Knitting a Better Future for Girls in Uganda

by | Apr 14, 2023 | Heartivist Of The Week

Starting something is an achievement. Taking the first step is already being on the way to something better,” Ruth Abwalo.

In Uganda, 1 in 4 women aged 15 to 49 experienced violence by a former intimate partner in 2018, UN Women.

Knitting is a silent promise for the future, an act of patience that seems magical, where the mere intertwining of a thread or yarn ends up creating something wonderful. Knitting is an act of love, where hardworking hands advance knot by knot with endless faith to manufacture a piece of art that will keep others warm, clothed and happier.

Ruth Abwalo loves art and creating something with the perfect synchronicity of her hands and imagination brings her immense joy. Although she has a bachelor’s degree in Office Management, she has dedicated the last 4 years of her life to revive the knitting tradition in Uganda.

“Old people used to knit tablecloths, cupboards and other things to make the house look nice. I started to knit formally since Covid started,” recalls Ruth. “Life became tougher, people were laid off from their jobs. In my case, I had to find something to invest my time in, since I had to stay at home”.

The Reality for Youth in Kampala After Covid

According to Ruth, the Covid-19 pandemic not only affected adult activities. In her home city, Kampala, Uganda, many children were not able to go back to school due to economic problems and they ended up spending most of their time wandering on the street. 

“I am worried about the economy because, since we had the pandemic, things have not been the same and it’s going to take a while to recover. The economic situation is really hard right now and we have a lot of problems in the slum area,” explains Ruth.

In fact, UNICEF states that minors in Uganda have several factors that work against them and prevent them from thriving, such as teenage marriage or pregnancies, HIV and AIDS, violence, not completing their secondary education and poverty.   

Furthermore, UN Women revealed that 34% of women between 20 and 24 in Uganda married as minors. In 2018, 26.1% of women 15 to 49 suffered either sexual or physical violence (or both) by their partner. And in 2017, there was an incidence of 111.4 teenagers from 15 to 19 years old becoming mothers per every 1,000 women.

Knitting a Better Future

Ruth has two daughters: Amuge, who is 9, and Achayo, who is 13. They both started to learn knitting during the pandemic while watching their mother make crafts and clothes. They were Ruth’s main inspiration to teach other girls to knit so they could have a good use of their time and a skill that may provide for them in the future.

“I invited my daughter’s friends to take knitting classes for free and they liked it. Now, I have 16 girls from 7 to 14 years old who are studying for 2 hours, 3 times a week, learning how to make skirts, blouses, dresses, house decor and more,” says Ruth,  feeling thrilled. “We need to promote this kind of handmade fashion. When these girls grow up, they can take this skill and make an activity that can help support themselves.”

Although Ruth uses some organic material that her students can get at no cost like: banana fiber, cowrie shells, sea shells and pine cones; the biggest challenge has been acquiring the materials they need for their creations. So Ruth started looking for funds online and found The Pollination Project.

“I didn’t think I could get a funder for my project. I was so happy when TPP replied. When I got the news that I was getting the funding I needed, I jumped. This was my happiest day ever. I just thought there was hope ahead of me,” says Ruth, with a wide smile. The granted funds will allow her to buy sewing machines and all the materials her students need for the project which will provide 2 month classes in groups of 30, reaching up to 180 girls in a year; and slowly but surely Ruth and her students will be fulfilling their silent promise of a better future.

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