The Maiden Factor is a huge supporter of I AM GIRL; a campaign to create and foster girl-friendly school environments and see 25,000 girls and young women supported, nurtured and developed within the Fields of Life school network by 2020. We are delighted that The Maiden Factor has chosen to support Fields of Life as we aim to inspire the next generation of girls through education.
Earlier this year, Jo Gooding, Chair of The Maiden Factor Foundation, the charity arm of The Maiden Factor, travelled to Uganda to see the work of Fields of Life at a grass roots level and to learn more about the I AM GIRL project.
Jo said: “I had the most exciting five days in Uganda which were packed full of new adventures and experiences. On the first day we went to see a community where they had received a new well, which was funded through Fields of Life. The journey there was an adventure in itself; taking a bus through dirt track roads, driving on the railway track and seeing the vast and very beautiful country along the way. The welcome that the other volunteers and I received when we arrived at one of the many communities in the region was unforgettable, with amazing singing, dancing and drumming performances. It was a great first day meeting new people and learning about their day to day lives that are vastly different from mine.
On the second day we saw people digging a bore hole for a well in another community. The girls and women in the community collect water on a daily basis, sometimes two to three times a day. They can walk up to 10 miles just to get water, often in darkness and families won’t consider sending their girls to school because they are more useful in the home.
We went to see why that new well was needed by visiting the community’s current water source. It was heart-breaking to see the dirty water that people were consuming – what looked like a large, dirty puddle was being used by people from over 400 homes/huts, most of which contained an average of five people in them. You couldn’t imagine letting your dog drink from this water source, let alone your child. I really didn’t expect conditions to be that bad, which just proved why the work that Fields of Life is doing is so important.
What also had a huge impact on me that day was noticing how strong and dignified the women are. Seeing them walking and carrying water and wood for miles and working for hours on end in the fields was heart wrenching. None of them have had the opportunity to go to school, to experience learning, meet their potential or achieve their dreams. They may well have been married as children or spent their childhoods caring for their siblings while the boys go to school. I am so grateful for the education and opportunities we have in the UK, and I will never complain about anything again!
Day three involved a trip to a school. Again, we had such a warm welcome and were greeted by lots of smiling faces. On this day we got to see some of the impact that the I AM GIRL campaign was having. Boys and girls were making sanitary pads with sewing kits as part of the project, and it was refreshing to hear the children speak so openly and confidently about puberty and the importance of girls having access to pads. It was wonderful to see the boys supporting girls to secure an education and being willing to learn about the challenges girls face. Without these resources and understanding, girls will continue to regularly miss school, most will stop going once they hit puberty (if they have had the chance to attend a school), which is a challenge we would never even consider in the UK.
On our fourth day we went to two more schools, including one all-girls school where they also hosted the I AM GIRL campaign. It was lovely to take part in some of the workshops which focused on discussions around puberty and encouraging good hygiene during periods.
On our last day in Uganda we visited the slums in Kampala and a wonderful school run by Father Deo. Whilst it was shocking to see how the people there were living, it was refreshing to see how many had set up their own businesses and were doing the best that they could with so little.
Overall, it was a wonderful and humbling experience that I would encourage everyone to get involved with. It brought a richness to my life and taught me to be more grateful for what I have, including running water, schools and health care. It’s easy to take things for granted, we really have nothing to complain about. Visiting Uganda showed me how difficult life can be, especially for girls accessing an education, which is why the work we intend to do together is vital.
I could have happily stayed longer and would go back in a heartbeat. I’d like to thank the Fields of Life team for showing me the amazing work that they are doing for communities in Uganda. The Maiden Factor team and I are pleased to be supporting the charity and its vital I AM GIRL campaign.”