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Atim Vicky, 24, is a classic case of a young girl whose poverty and unplanned early pregnancy made the future appear dim. Atim was born in a small village of Pajja in Nwoya district, Northern Uganda. Like Okot, she lost her father to the LRA when she was 12. Her mother raised her and five siblings alone, but when they all reached school age she could no longer afford to send them all to school. Since Vicky already knew how to read and write, her mother decided she would be the one to stop so she could help in the farm and look after the rest of the family.

Although this decision made her sad initially, it did not discourage Atim from dreaming of one day resuming her studies. She worked hard, planting surplus crops so she can save up money for school. But at age 19 another misfortune befell her: unplanned early pregnancy which used up all the savings she was building up for school. She thought her dream of going back to school had all but gone.

When the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Project was introduced in Nwoya district, Atim Vicky was chosen by her community to be a Community Conversation Facilitator (CCF) for the youth. After the facilitators training, she started holding dialogues with young people in her community. From the training she had learned that it is never too late to go back to school. But the challenge remaining was where to get the resources to cover school expenses.

Fortunately, in addition to the facilitation skills, Vicky’s CCF training taught her business planning and management, how to select viable income-generating activities. This helped her come up with a business plan that would help her raise the money for school. Being a community conversation facilitator, Vicky is automatically a member of the village saving and loans association (VSLA). In January 2014, Vicky was among the first CCFs to take out a loan of USH 200,000 (US$75) from the VSLA to start her business. They would buy and sell food stuff in the market out of her loaned start-up capital. She asked her mother to run the business while she attended school.

Vicky is now on her third year at Anaka Secondary School, happy to be back on track with her studies. Her business is growing, and from its income has been able to pay back her loan. Her mother is pleased that they now have a steady income source against which Vicky and her siblings can draw the resources to pay for school fees and daily expenses. She hopes to expand her business in the future and plans to open a shop in the main market. Vicky dreams of becoming a teacher is gradually becoming a reality. Becoming a facilitator was a good preparation and a step in the right direction.

Atim Vicky continues to conduct dialogues with community members and has extended the dialogues among her peers at school. They talk about teenage pregnancy, school dropout incidence and other sexual and reproductive health issues. In their area, there can be no better testimony than her own personal experience. Asked about having more kids, Atim has this to say: “I don’t want to be disturbed again. I want to concentrate on my books and complete school because I have already lost so much time.”

Many girls take to Atim’s advice to prevent teenage pregnancy by using preventive methods and are determined to stay in school like her. Atim Vicky is thankful to IIRR’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Program for opening her eyes and her future. She pledges to be a role model for other girls who have dropped out, to encourage and support them go back to school.