Sandra, the youngest of six children, was seven months old when thugs broke into her house and murdered her father.
When Sandra was still in primary school, her mother lost her job and her sister was hospitalized for several months. Too poor to pay the rent, her family had to move to Bwaise, a dangerous neighborhood near Kampala, Uganda.
By age 16, Sandra was one of many young girls involved in the sex trade. "I did it because I was idle and we had no money to pay rent or to buy food," Sandra lamented.
In 2009, Sandra discovered she was pregnant. The father of the child abandoned her when she refused to have an abortion.
BRAC invited Sandra to join one of our Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) girls clubs, where one of our trained mentors taught her valuable life skills like leadership, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS prevention. This motivated Sandra to get tested for HIV.
"When I found I was HIV negative, I gave [the sex trade business] up," Sandra explained.
After receiving livelihood and financial literacy training from the ELA club, Sandra took out a UGX150,000 ($63) microfinance loan from BRAC and started a business selling prepared food, where she earns up to UGX40,000 ($17) a day (as a sex worker, she earned UGX8,000, or $3, a day).
"My plan in the future is to expand my business and to save enough money to educate my daughter and look after her so that she will not be like me," says Sandra.
Sandra's decision is not only changing her daughter's life. When Sandra joined ELA, 10 of her club members were sex workers. Today, all 10 girls have abandoned the sex trade business in favor of other income generating activities.
This is the Girl Effect.