We all hear the statistics: When girls in developing nations are given the same access to education as boys, the impact on their communities is immense. Vicky Lodia is a living, breathing testament to the numbers.
Growing up in a pastoralist society in Uganda, the odds that Vicky would be sent to school were slim. But she got the opportunity and she ran with it, excelling at every turn.
Now she's giving back as a member of Mercy Corps' team in Uganda, working tirelessly to improve the lives of her neighbors by making food more affordable and accessible — and advocating that young girls get the same access to education that she did. Vicky is a catalyst for change in her community, and we're so proud to claim her as one of our own.
My background: I grew up in a village spending most of my life in the kraals [cattle enclosures] moving the animals from district to district looking for pasture during dry seasons.
In a pastoralist society, more value is attached to animals than education, and boys were much more likely to be sent to school than girls. They had all sorts of excuses to not send a girl to school.
One day at the age of nine my mother sent me to town to sell some milk and get some money to at least meet the basic needs of my family. On my way back we met an educated lady at the borehole near the local government offices. She asked us if we wanted to be in school, met our parents and offered to enroll us at her expense, but we all said no because the only stories we heard about school were about beatings.
A year later, my father decided to send representatives of his children to school from each family. A boy was picked from the other family and since my mother had no son, I was taken as an option. I emerged as the best girl in my class and the town council offered me a scholarship to attend high school for one year.
Now I’ve finished my university education at Uganda Christian University and am with Mercy Corps. I can now make my own decisions, express myself in public and can provide for my parents and others just like men do.
Why education is so important: In 2009, I was elected as the chairperson of the Jie Students And Teachers' Association (JIESTA) in my district, the first female chair in the association’s 30 year existence. At the time girls were dropping out of high school at a high rate, and the illiteracy levels of women in the district were alarming.
I launched a campaign to promote education for girls. I organized meetings and invited female role models, including a female member of Uganda’s parliament, Aleper Margaret Achilla, to come speak to young girls.
Education allows one to become self-reliant and to broaden one’s thinking capacity. I’m able to interact freely with different groups of people in the world and am aware of rights, like education, that we all should have.
My role at Mercy Corps: I am an economic development officer. Currently the food prices in Northern Karamoja are extremely high and the rural poor cannot afford food. Our program aims to not only make food accessible, but affordable, by diversifying the marketplace and adding vendors who can sell at relatively low prices and reach rural areas.
My day starts at 8 a.m. with activities like mapping and profiling of commodity traders, transporters and storage facilities; developing gender-sensitive criteria to select beneficiaries; selecting potential traders and transporters, etc. I make field visits and establish procedures and guidelines to monitor and evaluate the progress and impact of economic development support work.
Why I work for Mercy Corps: I enjoy doing work that is sustainable and has lasting impact on communities. Mercy Corps’ goals are realistic, and they ensure that results are sustainable by working directly with the existing community infrastructure.
My hopes for Uganda: Uganda is known as the pearl of Africa. We’re blessed with variety of species and cultures, but the development is not that uniform. Some parts of the country like Karamoja look like another country — there are high poverty rates, low literacy rates and poor roads. I love being a Karamojong, though I sometimes face discrimination because of my tribe.
My hope is that everyone be treated with fairness despite our differences, and that we have a better and united country. For myself, I hope to work and serve my community and acquire a CPA for the development of my career.