A Vision To End Child Marriage

Written by Steve Blacket on Tuesday, 17 October 2017. Posted in Angatunyo Girls Project - Uganda

A Conversation with Carol Akello

A Vision To End Child Marriage

Carol Akello is the founder and leader of the Angatunyo Girls Project in Uganda. The project provides vulnerable girls with vocational training that leads to financial independence, providing protection from forced marriages and other forms of abuse. Angatunyo is the local word for lioness and symbolises the strength and independence being developed in the participants.

I recently had the following conversation with Carol about the program.

Steve: How is the Angatunyo program going Carol? Is this a busy time for you?

Carol: Yes, we have been very busy with the farm work.

Steve: How is the harvest?

Carol: The harvest was fairly fine, though most of the maize was stolen and eaten by the insects. However, I am doing the last task of threshing it.

Steve: Do you plan to sell the grain, or will you use it in your program?

Carol: I plan to do three things with the harvest. The girls will eat some of it in their meals with us, some of it will be donated to a children’s orphanage, and we will sell some.

Steve: How much land do you have?

Carol: We have six acres of land rented by the Angatunyo Project. The task of plucking and gathering and transporting the maize was done by us ourselves. It was very costly transporting it because the farm is very far from our project site.

Steve: What are the other main enterprises the girls are involved in now?

Carol: The girls are already involved in the cutting and making of garments. Another is bakery, which they are already very much involved in. They hope to make much profit this Christmas season.

Steve: Do you bake special products for Christmas?

Carol: Yes, some girls have already got orders to bake cakes during this period. And some already bake birthday cakes, and wedding cakes.

Steve: Personally, what are your hopes for the program?

Carol: My hope for the program is that once we have all types of skills brought on board, then this program will completely stop child marriage and forced marriage.

Steve: How will you know if you are successful? What evidence do you have that the program is working?

Carol: All the first fifteen girls who graduated have now started their businesses. Each of them are seriously working and earning money from the implementation of the skills imparted on them by the Lioness Project. From this number when three dropped out I persuaded them to come back and do bakery as it seemed tailoring was not their talent. So, out of the fifteen girls, twelve are sewing clothes from which they earn income and three are baking.

Steve: And how many of these fifteen might have been forced to marry if you hadn’t intervened?

Carol: Among this group the first four girls were vulnerable to forced marriage. And among the next eight girls brought by the community leaders, five of them were also underway to forced and child marriage. Therefore, the total number of girls that were in direct danger of child and forced marriage is nine out of the first twelve.

Steve: When we first started the program we hoped that having their own business would be enough to help isolated girls avoid forced marriage. Do you still believe this?

Carol: The reason why these girls will not be forced to marry again is that their relatives or guardians are now already benefiting from the fruits of their work. I have interacted with many of their single parents or guardians and queried them on what next now that the girls have acquired the skills and most of them say that nothing is more important than seeing these girls earn money.

Steve: Do you mean that the girls have gone back to live with the same relatives who wanted to sell them into marriage?

Carol: Yes, the eight girls that were brought by the community leaders had to be rehabilitated to their ancestral homes. There are still four more girls. I am yet taking them through a healing process. I have more work of counselling too.

Steve: If you want to do more to empower vulnerable girls, and stop child marriage, what do we need to do? Do you have a vision for what is needed?

Carol: To empower girls and stop child marriage, I think we also need to consider to bring on board an education program which caters for those girls who would like to continue with their education up to high school, tertiary college or university level. Because some girls would wish to pursue other courses other than just skills. In this way, we will also have produced lawyers, doctors etc. I have heard some of them wish if they were lawyers they would sue those forcing the girls to marry.

Steve: Wow, that is great. Let me ask our supporters to sponsor the first one.

Carol: There is already one willing to go anytime the chance comes.

Steve: Excellent. I will look for a way to support her. And, for the program to grow, what do you need from supporters in Australia right now?

Carol:  For the program to grow I really need supporters from Australia, support such as helping us in bringing on board more skills such as hair salon and cosmetology. We also need to purchase more land and structures to put buildings because the issue of rent is expensive and the land we acquired is quite unexpandable. Also, if possible, the Australian supporters can help us us in starting new projects like printing books, or making cooking oil from our maize. 

Steve: You have so many great ideas. What kind of books will you make?

Carol: For the books we would make school exercise books, counter books, reams of ruled paper and plain paper.

Steve: And what about the cooking oil?

Carol: The cooking oil is purely vegetable oil made out of maize seeds - cholesterol free and healthy for all people. It's going to be the first initiative in North and Eastern Uganda. All the sales would go to the project running while giving employment to some women and girls.

Steve: I just have one last question Carol. What motivates you to do this work? I see you working so hard, sometimes putting yourself at risk and without making money for yourself. What makes you keep going when it is so hard?

Carol: What motivates me are these three most important things: Firstly, the love for God. As the bible says, do to others what you would love to be done unto you. This work does not pay me back in anyway. No salary, nothing. But I know one time God will reward me in His own way. So, I am doing it for God. Secondly, my childhood life has been very terrible. I was a helpless little girl after the death of my parents. I went through forced marriage path, although I fought it. So, in my heart I promised God that if He opens doors for me to support the girls, I will do that for I know the feeling of being forced to marry against your wish at a tender age. I would not love to see girls anywhere in the world go through the pain I went through. And the third thing is, I have a spirit of working hard because it's that spirit of hard work that made me persevere with my little sister after the death of my parents. So, hard work is part of me, no matter if there is no pay, I will always love to work hard till I see the results of my hard work.

Steve: Thank you Carol. I have great respect and admiration for all you are doing.


If you would like to help prevent forced marriage of vulnerable girls in Uganda please consider supporting the Angatunyo Girls Project.

  • Donations to the Angatunyo Girls Project can be made by credit card by clicking here. Other information about donations is available by clicking here.
  • Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss sponsoring the first Angatunyo lawyer

Further information on the Angatunyo Girls Project is available at these links:

  • "Like a Lioness" - the story of the beginning of Angatunyo Girls Project.
  • "Stolen" - Naomi tells her story of being abducted and rehabilitated.  

 

About the Author

Steve Blacket

Steve Blacket

Steve is the Managing Director of Fulcrum Aid, an organisation dedicated to sustainable freedom from extreme poverty with partnerships in four countries across Africa and the Asia-Pacific. Steve’s urban ministry in South Australia led to lifelong friendships among the South Sudanese refugee community who requested Steve’s assistance with community development in their homeland. Working with a faith-based organisation Steve initiated and managed various projects in South Sudan including Darfur refugee support, training and resourcing Traditional Birth Attendants, an intervention program for war affected children, a Midwives Training School, a program for girl’s education, and a community agricultural enterprise. Steve also initiated education projects and social enterprises among the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Steve returned to Australia in 2013 with a vision of how a small, non-aligned aid organisation committed to assisting early stage, locally initiated projects could make a difference. Partnerships and project opportunities continue to grow, including slavery rehabilitation in South Sudan, social enterprises in Bangladesh, independence schemes for vulnerable young women in Uganda and South Sudan, holistic care for HIV affected children in Bangladesh, and resourcing a Nurse and Midwife School in Juba, South Sudan. Steve’s vision drew support from across Australia and in 2014 he led the founding of Fulcrum Aid, dedicated to supporting in-country leaders and harnessing Australian partners and resources so that local communities could move towards sustainable freedom from extreme inequality and poverty. Today Fulcrum Aid has a dedicated team of Directors and an expert staff including Business, Project, Publicity and Research consultants, supported by Steve in his role as Managing Director.

Contact Steve by email here.

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