuss what they have written. The first one to speak clearly wants to get it out of the way and turns the card slowly so the rest of the group can see;
“I want to be president of Uganda”
No one laughs and emboldened they clearly state ‘why’ in terms any politician would be proud of.
“I want to be a heart surgeon”
“I want to be an aeronautical engineer”
“I want to serve my country”
“I want to discover a cure for HIV”
I’m struggling with my emotions as is my colleague and I remember a moment from our training weekend where we were warned of moments like this but right now there is no place I’d rather be. I wrapped up the session and thanked all of the young women thinking that for them there was no gender bias, no glass ceiling just an ambition and aspiration to be the best they could be for themselves and for their country.
A year later I read Factfullness by Hans Rosling which quotes the UNESCO figures for the increases in girls education and cannot disagree with his summation that educating girls has proven to be one of the world’s best ever ideas.