The 2022 International Rural Women’s Day shall forever be etched in Okere women’s memory. A group of women who belong to Aero-Kwan Functional Adult Literacy Center, a project started and supported by Okere City was selected as the second prize winners of a competition organized by GiZ to celebrate rural women doing incredible work to transform their communities in Uganda. The competition which attracted 89 submissions was a unique opportunity for the rural women of Okere to be recognized and appreciated for their deserved hard work amidst impossible odds.
The group sent four of their representative to receive their award during an extraordinary event comprised of incredible rural women championing rural reforms in Uganda. Held at the Goethe Centre in Kampala, the ceremony was solemnized by H.E Matthias Schauer, the German Ambassador to Uganda. The award to Aero-Kwan also included a UGX 2M cash prize which shall go towards the construction of Aero-Kwan Centre, a premier functional adult literacy home in Okere.
Whilst receiving the Award, Scovia Awilli, the Chairperson of Aero-Kwan didn’t only appreciate GiZ for recognizing Okere women, but she went so far as to emphasize that the award was special to the women of Okere because it means that the whole world is watching the little efforts they are doing to become better women and responsible citizens. Re-echoing why she is passionate about adult learning, Scovia, a mother of seven children noted that she didn’t have the opportunity to go to school as a child because of the insurgencies in Northern Uganda. She also said that the patriarchal nature of her society successfully enabled the boy children of her generation to be educated to the disadvantage of the girl-child. “Moreover, our parents forced us into early marriages so that dowry paid for our marriage could be used to enable our brothers to get married. This was like a double punishment” Awilli lamented.
But for Awilli and 120 other rural women in Okere who attend classes at Aero-Kwan Centre, age is just a number. Their dedication and determination to learn basic numeracy and literacy, and get exposed to the world beyond their village is a gift they do not take for granted. They do not only see the world differently but in fact, also aspire to become better. They are also taking bold steps to invest in educating their children to receive the education they didn’t get the opportunity to attain.
Presenting the award to Aero-Kwan members, Luigina Blaich, the Coordinator of GiZ’s Rural Development Programme encouraged the women to be relentless in their pursuit of education because learning is a life-long process and it comes with enormous benefits. “As a trained adult educator myself, I want to let you know that the education you are receiving at this stage of your adulthood shall not go in vain because you are getting it and directly applying the skills and knowledge to improve the wellbeing of family and community”, Luigina comforted the women.
Started in 2022, Aero-Kwan Functional Adult Literacy Class aims to build an empowered and visionary mass of constructive adults in Okere village. Adult illiteracy is a thorn in the progress of Okere, a village still reeling from the devastations of the LRA conflict that lasted for over 20 decades. Due to conflict, people were displaced and had to reside in IDP camps making them miss out on a unique opportunity to access quality early childhood and primary education. Indeed, data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) indicate that Otuke District, where Okere City is located has one of the highest illiteracy rates in Uganda at 72%. Of course, creating a sustainable future can be so difficult for a society still trapped in ignorance because they lack basic numeracy, literacy and reasoning capabilities and the exposure they need to re-imagine better futures for themselves and their families and communities.