“If the Glow Effect Center and it’s classes continue to be held and to grow it will change the society of Kasaali for the better. There will be more economic opportunity, healthier people, less domestic violence and less sexual abuse and rape. With the advancement of The Glow Effect Center, Kasaali and our surrounding communities will be transformed.” – collective statement from the Agriculture group
Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to get a handle on the enormity of the changes that the women of Kasaali have experienced since their involvement in The Glow Effect. Each day, with the help of a translator, I would sit with the different groups and assess their learning and transformation. As I heard their stories, it was hard not to show emotion hearing them.
Facing criticism from neighbors, family and husbands alike, attending class was not easy. Many people would harangue the women on their way to class, asking them why they were wasting time learning, why they were being so selfish and not at home attending to their husbands. The value of their learning was diminished and seen as a frivolous activity that would amount to nothing. However these ladies knew what they wanted, and walking past a line of harassment, they continued on and arrived engaged in their learning. Sadly, a few of their classmates were unable to ever find approval from their husbands and the consequence of their arriving without permission were too severe to risk attendance. This has been a challenge for those who attended, who wish they could see their friends succeed as they are, but they are now confident that with time the rest of the village will come to see the worth of the program as have now their husbands and families and their friends will too benefit.
The women who have participated (2o so far) have all gained valuable hard skills that allow them now to contribute economically to their family. Since most of the women’s day is spent in the garden, they have never before had a chance to learn an activity nor had time to practice one. However with dedication and perseverance, they are now sewing, crafting, hairstyling, and growing organic vegetables. Their new financial contributions however small they may be, have the ability to send a child to school, get health treatment, and resolve issues at home. Because the woman generally has no financial standing, her husband allows her few freedoms and little respect. With the Glow Effect, that is changing.
In Agriculture, women have learned how to steer away from inefficient traditional farming techniques and the use of expensive chemical fertilizers, to taking advantage of natural processes and farm organically. They have learned how to use companion planting, make their own compost, and how to eat more nutritiously. This has resulted in higher crop yields, better health, and new savings from using previously discarded materials to make their own compost rather than buy it. They are anxiously awaiting the rainy season when they can profit from these higher yields by taking them to market.
The Tailoring class has labored intensely learning how to sew by hand. Though the solar electricity and sewing machines that will accompany the completion of the center are eagerly anticipated, they are producing fine quality dresses, skirts, shirts and children’s clothes. They have been able to sew for their own children, reducing costs and dressing them with the pride of a craftswoman. Old clothes are now mended and new clothes are being designed. They are ready to sell their work and are proud of how far they have come from not knowing how to make a single stitch, to outfitting their family.
The hairstylists are busy plaiting hair, retouching, painting nails and learning new styles. Though they are still lacking the technical expertise that can turn them professional overnight, they have learned many valuable skills that can be implemented now and they hope to attract the women of Kasaali to the center to eventually be the go to salon for surrounding villages with up and coming styles and offering other spa like services.
The crafters are busy as bees, beading and weaving hand bags and totes, making lovely sun hats and bedazzling themselves and their friends with new jewelry. They are selling their crafts and making money to purchase new materials and continue advancing their technique. You can see them coming down the street, decked out in lovely bags and bracelets and it’s a fetching sight.
What is more remarkable than what the women are producing in just 3 months of training is how they are feeling and how their relationships are changing. Having attended classes in Business & Financial Literacy, Confidence & Leadership, Guidance & Counseling, and Self Expression in conjunction with their trade, these women have transformed their lives.
These classes are the pinnacle of our success and what sets us apart from other programs that focus only on vocational training. These are what will make our program sustainable and be a transformative force of change for the community.
Sadly, sexual abuse, domestic violence, early transactional marriages, early pregnancy, malnutrition, school drop outs and AIDS and other sexual diseases are commonplace in Kasaali and other villages like it in Uganda and Africa.
Through our program these women have learned to have the confidence to stand up for themselves. They have learned how to be leaders and role models for their children. They have learned how to be open with others about their problems, learning that they are not alone in their struggle and that there are others like them. This has allowed women to overcome their own issues and reach out and comfort others. Many of these women suffer from AIDS or know someone who does. Through guidance and counseling they are able to help these people face their illness and seek new hope in their life with support. Lacking confidence, many of these women could barely speak their name in public without shying away. They would have their husbands speak for them and transact for them, leaving them powerless. Puberty was not ignored, it was dishonorable. Girls were forced to leave school during menstruation because it was misunderstood. Mothers did not see themselves as a leader and were not comfortable speaking to their children about such issues. Now women are opening up to their children and their children are opening up to them. Girls are staying in school, are speaking to their mothers about abuse, and boys are treating their mothers with more respect.
Without confidence and without value or a voice, women were unable to resolve issues at home. Crying and yelling were their only solutions to conflict which made them more powerless and more at risk for abuse. Many of these women were beaten by their husbands, and there was nothing they could do to stand up for themselves or to recognize that this was not OK. Children grow up watching their mothers get beaten and accept it as standard. Girls and women are not considered to have a choice in sex. Husband or otherwise, men can force a woman to have sex just because he is a man and the woman must comply.
From these women, we have learned that there are changing forces at play. Now recognizing their worth and having the confidence to voice their concerns, and having learnt to do it in a calm and reasonable way, conflicts are reduced in the home. Men are respecting women’s stance and listening and the women are listening to their men. Instead of yelling they are talking. Instead of crying they are standing strong.
It is truly remarkable to hear the impact that this program is having. Every woman has a story to tell and these stories are not without weight. They are able to tell them because there is something new to tell, and they are able to share them because they are no longer afraid.
I will leave you with some testimonials from some of our ladies who have experienced The Glow Effect so that you might experience it too:
“I had a dispute with my bother for over a year. We were not speaking with each other. Through Guidance & Counseling classes, I learned the importance of making peace. At mass when the priest asked us to make peace with our neighbor, I took the opportunity to seek out and approach my brother. It feels so good. We are both so much happier, and I feel so light and happy.”
“I am no longer shy. I can finally reach out to people since I no longer fear them. I find myself fitting better into society and feel like I belong. Others have recognized my change and they are asking me to teach them so that they too can feel more open.”
“I have learned to be open to others, like approaching partners about STDs and being able to ask doctors questions about them.”
“I have learned the importance of keeping other people’s secrets and how to encourage them to overcome their obstacles.”
“A very quarrelsome woman used to come to me frequently to complain. I applied the skills I learned from the Glow Effect and I advised her how to approach her problems differently. Now she is a peaceful woman and so am I.”
“My husband used to get drunk and beat me. Through these classes I gained the courage and confidence to ask for help. Now with the help of my family, if my husband is drunk he stays away from home and no longer beats me.”
“These programs have helped me deal with those suffering with AIDS with compassion. I can now encourage them to face their problems, seek help, and have hope to live the rest of their life as a happy person. Not every body dies from AIDS and often they are shunned from society. I have learned to accept AIDS victims and to be kind to them and help them through their problems.”
“Before, I could not talk to my girls about menstruation and we did not how to deal with hygiene. When she would menstruate she would miss school. Now we now how to face menstruation and we know that the things that she is experiencing are not abnormal. She can stay in school to learn and be successful.”
“Before, my family used to chastise and be cruel to me since I am an old woman. Now that I have new confidence and have skills and can bring money in to the home, my children and grandchildren respect me.”
“My husband used to force me to have sex with him when I did not want to. If I refused he would beat me. Because he is a husband he has that right to demand for me to have sex. Now I know how to be confident and tell him what I want and do not want and he has new respect for me and he abuses me less.”
If you believe in helping women transform their lives and those of their community to reduce sexual abuse, domestic violence, and school drop outs as well as offer new economic opportunity to women, please consider following the prompts of the link here to donate:DONATE TO THE GLOW EFFECT CENTER FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS