Empowering Ugandan Female Youth with Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy, and Gratitude Using Transcendental Meditation

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Ugandan female youth practicing Transcendental Meditation together in a group. 

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Credit: Maharishi International University

A peer-reviewed study published today in Health Care for Women International found that the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) technique can empower the lives of female youth living under conditions of poverty in the city slums of Kampala, Uganda. Outcomes include increased self-esteem, self-efficacy, and gratitude; and decreased tiredness, worry, and excessive alcohol use. TM helped these young women improve their mental and physical health, as well as their relations with family and community members.

“The stress of dealing with economic instability, gender inequalities, food and shelter insecurity, limited access to education and employment, and domestic and community violence can take its toll,” said lead author Leslee Goldstein, PhD, senior researcher, Center for Social Emotional Health and Consciousness at Maharishi International University. “These conditions result in low self-esteem, inability to cope, tiredness and low energy, and hopelessness.”

Introducing a new Theory of Empowerment from Within

According to Goldstein, this new Theory of Empowerment from Within points out the importance of the experience of the innermost aspect of the self—the experience of pure consciousness or inner Beingas the basis for building self-esteem—a critical component of empowerment.

The theory takes the current literature on empowerment a step further by highlighting the importance of transcending—a settling of the mind and body during the TM practice to allow for an experience of the inner core Self. This inner experience is accompanied by a reduction of deep stress, which allows for the essential nature of these young women to be lived and to shine.

Collaborating to empower female youth

According to Ugandan standards, youth range in age between 13 and 26. This study with 130 female youth was conducted in collaboration with two organizations: African Women and Girls Organization for Total Knowledge (AWAGO) under National Director Judith Nassali offers the evidence-based Transcendental Meditation technique to women and girls in Uganda. Empowered Women community organization under Founder and Director Goreti Katana provides workshops and training of women and girls for social wellbeing, skills development, economic empowerment, and leadership. TM has been added as one of their essential trainings. According to Nassali, “as leaders in the field helping women in our country, we find that empowerment does not come from outside, it must come from within oneself.”

“The findings of this study are extremely significant for development of psychological health and building empowerment,” said co-author Andra Smith PhD, professor of psychology at University of Ottawa, Canada. “Self-esteem is a major factor for internal wellbeing for female youth. This is an age when major physical and psychological developmental changes are taking place, a time of self-evaluation and development of self-worth and self-image. This research brings validity to the Transcendental Meditation technique as a helpful tool for these young women at a critical age.”

Study design and outcomes

This longitudinal study—with a pre-test at baseline and a post-test at five months—found statistically significant increases in self-esteem, the primary outcome measure, as well as self-efficacy, and gratitude. Also found were significantreductions in tiredness, alcohol use, worry and fatigue. The clinically strongest effects noticed by participants, family, and members of the community were improved self-esteem, and reduced excessive alcohol use.

At 8 months, a short-answer questionnaire was completed by 114 participants (88%) showing improvements in physical health, decreased stress and anxiety, and improved relationships with family members and neighbors.

Co-author Daniela Romagnoli, PhD and professor at Pennsylvania State University said that this study provides information to researchers, practitioners, and organizations looking for tools to mitigate stress and develop self-empowerment. “Often, young women in developing countries who face similar stressful situations are marginalized as a population and can’t find a way out without assistance and tools to help them. This study brings attention to their plight and offers an evidence-based technique. This research has wide applicability.” 

Comments from study participants

“I have improved in health and mentally, and even other people notice the change in me. After meditating I feel free, and my ability to do work has increased. I have improved in class performance and my relationships with others have also improved. I can control myself better now.”(NS, age 16)

“Before learning TM, my relationship with my family members was not much as it is these days after learning TM. Now I love everyone, and I feel happiness inside me. When I’m with them, especially children, you find me carrying them and playing with them, which was not there before.” (NJP, age 24)

“I am a single mother of three boys. Before learning TM I was constantly worried about supporting my family. But that has changed now. I feel much stronger and more confident in my ability to provide for my family.” (MA, age 26)

“I dropped out of school after my senior three. I am now married and have a child. I used to worry a lot and get into arguments all the time. After meditating consistently, I feel less worried. I do not get into arguments anymore. I even have more time to pursue my goals. Currently, I am enrolled in a hairdressing course.” (NJ, age 21) 

Authors’ Conclusion

The authors conclude that TM allows these female youth to better cope with the challenges they face and gives them a greater appreciation of both their ability to engage in and impact the world around them. This shift starts with empowerment from within.

This research was supported by funding from The Rona and Jeffery Abramson Foundation, which is interested in improving the mental health of women through Transcendental Meditation.

About the Transcendental Meditation Technique

Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It is easily learned, and is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. It does not involve concentration, control of the mind, contemplation, or monitoring of thoughts or breathing. The practice allows the active thinking mind to settle down to a state of inner calm. For more information visit https://www.tm.org.


Health Care For Women International

Method of Research

Experimental study

Subject of Research


Article Title

The Effect of Transcendental Meditation on Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy, and Gratitude, for Increasing Empowerment of Female Youth in Uganda

Article Publication Date


COI Statement

No conflict of interest.

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