Each year on March 8th, countries around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a holiday dedicated to recognizing the important contributions of women in society and the issues they face.
This year, CCF Director Alice Achan and former Head Girl of the Pader Girls Academy Polline traveled to Kampala for the International Women’s Day Festival hosted by the Sheraton in partnership with the Alliance Française Kampala. Out of all of the charities in the Uganda focused on addressing the needs of women and girls, the Pader Girls Academy (PGA) was selected as the sole beneficiary of funds raised during the day’s events.
The decision to honor PGA is testament to the growing recognition of the crisis of girl child education in Uganda and the necessity for innovative solutions to address the special needs of vulnerable girls.
During a forum and debate at the event, Alice Achan shared her own story which served as partial motivation for the founding of PGA. “During the war, I spent four years living in the camps, and as a result, was forced to delay my own education by 4 years. War should not be a reason for girls to miss out on education. At PGA, I wanted to create an environment where girls most affected by the war could continue their educations regardless of age, social status, or pregnancy.”
Alice was accompanied by Polline, a recent graduate from PGA’s Secondary School who is now pursuing her Advanced-level studies in Kampala.
Polline’s remarkable story shows just how education can change a girl’s life. At eleven years old, Pauline was abducted from her home by the LRA. For eight years, she lived in captivity as the wife of a commander until severe complications from pregnancy nearly cost Pauline her life.
After recovering from emergency operations, Polline was too old to return to mainstream secondary school. At 19, she entered PGA, enrolling in senior level-2 and making a promise to prioritize her education. She studied hard and excelled academically, becoming one of the five top performing girls at the Academy who received scholarships for further study.
“Now, I am in Kampala for Advanced-level and I am determined to let nothing stop me from my goals. If a man says he loves me, I will tell him to wait until I graduate,” Polline told a cheering crowd.
Beneath a banner with the day’s theme, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures,” Polline shared her dream of becoming a human rights lawyer, a career she hopes will enable her to advocate for other vulnerable girls.
Polline has used her success to become a champion for girl’s education, sharing her experience everywhere from Kampala to the House of Lords in London. “A girl should not lose hope because she becomes pregnant,” she told the crowd, “Even pregnant girls can study and have a future.”
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