Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)

Feminist Leadership Development

Every year, Raising Teenagers Uganda organises a charity hike for the Girl Child in Uganda with an aim of fundraising for the purchase of sanitary towels and other menstrual hygiene products. This year was no different with a team of young activists climbing Wanale peak in Eastern Uganda to create awareness and break Stigma around Menstruation. Among these were some of AMwA’s alumnae who joined in engaging girls in the surrounding areas in sensitization sessions about menstruation and distribution of reusable sanitary towels. Here is a hiking experience shared by Patricia Kajumba, a Tuwezeshe 2018 fellow passionate about enabling young girls and women explore their potentials and become great leaders.

I was so excited when we started our journey to the peak, believing that I would reach the peak together with the rest of the team. However, the higher we climbed, the tougher it became. As my face and neck were soaked in sweat, I could barely catch a breath, I started panting like a dog. I could barely lift my legs to the next step and it is at that moment I thought to myself, "Will I really make it to the top?!" If it was not for the team that pushed me to keep going, and my resolve to get to the peak, I would have given up. After a long and painful struggle, punctuated with falling and crawling, I finally made it to the peak of Wanale. I felt so happy because I had achieved what I wanted.

The journey down the peak was harder than the journey up! As we started, my close friend Pat said,

"Let's be at the front this time we should try and be among the first."

To which I hesitantly replied,

"Yes, we should."

As we sloped, I was disappointed in my choice of shoes which got soaked in mud and made me lose my confidence. With every step I took, I kept sliding and falling which meant that Pat and I would not be among the first as we wanted. Fellow hikers kept asking me whether all was well and all I could do was give them way to continue because I was feeling bad for failing. Despite the fact that I was feeling bad, Pat and other friends told me to take my time and that my safety was important to them. On hearing this, I became patient with myself and my shoes while the team moved with me and helped me till we arrived at the base together with everyone else.

Passion to see girls at the top inspired me to hike. I was motivated to participate because girls in my community have been socialized to feel really bad about menstruation which is regarded as a female chapter only. Men do not want anything to do with it while girls cannot even afford pads! To make it worse, girls lack the psychosocial support to prepare them to handle menstruation and live with very many unanswered questions about menstruation. With the realization that just one packet of pads can keep a girl in school and that availing information can get commonly avoided questions answered, I was more than ready to hike for the world’s future!

From the hike, I learnt that as I grow, life might become harder and sometimes I will feel like giving up. However, if I am determined to reach the peak, I will use all the possible strengths around me to get there. I made a choice of shoes that disappointed me but that did not mean that I did not use them to get down to the foot of the mountain. In life, we always have to use the choices we make to the maximum despite their cons, till we get there – aluta continua!

I would like the world to know that life is a journey. We all go through it but with different scars. It's very important for us to have a strong support system that will push us when we are stuck. If it was not for the help I got from my friends, I do not think I would have hiked so easily. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses is key and moving at a slow pace does not make one a loser. Whenever you feel stuck in life, take time to observe more closely, there is always a small gap you can use to take the next step in your life.

And to the Girl Child out there, please always move with your head held up high because you are a warrior and a fighter! Be proud of menstruation and know that it is very OKAY. Always seek for help when you feel stuck. Keep in school because there is no need to rush into marriage. Identify who you want to be and work towards that. Do not let the menstrual stigma deny you your shining days. You are a star, shine for the whole world!