Agape (meaning “love” and pronounced as aagaapay) of Hope is an indigenous non-governmental organization in Kasese. The organization was founded in 2005 to empower female youth with skills and knowledge to uplift themselves from poverty and destitution.
Elias Bwambale, a teacher in his 40s, is the key organizer of Agape of Hope. He was appalled by the plight of young women, victims of economic and social forces. In depicting the issues of female youth, he points out that:
· 25% of the female youth by the age of 14-19 years become sexually active due to lack of sex education and redundancy.
· 40% of the female adolescents are either raped, defiled or have early marriages.
· 70% of the women by the age of 19-22 become pregnant and end up being single mothers.
· About 50% of the female youth are involved with multiple partners exposing themselves to HIV/AIDS and other STDS.
· Unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions sometimes causing death are on increase.
· Rampant infringement of female rights terms of sexual violation and other health related problems cause infertility due to STDs, mental illness and other substance abuse.
He also points out the causes:
· Peer group pressures
· Lack of proper parenting
· Broken cultural identity/background
· Migrations due to insecurity caused by violent conflicts
· Ignorance and a lack of awareness
· Some societies encourage early marriages
Currently, Agape of Hope has registered ten young women, six of whom are single mothers. With its extremely limited resources, the organization conducts education and training in reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and human rights, and, vocational skills training in tailoring.
Education classes are held every Friday, sometimes with a speaker from outside. As well, talks are given at the churches on Sundays to raise community awareness and garner support.
Tailoring classes are ongoing and held every day led by a teacher with 30 years experience. Women come to the class with their young ones and let them loose to play outside. Because of a lack of space, cutting of material is done in the open behind the small facility. There are only four sewing machines, so, the women take shifts. Training lasts from eight months to a year and upon completing their training, the women are encouraged and supported in finding work or become self-employed as tailors. Five women are already working for themselves and are making a living.
Elias teaches in a private school for two hours every day and spends most of the rest of his day looking after the affairs of Agape of Hope. Edith, 20-years old, helps him in this work. There is a board of directors of seven committed individuals who have been contributing to meet rental for the cramped three-room house on the outskirts of Kasese town and running expenses. This barely keeps the organization afloat. To compensate the tailoring teacher, each woman contributes 20,000 shillings (less than $10), and 5,000 shillings for registration. But, a lack of financial resources is hampering the progress of Agape of Hope, and the organization is unable to help many more young women or to acquire more sewing machines or to undertake other activities for them. Still, with undiminished commitment and enthusiasm, Elias and members of Agape’s board continue their efforts to mobilize support.
Agape of Hope, P.O.Box 427, Kasese, Uganda (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)