Making our way to Kyayi seed Secondary school, one of the 5 schools in Gomba where the SuperWoman project is implemented was not exciting. It was a hot afternoon on a bumpy dusty road dotted with potholes meandering through the savanna grassland. We could see were extensive stretches of the grass scotched under the blazing sun with herds of cattle mowing and grazing in a distance. Occasionally a little child on running home from school or a herdsman with a grazing rod would pass by walking or being carried on a Boda Boda and groups of girls and women would be seen drawing water from boreholes. Temporary shelters where herdsmen and their families stay decorated the roadside. Most of the trading centers were deserted and the shops were not open.
After a long drive from Maddu, we were relieved to make our way to an open school compound with only one block that housed the school administration offices and the classrooms.
Teacher Esther Nandutu the Lead Female Teacher (LFT) welcomed us and took us to meet the head teacher Mrs. Bwanika Mwamini. She was very welcoming, engaging and very quick in telling us about the kind of impact the Super Woman Project has had within Kyayi Seed secondary school and the and community. As she shares with us this is when Akankunda’s name is mentioned for the first time.
Figure 1: Dora Akankunda-Kyayi Seed SS
Walking into a class from full girls in company of the head teacher. I could see a lot of anticipation and eagerness to hear what I had to say on their faces. I couldn’t help notice a tall, slender, dark skinned beautiful girl with extremely curly hair seated at the back of the class. One could almost be fooled to think she is of Indian descent. I talked to the girls and later called aside. Akankunda to tell her story .In her own words Akankunda says. One evening as were having dinner my father told me that I wasn’t going to be attending school any more. According to him I was old enough so he had arranged for a man to marry me. Akankunda like any other girl in form one at Kyayi Seed Secondary School was very optimistic about her dream of becoming a teacher. She had at least come a long way and completed primary and now she was a secondary school student. It was very exciting a journey which would soon be complete when she became a teacher. However, this dream was on the verge of crumbling. The night was long and very dark. I turned and tossed in my bed musing over the agony of not becoming a teacher and how each day I will have to watch other girls go to school as I quickly became a wife, may be a mother who I wasn’t prepared to be. Time wasn’t her best ally. The days to be married off were closing in on her, with the rising pressure from her father Akankunda did not have much of a choice but to share with her friends about the impending plan to marry her off. I chose to tell my friends at school so we could work together as girls and find a solution to the problem. The girls got very concerned and they could not be silent they sought for help from the director of studies, who then informed the Head teacher about the impending marriage. Mrs. Bwanika narrates I compelled strong desire in me to meet Akankunda and hear the story from the horse’s mouth not just as a head teacher as well, as a mother who would want the best for a child and also as an advocate for the education of girls. This is what the Super Woman project stands. The girls had been empowered and they knew where and to who report the matter but the most important thing is they know that child marriage is wrong. When she talked to Akankunda she was very desperate to the point that she was willing to do some work at school to have a fees waiver to so that she can continue to study. That really compelled her to act fast. She invited Atunkunda mother to school and shared with her the dangers of child marriages and also the legal implications of engaging in child marriages just in case they were to continue with the plan to marry off Akankunda. When Akankunda’s mother returned home that day she managed to convince her husband to give up the idea and let Akankunda continue with her education.
In a community where the belief that girls are not regarded as fit to attain a sound education, Gender and cultural norms run strong. For the girls to be able to rally behind one girl and speak for her is great change for the community and for the school as well.
Outcomes Asked about her how she feels about being in school to this victory, Akankunda in typical African. She beams with a smile that unlike before when she had no hope of continuing with school. She wakes up early to prepare for school and gets there on time. This change has not gone unnoticed. The head teacher has gone ahead to organize meeting in which the girls have showcased the radio dramas and other project activities in school. Akankundas
dream is to become a secondary school teacher, just like teacher Mwamini Bwanika. With this, she hopes to help girls who want to drop out school because of wanting to marry them off early. This, Akankunda assures me she will do through giving the girls the encouragement to stay in school and help speak against early marriages, just like she received. Beyond the girls Mr .John Juuko had this to say, “girls walking up to a male teacher and opening up to a male teacher is breaking the stigma and silence surrounding child marriages the Super woman project should stay on and on to build the confidence , self-esteem and assertiveness of girls to stand up and challenge the status quo of marrying off young girl.
Figure 1: Akankunda with Mrs. Bwanika Mwamini the Headteacher (back right) Ms. Esther Nandutu the Lead female teacher (back left) and one of the superwoman members who helped her