Despite learning from experience that women are capable of anything, when Joan entered secondary school, she started to feel like she didn’t belong.
“A group of ladies were undermining my mum’s ability to see me through school and envisioned me being married off. But later, I was lucky enough that other people in the community held my hand. I was able to complete lower secondary school. While in upper secondary, I had to defy all odds by working so hard to become a scientist. This was the basis of my effort and my continuous drive.”
Thanks to Joan’s perseverance, the network of support she created for herself, and the skills she’s honed through Educate!, today, Joan is a small business owner, a lab technician student, and an incredible mentor.
Joan feels fortunate to have had strong female role models to look up to throughout her life. Raised in Kamuli, Uganda by a hardworking single mother, Joan was surrounded by a close-knit community of women, many of whom helped to pay her school fees. The stark contrast between Joan’s belief in herself and the harmful narratives she heard in secondary school motivated her to critically consider what girls are taught to think about their abilities and the opportunities available to them.
Like many girls and young women around the world, Joan faced barriers to education but was fortunate to have a supportive network. She recognizes that for girls without such a community, the costs of education can be an impassable barrier and a missed opportunity for valuable mentorship.
Leveraging her Skills to Strengthen Educate!’s Impact
Joan’s advocates and her steadfast belief in herself helped her to stay in school and to discover Educate!. She participated in Educate!’s in-school model, giving her the tools and the space to practice and apply the hard and soft skills she’d need beyond the classroom, like financial literacy, collaboration, and critical thinking.
After graduating, Joan set out to further refine her leadership and entrepreneurship skills by joining the Educate! team building bootcamps for girls unable to attend secondary school in Uganda. Joan says that her personal experience of knowing what these girls have been through, allows her to “put [her]self in their shoes in order to serve them better.”
Professionally, she says, “I was encouraged to start a business beyond the little I had: a sugarcane snack business. I was able to become more creative with managing the stipend from my work so that I can be able to finance my business to make it grow. I later started up a small canteen with snacks, and beyond that, I invested in two pigs.” These firsthand experiences enable her to help Educate! design and improve the models that equip girls with the skills they need to tap into new opportunities.
Creating Communities that Uplift Girls
Today, Joan is a fierce advocate for young women who have dropped out of school and committed to a future where no women are forced to depend on their husband’s income. Women in this position are “being held back at almost every turn,” says Joan. “They are barely getting by and on someone else’s terms.”
As a role model and leader in her community, Joan is breaking down these barriers. Outside of her position at Educate!, she contributes to a savings group and teaches financial literacy skills to other young women and girls. “What I am hoping to contribute to is building entrepreneurial skills through a village savings cooperative — to equip young ladies with skills to run businesses. I want these young ladies to learn about money management and build their self-esteem and the hard skills of starting something: marketing, creating partnerships, and investing even more.”