How CROSO Supports Female Empowerment

Written by Nora Shepard, CROSO Committee Member, in honor of International Women's Day on March 8th

We’ve undeniably made incredible progress toward gender equality, but we have a long way to go, especially outside of the United States. The gender wage gap still persists, women make up an abysmal percentage of leadership, and less than 30 percent of the world's researchers are women. And, as we know, the inequality in work and financial status all stem from education. The stats there are dismal, too. Two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are female, and 62 million girls are denied education around the world.

Female empowerment has become a buzzword recently. It’s become trendy to speak out against discrimination against women, but it’s rare to find a person or organization that really walks their walk, who actively does what they can to work toward gender equality. That’s unfortunate, but makes me all the more proud to support CROSO, a nonprofit providing college scholarships to former street children in Uganda. As an international organization, CROSO understands the crucial role they play in supporting both boys and girls with their right to receive a comprehensive education, and as such, they have seven current female scholars. I know those scholars’ lives are being changed through access to higher education.

 Pamela will graduate with her bachelor's degree in 2018.

Pamela will graduate with her bachelor's degree in 2018.

Take, for example, a current scholar, Akitwi Pamela. When she reflected on the day she received the good news she had been accepted to CROSO, she recalls how happy she was because no one else had taken a chance on her. From a purely feel-good perspective, this is what CROSO does for people. CROSO takes a chance on young adults who have nothing else, and instills confidence inside them. But, objectively, Pamela is going to help her country, as well. She was inspired to study business because no one in her life or community knew the principles behind it. Her goal is to become an expert and inform her community about how to pursue profits, rather than just focusing on losses. The CROSO Scholarship will have not only changed Pamela’s life, but will also impact the wider community as Pamela shares what she has learned.

 Brenda, just days after completing her course.

Brenda, just days after completing her course.

Graduates reveal a different lens of the story. Nalwoga Brenda finished her studies in November and is graduating this month. (During International Women’s Month, how appropriate!) She said, “I feel so great that I was given an opportunity to go for higher studies, because as a lady it will give me higher advantages.” She’s been working as a nurse in a midwifery program and knows that receiving higher education will upgrade her status in the hospital. She wants to save the lives of mothers and children—the impact this will have on the country of Uganda and eventually the world is untold.

 Lydia now works for BRAC Uganda.

Lydia now works for BRAC Uganda.

Brenda will be the newest female graduate, but she is joining a group of incredible change agents. Namasobo Lydia (CROSO Scholar 2010-2012) does contract work for BRAC Uganda, an international development organization whose goal is to eliminate poverty. She’s working to eliminate poverty! That passion may never have been realized without support and education. Or, Areto Carol, who graduated in 2015 and is working as the Finance Manager for a local NGO, Youth for a Covenant Vision, in Mbale. Or, another 2015 graduate- Nafuna Margaret, who is working as a business manager for a hair salon in Kampala. CROSO graduates are working in different sectors across Uganda in finance, health care, evaluation, program management, business, and so much more.

I know that I’m incredibly lucky in my life...most of us in America are. I never questioned whether I would attend college or not. And yet, I can deeply empathize with the power of someone taking a chance on me. I would likely be going nowhere unless my incredible support system saw in me what I couldn’t, and encouraged me to take a chance on myself. The power of realizing that you CAN realize your potential, to bring your dreams to reality, cannot be understated. I’m so proud to support an organization like CROSO, who clearly takes female empowerment seriously. Female empowerment is so much more than a buzzword. With organizations like CROSO, it’s a reality.

Molly