661 female pioneers of the Presidential Initiative on the Skilling of the Girl Programme that is tailored to fight against poverty and unemployment among the girl child group in the country, have today graduated at a ceremony presided over by President Yoweri Museveni.
The ceremony for the young female learners from the five Divisions of Kampala took place this afternoon at Kololo independence ceremonial grounds in Kampala.
The learners spent six months training in a number of skills such as tailoring, bakery, weaving, knitting, embroidery and shoe making as well as other leather related products.
President Museveni who today gave all the 661 graduands working machines related to the skills they acquired, urged them to take advantage of the readily available Ugandan market that largely depends on imports and produce quality goods to sell within the country and rid themselves of poverty.
He said that after the National Resistance Movement had liberated the country politically, new focus and efforts are now being channelled to the economic liberation of the country.
He stressed that in the economic liberation struggle focus will be on fighting poverty and unemployment that pose a great challenge to the country especially among the youth.
"Ugandans are rich and you don't have to look anywhere for the start because we import all the things we use in our lives and you need to produce and substitute all those things we import from Asia and other continents," the President said.
"We spend US$7 billion annually on imports yet we are able to produce most of them here especially domestic consumables and it is high time we engaged in import substitution and earn from our own people," he added.
The President noted that continued exportation of raw materials while importing finished products, makes the country millions of jobs that the youth dearly need thus escalating the country's unemployment challenge.
"We can't continue donating jobs to the developed countries because we need them more than those countries and we are ready to give you all the machinery you need and the start-up capital so that you are able to start your own business and employ your selves," he added.
Museveni used the occasion to warn government officials against wasting government resources amidst the challenges of poverty and unemployment. He revealed that the funding of the six-month programme and the equipping of all the 661 graduands, cost his office Shs.1.2 billion. He said that this makes it about Shs.2 million per person adding that if government prioritised the programme and made sure there is no resource wasting, the whole country can be covered.
He advised the young female graduands to put the skills and the machines they have acquired to the right use and work to eradicate poverty in their homes and also train others in their localities.
State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs Nakiwala Kiyingi commended the President for initiating the programme that targets the girl child. She noted that skilling the girl-child, translated well into skilling mothers, the family and the nation. She revealed that research has found that skilling and equipping the girl child goes a long way in reducing the rate of early marriages and unplanned pregnancy that impact negatively on the life of the girl child as it also affects national economic growth.
Christine Nakajubi, who represented the graduands, thanked the President for investing in the girl child, the majority of whom hail from very poor backgrounds and low levels of education. She said that the training and support will help them live a wholesome life. She further commended the skills acquired during the training and the technological support from the President that, she said, will see them turn into job makers instead of job seekers.