My most recent trip to URDT in Uganda was the most satisfying of the five trips I've made there in the past four years. In the past, I've been able to go on field trips into the bush to see firsthand the differences being made in the lives of local people and to talk with them directly. This time, I took four field trips to meet and talk with people who are taking the initiative to change their lives from living conditions that are extremely primitive to near-middle-class lifestyles. I also interviewed and solicited essays and drawings from the 262 students in the URDT Girls School.
The three secrets of success of this integrated rural development program are:
1. Using a visionary approach-focusing on people creating the outcomes they want to achieve.
2. Girls and young women as change agents-in a culture in which women are treated as second-class citizens and are under-educated.
3. Community radio to engage citizens in strategic conversations about the issues that matter most to them.
As many of you already know, I am midwifing a children’s book that will be written and illustrated by the girls at the URDT Girls School—the 10- to 18-year-olds who are becoming effective change agents. In doing so, I have learned much more about their school, their stories, and their lives. It's amazing how much you can learn from and be inspired by a motivated young person!
Although I have written about the URDT Girls School before, I had never really analyzed it to understand HOW these girls (and their families) are educated and how they catalyze change in their households and communities. As you'll see, this is a true "path of least resistance" story. At the Girls School, URDT has created a structure and an environment that makes it logical and easy for people to improve their sanitation, nutrition, and basic living conditions so that they can aspire to and create productive lives for themselves and their families.