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16 January 2020 - Story

"When a girl is given the chance, she can do whatever a boy can do!"

Harriet at her home in northern Uganda. Louis Leeson / Save the Children

“Someone could call me a refugee, but I myself feel that I’m a human being again!” says 14 year-old Harriet*

When Harriet* fled bullets in South Sudan, her school uniform was one of the few things she grabbed.

"We were about to take our supper," she remembers. "Immediately we heard people running. We were like, 'What is the problem?' Vehicles moved. Then we heard a gunshot.

“I was crying, I didn’t know what to do. I thought this is when I will lose my life.”

Harriet walked for three days before arriving in a vast refugee settlement in northern Uganda.

"I thought I’d never go to school again because of the war," she says.

But in Uganda Harriet was able to enrol in our Accelerated Education Programme (AEP), which is specially designed for children who have had their education disrupted and been out of school for a year or more.

It uses a condensed and flexible curriculum, covering the seven years of Ugandan primary school in just three years, to help older children complete their primary education.   

Now, Harriet’s caught up on the education she missed, and is doing brilliantly at school.

She’s even been chosen as Head Girl by the other pupils.

“I started learning so many things,” she says.

Despite everything Harriet’s been through, she wants to make other people’s lives better. "I want to be a lawyer because I don't want to see my people suffering."

“I’m going to change the world!” she says.  

When she returned to school, Harriet’s determination and creativity went into overdrive. She believes strongly in gender equality and writes songs and plays which get her point across.

Harriet showing her young sister her homework. Louis Leeson / Save the Children

Instead of marriage, she believes girls should continue their education and have big dreams for their futures. Through song and drama, she’s fighting for every child’s right to education.

"Most, I like to sing about education… girl child education. If girls were to rule, maybe there will not be some problems, conflicts.

“When a girl child is given a chance, she can do what a boy child can do.”

She’s working hard to create opportunities for other girls and change the perceptions of what girls can do.  

This confident, smiling student is showing just what girls are capable of. It’s clear Harriet’s building a bright future, and not just for herself.

One of Harriet’s favourite songs to perform, dance and sing to goes like this:

Girl child education, girl child education,

Girl child education, can bring change in the world.

Our girls are driving, our girls get salaries,

Society benefits, our nation benefits, our country benefits.

I said remember in parliament, remember in parliament,

Girls can bring change in the world.

Harriet at school. Louis Leeson / Save the Children

*Name changed to protect identity