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Changing the Story For Young Women in Uganda

Empowerment is not just a buzzword; it's a transformative process that can manifest in many forms, affecting individuals, communities, and society at large. Recently, I had a conversation with Juliana Nyombi, Founder of Adolescent Psychosocial Support and Resource Center (APSARC), located in Uganda. Juliana started APSARC two years ago with the hope of changing the story for the young women in the Nakasongola District which is about 90 Km from Kampala Capital City . The area is dominated by increasing numbers of teenage pregnancies, illicit abortions, HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, alcohol and substance misuse, large numbers of school drop outs in the community, and gender based violence.

APSARC offers life skills training focusing on sexual health and reproductive rights, basic sustainable farming skills to increase personal and economic yield, and trades skills like hair-dressing and beading. Additionally, APSARC offers psychosocial support through peer counseling. These sessions are used to enhance trauma healing and build resilience for the beneficiaries in addressing various issues at individual, family and community level. Juliana believes this support is particularly vital as past trauma can stifle progress. Through these efforts, many of the girls have gone from cowering in unworthiness to standing straight and looking people in eye. This new found inner strength is the foundation on which these young women can transform their lives.

Beyond the skills training, counseling, and peer group services that ASPARC offers is perhaps the most valuable lesson these young women learn; "I Matter". For many, this is the first time they are respected, loved, and encouraged. The first time they are recognized as important, able, and worthy. In many cases, the journey to empowerment starts when someone says, "I see you". This is how old stories end and new ones begin.

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