Back in November of 2021, the audience at the 9th Annual ConnectHER Film Festival was introduced to Akia Janet: She’s 12-years old, loves swinging and dodgeball, and her best dish is Rice and Meat.
In the film, Living Hardly, Akia was depicted walking through her home of Konko A in Buikwe District, Uganda, gathering firewood and burning charcoal in the forest. While these tasks can be perceived as simple pleasures of childhood play to some of us, ConnectHER filmmakers Kabamba Sanyu Mary and Namusoke Jackie invited us into Akia’s world not to depict a day of innocence, but rather the unfortunate—and in this case, common—loss of it.
Living in a family of six as the only daughter, Akia grew up very fast, taking on the role of provider for her and her siblings when her parents were unable to, due to their struggles with alcohol. When her parents sell off the family’s food for the week to sustain their addiction, Akia takes up the role of provider, forgoing an education for the sake of surviving.
Akia’s story is not unique. Many girls like her growing up in these suburban villages walk miles daily within the forest to find ways to provide for themselves and their families, with little time to do anything else. Akia dreams of attending school with her friends, learning English, meeting teachers and beginning her career in medicine. In her own words: “My dream is to become a doctor so I can rehabilitate my parents and treat people in my community.”
Recognizing that we live in a world that needs more humans like Akia, ConnectHER Fellow Lubanga AbdulHakim advocated strongly for her to attend school. Through the filmmaking and digital technology workshops he hosts in Uganda sponsored by ConnectHER and local partners, film directors Kabamba and Namusoke were able to create the film submission "Living Hardly." It was this film that inspired ConnectHER and our partners to award thethe scholarship that then enabled Akia to begin attending boarding school at St. Andrew's Day and Boarding Primary School in Jinja District, Uganda.
Lubanga recently caught up with Akia, and he says her progress is “really heartwarming.” Since attending school, she has learned how to read, write and connect better with her peers as she continues to pursue her nursing career. There are many reasons for Akia to be smiling in this video, but it’s hard not to feel the pride she has when she reintroduces herself to us—this time in English.
Akia told Kabamba and Namusoke this in their film almost two years ago. Now, she’s making those wishes come true.
How lucky are we to have a front row seat in watching them come to life?