International Women's Day
Take a minute and ask yourself, "How do you describe your perfect day?"
I've had a handful of perfect days that stand out in my mind, and today, March 8th, 2016, will most assuredly join the ranks of those. Today was simply spectacular, and I wish each of you could have been here with me. For today, March 8th, is International Women's Day. And I had the privilege of spending it surrounded by the women and girls of Uganda.
More than 200 people from the community, students, teachers, and mothers of students crammed into a classroom at New Kabaale Busega Primary School in Kampala, Uganda to participate in a Girl Empowerment Workshop and a Human Trafficking Awareness workshop presented by the Fields of Dreams Uganda team members. In the Girl Empowerment workshops we talk about what it means to be a Woman of Substance. And we challenge our young ladies to want to live as this type of woman. We challenge our young men to be Men of Integrity and live their lives being role models and standing up for their sisters. We speak about how important their education is and the opportunities it provides. We explain to them that they have a voice and they have power. Perhaps most importantly, we tell them how much they are loved and valued. In the Human Trafficking Awareness workshop we help them identify potential dangers and behaviors to be suspicious of. We give them examples of scenarios and we give ideas and options to avoid these scenarios.
We also distributed nearly 200 hygiene kits to the girls and women in the community. This hygiene kit contains a wash bucket and soap, a hanger peg (for drying laundry), three new pairs of underwear, and a package of 5 reusable pads that snap into the underwear. This kit will last them for a year. The significance of this kit is that most women and girls here either cannot afford, or do not have access to hygiene items when they get their periods. In a number of conversations I've had with ladies around Uganda, this poses several challenges. When they get their periods and do not have hygiene materials, they often use old rags or clothing, dried leaves, dried cow dung, or old mattress pieces. This is not only a great health risk, but it is not secure and they do not feel confident that they will be able to manage their periods, so they stay home from school. This causes girls to fall farther and farther behind in classes. The cost of having to buy hygiene items is also a burden on impoverished families and many times it leads families into having these girls get married off at a very young age. (You NEVER forget the day you have a 13 year old crying at your feet because she just wants to stay in school but has started her period and her family says it's time for her to be married because it is now too expensive.)
This past December Fields of Dreams Uganda held their annual Hygiene Kit Drive to raise money to put together the kits that are getting distributed on this trip. Today I had the honor of handing this kit to a young woman that will have her life impacted beyond what you or I could imagine. For those of you who donated $17 for these kits, I want to pass on the deep, heartfelt gratitude we received over and over and over today from these young women, teachers, mothers, and women from the community. I wish more than anything that you could hear them speak these words of gratefulness and heartfelt thanks. What a privilege it was to do this on International Women's Day.
The rest of the day was spent visiting with the kids, and listening to them sing for us. They even taught a few of us how to do one of their traditional dances! We had a wonderful opportunity to visit some of their homes. And even though they are meager living quarters, the pride on the faces of the families as they graciously invited us in was a great honor and humbling experience.
I did not know that International Women's Day was a national holiday here in Uganda until this morning. School was not even in session because of this. Yet all the teachers and staff of the school along with most of the students spent the entire day at the school celebrating with us, learning from us, teaching us, and inspiring us.
My friend, Mike (the Executive Director of Fields of Dreams) said to me tonight at dinner, "How do you even describe today to someone?!"
I think all I can say is that I felt like I was at the center of my soul. It was a perfect day.