Education is transformational. It changes lives and opens doors. It breaks the cycle of poverty and empowers women. Yet there are many extremely bright and dedicated students in Uganda whose dreams are cut short because they lack the means to attend university.
While education is technically free through the secondary level (high school) in Uganda, tuition must be paid to attend university or vocational school. Tuition for one student to attend one semester of university exceeds the average annual salary of a Ugandan. Educational loans are difficult-to-impossible to come by and the number of exceptional students far exceeds the few government-sponsored scholarships available. So higher education is not accessible to many high-potential, dedicated students and university enrollment rates remain low, especially for women.
ASSET students will go on to be engineers, doctors, social workers, nurses, and business owners–the next generation of leaders. Their education and leadership training will enable them to be better their communities and country.
Why invest in women?
There is an African proverb that says, “If you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” meaning that investing in the education of a woman will benefit not only that individual woman, but her entire family, her community, and her nation.
Educated women have higher income-earning potential. Research has shown that when women earn more income, they invest it into their families–to safeguard their children’s health and to send their children to school. Research has shown that an educated woman will also have a smaller family, and will be less likely to acquire HIV/AIDS. When women take leadership positions in society, they bring a new perspective to the table and increase opportunities for the next generation.
There is a pronounced gender gap in educational attainment in Uganda. This is partly because of widespread poverty within the country but even when resources exist, males are often given more opportunities to achieve higher education while female family members are often held back to help with chores and begin domestic life.
One alarming trend has been an increase in number of female students turning to “sugar daddies” to finance their university education in exchange for sexual favors, thus increasing their vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections. Among college-educated young women in Uganda, many women struggle to find employment upon graduation, due to a variety of factors, including gender-based discrimination in the workplace and lack of career guidance and mentorship opportunities for young women. Another startling trend is the frequency with which young college-educated women are asked for sexual favors in return for employment. One study revealed that 19 out 20 recent female graduates have encountered this sort of sexual corruption when they seek jobs. Young women need the skills, confidence, and leadership to overcome these barriers and advocate for themselves.