I am spending two weeks in Uganda at the Uganda Rural Development and Training (URDT.net) programme. My goal on this, my fifth trip, to this incredible hotbed of grass roots, bottoms up innovation, is to midwife a book. The working title for the book is, "It Takes a Child to Raise a Village," a play on the famous book by Hillary Clinton, "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child."
This week, I am working with the 236 girls from the Girls School to help them write their own book—a rebuttal to Hillary's. These girls—who come from families who live on $1 a day in rural villages with no electricity, plumbing, or running water—know that THEY can make a difference in the lives of their families. They have spent the last 10 years becoming change agents for their families' farms and businesses. These 13 to 20-year old young women have the poise, the know-how, the humility, and the quiet determination to help their families create a shared vision of how they want to improve their livelihoods.
Each one of them has a wonderful story to tell about how they mobilized their family members to improve health, nutrition, sanitation, income generation, and family cooperation and harmony in their households. They also acknowledge that they (even at age 14 or 15) have become role models in their communities. People come to seek their advice. They are truly changing the cultural norms in their villages and their families. And they and their families are highly respected because of the role the girls have played in improving their families' incomes while they are attending school.
In so many poor regions of the world, children have to drop out of school and work to support the family. At URDT's Girls’ School, thanks to this unique educational experience, the girls are increasing their families' income while they're away at school by teaching their parents what they've learned about organic farming, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, sanitation, health, and community development. They've also taught their families how to create a shared vision for what they want to achieve and an action plan for getting it done. This is truly remarkable for a group of wonderfully ordinary teenagers in a rural, backward society and a "women don't count" culture.
I feel privileged to be working with these young women! I look forward to sharing the draft of the book with you soon!