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Mentoring Camps Brighten Futures for Young Ugandan Women

In many rural Ugandan communities, young women face threats to their future economic opportunities and influence, including pregnancy, early marriage, sexual assault, and lack of funds to cover school fees. Working with and through community and cultural structures, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Uganda’s flagship resilience program—the Abt-led USAID Integrated Community Agriculture and Nutrition (ICAN) Activity—is finding ways for these young women to build their skills and confidence.

Since 2019, USAID ICAN has hosted Adolescent Girls and Young Women mentorship camps for more than 4,000 women and girls aged 14-24 who have dropped out of school. At three five-day camps—finding your voice, exploring skills, and empowerment—they receive guidance and training from successful women in their communities, including businesswomen, nurses, and village health team members. Topics cover economic and financial betterment, women’s reproductive health, access to family planning, family nutrition, and the possibility of returning to vocational or formal education.

The results have been stunning. An Abt assessment of the first cohort in 2019 found 88 percent of respondents started businesses with USAID ICAN financial linkages and increased their monthly income by an average of 83 percent. Ninety percent joined savings groups, a quarter enrolled in adult learning classes, and the vast majority said they felt more in control.

“My husband was surprised I stopped quarreling with him,” said one respondent. “I learned how to use my voice well to communicate my needs and prevent conflict, and I also gained business skills and started poultry rearing. Now I can earn money from my poultry. My husband used to say the camps were a waste of time, but now he appreciates the skills I learned there.”

USAID ICAN is expanding these camps to more regions and supporting further post-camp linkages to financial institutions, village health teams, and leadership training—including to address gender-based violence.

Read more about the USAID ICAN Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) mentorship camps on USAID ResilienceLinks, which can be accessed here.

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