On this International Women’s Day, Ken Agutamba from Restless development’s communications team went to meet 23-year old Winnie Adur, a young Ugandan woman with a strong passion for youth-led community development.
Lira, a bustling town in Uganda’s northern region is Winnie’s turf. Here, everyone knows the cheerful young woman with confidence in her stride and a firm voice in her speech. With a wry smile she says;
Most know me as the girl who rides the motorcycle.
Under GAA, Winnie often rides ta motor-bike traversing the district, engaging local employers on how to make the work environment safe for women and free from all forms of gender-based violence. But that’s not all that she is known for in this lively town, located more than 400km from Uganda’s capital, Kampala. In early 2019, young Winnie participated in a beauty pageant which she won and was crowned Miss Lira.
Well, for the past year, I have also been known as the girl with a crown on her head.
At a colourful function held last Saturday, March 29, Winnie handed over the crown to the new Miss Lira who will hold the title for the next twelve months. Shortly after handing over the crown, the young community mobiliser shared her experience of juggling responsibilities of Miss Lira as well as being an employee of Restless Development.
“Every opportunity to serve, offers a chance to learn,” says Winnie. She never expected to win the Miss Lira crown, that’s because it was never her plan to contest. But her sister cajoled her into giving it a shot.
I never thought in a million years I’d ever wear a crown on my head but Feb 23, 2019, would prove me wrong. To be honest, when I first heard about the pageant from my sister who was encouraging me to contest, I laughed off her suggestion. The pageant was never in my aspirations. Anyway, long story short I found myself in the contest and then I won which I attribute to my volunteering experience the year before, with VSO/ICS. This gave me the confidence and articulacy that must have made me stand out from the others.
Winnie says her term as Miss Lira came with the opportunity to work with fellow young women, share experiences and encouraged each other in the quest to realise their dreams.
From my engagement with young women, I learned that poverty is a leading factor behind the high rate of early pregnancies. I helped link youth groups in the district to a civil society organisation (Voluntary Service Overseas) that skills youth groups on entrepreneurial, livelihoods and agricultural skills. One such group is “Youth movement 2050” whose members received training in Jelly-making, liquid-soap making, poultry farming and agriculture. The group comprises of 35 females and 10 males (including persons with special needs).
Winnie also directed her year on the crown towards addressing menstrual poverty in Lira district. She led a number of initiatives that were aimed at helping girls find innovative and affordable ways of managing menstrual periods.
Statistics show that girls 3/10 miss school days during menstrual periods. This is due to lack of sanitary kits to use. Whereas I’m a strong advocate pushing for the government to provide free sanitary kits for all school-going girls who need them, I also participated in a reusable sanitary pad making training organised by USAID RHITES-N LANGO in which girls were taught how to make reusable sanitary materials from affordable cloth materials. This helped them stay in school.