How we're helping young mums in Uganda

Build Africa is helping young mothers in rural Uganda to learn literacy skills and access healthcare and nutrition services – so they can help their children not just survive but succeed.

The issues

“By the age of 18, a woman in the Oyam District of Uganda is more likely to have had a child than she is to be able to read.”*

Despite Uganda making huge strides forward, grinding poverty, child marriage and early pregnancy have cut short many girls’ education and left them without the vital literacy and numeracy skills that everyday life depends on. A shocking 41% of women in Uganda are unable to read.*

For thousands of vulnerable young mothers this is devastating. They lack a fundamental skill that would help them earn enough to provide for their family, meet basic healthcare needs and support their children’s education. 

George Lwanga, Build Africa Area Programme Manager in Masindi, Uganda, has witnessed these challenges first-hand:

“Many women become mothers when they are very young, often under 16 – so without an education they face challenges from feeding their children to missing immunisations and caring for them when they are ill. Culturally, they are looked down upon by the community for being uneducated. They are held back and unable to speak for themselves or fight for what’s best for their family.”

The solution

Our approach includes:

  • Improving access to childcare and health services
    We will partner with local authorities to reach the estimated 70-78% of young mothers who currently have no access to health services. We will work to help them receive the care they need now and know how to stay healthy and informed for the future.
  • Helping mothers learn practical literacy skills
    For many young mothers stigma and poverty means that returning to primary school is not an option. Studies show that learning to read and write through programmes relevant to the lives they lead and the skills they need is more effective, and equips them with vital childcare skills at the same time.
  • Tackling cultural values that hold young women back
    Across Uganda, women spend less time at school than men, earn less and are more likely to work without pay.  They are also excluded from decision making processes both at home and in the community. To fight this, we will deliver life skills training that gives them a voice in business, community politics and home financial management to lift their family out of poverty. 

The impact

Helping a young mother learn to read has an incredible impact - giving both her and her family the opportunity to live a different life.

Research shows that an educated mother is more likely to be healthier, more economically stable and to take care of her children better – including vaccinating against preventable diseases, providing more nutritious meals and nurturing learning from their earliest days. 

Most importantly, her children are more likely to successfully complete their own education, meaning they will have more opportunities in life and one day send their own children to school.

Education can break the cycle of poverty.


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* In Oyam only 32% of women are literate (Oyam District Statistical Abstract for 2012/13) but over half of 20-49 year old women are married in the Eastern Region of Uganda and 45% of girls from poor rural areas have a child before they are 18 years old (Unicef Uganda, National Strategy on Child Marriage) /