Date of Meeting: 15 March 2019 

Meeting Organizer: Terrewode (The Association for the Rehabilitation and Re-Orientation of Women for Development) 

ISJC Staff Present: Dr Laurelle Smith 

Reporter: Dr Laurelle Smith 

Which SDG does this topic cover? 5

Type of meeting: CSW Parallel Event 

Brief summary of presentation of information made

The meeting focused on a project that was conducted with high school aged girls in Uganda and California. The mission was to build the capacities of and to systematically empower women and girls to meaningfully participate in development activities to improve their livelihoods, families and communities.

The background:

  • Realised there is a global women movement, but it is not consciously supporting the young girls.
  • In Uganda almost 16 women die every day in childbirth.
  • 14-year-old was in in labour but didn’t realise what it was, so took four days to go to the hospital. The baby died and the girl ended up with an obstetric fistula.
  • Teen pregnancies are causing big problems. We need to eliminate them. There are also women who are having babies too frequently and up with obstetric fistula, become very sick and malnourished.
  • We want teenage girls to not drop out of high school but to go on to higher education.
  • Most people think the maternal health rate in US is very good but in California, African American women are 3-4 times more likely to die in child birth than white women.
  • For maternal health, America is the 34th on the list of the 35th wealthiest countries.
  • 80% of teen fathers don’t marry the mothers.
  • 83% of women having babies are from low income backgrounds.
  • 53% of teen mothers in America live below the poverty line.
  • African American teen moms are older teens and often living in poverty. One strategy they use to cope with poverty and their desire for independence is child bearing.


The project:

  • Looked at a group of girls in a city in California and a group of girls in a village in Uganda.
  • Every girl in both groups reported that they thought about marriage every day - who they would marry, if they would marry someone rich, if they would have children, how many children they would have.  
  • Most youth had not travelled outside of their village or city. They had limited exposure and hadn’t seen the world.
  • Decided to expose them to each other and show them a bigger world and that they can work together.
  • Weekly calls to talk together, learn from each other.


Lessons learnt:

  • Faced challenge of girls not knowing how to use computers in Uganda.
  • Boys must also be involved. Creating a network of high school boys would be beneficial.
  • Girls in Uganda were so excited to talk to people outside their country and even when the generator went out, they stayed on the call with flash lights. The US teens were so excited that people were so dedicated to talk with them. They started to work together. The idea of exposure, the knowledge of someone else and their situation.
  • Girls need support. In Uganda, girls are expected to do everything at home and still be in the classroom – they often end up with depression. In California the challenges are different, but the girls often still end up with depression, we need to provide support for them.
  • Created a global conversation that will continue with young girls in California and young girls in Uganda to work together and understand each other.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

What was clear from this project was the importance of exposure to, and knowledge of, people living in different situations, and who face different challenges, especially for young girls. It is a reminder to look for ways to partner with others, to share experiences and to look outside of our own walls to others around to see how we can learn from them. The Salvation Army is an international organisation, present in 131 different countries and can use this diversity of culture to its advantage to build networks or learning, communication and practice. It is also clear there is real power in conversation and relationship, even for people in totally different geographic areas, and who come from different backgrounds.

Web links for more information

Tags: SDG5: Gender Equality