CEDA International was honored to work with the U.S Mission Kampala and Isis-WICCE to organize the first Uganda Women of Courage Awards. The Awards are an inspiration from the International Women of Courage Awards, which was started by Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton to recognize women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk.
The Uganda Women of Courage Awards Gala was hosted by the U.S. Ambassador Jerry P. Lanier at his residence on April 7. Attendees included women’s human rights activists, international development organizations representatives, diplomatic missions and the media.
Globally, there are increasing positive stories of women overcoming appalling circumstances such as domestic violence, trafficking and sexual enslavement. This is a new moment of great promise. Only this time, women have learned that it will not be giants like Nelson Mandela who will determine Africa’s future. Instead, it will be ordinary women and the young people brimming with talent and hope that will create transformational changes which so many in previous generations never realized.
The seven women were awarded for their work in human rights/social justice, education, health, economic empowerment, peace and security, environment/climate change and media.
Hon Beatrice Anywar, who led a successful demonstration in April 2007 against the government’s sale of the Mabira forest to a sugar cane investor, was awarded for Environment/Climate Change.
Betty Tibaleka got the Media award in recognition of her local television talk show, The Untold Story, which highlights issues of social justice, and encourages sharing of experiences to break down stigma surrounding domestic violence, sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS and other public stories that are considered sensitive.
The Education award went to Beatrice Byaruhanga, a young lady who after earning a degree in education, went back to her home area and built Lira Integrated Nursery and Primary school, which provides education to 1500 children in the war ravaged area of northern Uganda.
Jesca Anyango Were, a primary school teacher who also works as a paralegal in her community helping women, orphans and families affected by HIV/AIDS access justice scooped the Health award.
The Peace and Security award went to Lydia Kantono, an assistant Superintendent of Police for her work to root-out corruption in the police force and to fight terrorism in the country.
The Human Rights/Social Justice went to Prudence Komujinya, an acid survivor who started a Foundation to provide treatment, advocate for legal redress and raise awareness about acid violence.
Elizabeth Nkonji got the Economic Empowerment award for her dedication to support widows with small credit facilities to start sustainable income generating activities.
In his address, the American Ambassador Jerry P. Lanier urged women to work hard to improve the lives of Ugandans especially those that live on less than a dollar a day. “Women make up more than 56% of the population, there is room for progress in supporting education, enhancing social justice and promoting long term sustainable development.”
The President of Isis-WICCE Dr. Thelma Awori, reminded the awardees that their work is indeed transforming their communities and they have therefore become “light houses” to guide others.
In her speech, Rehmah Kasule, Founder of CEDA International reminded the women that they have become the ray of hope and role models to inspire other women. “The candle you are holding right now can light up so many candles without losing its glow. Remember, that if you walk alone you go very fast but when you take others with you, you will go very far.” She concluded by encouraging the women: “Never fear to become amazing.”
The Awards were indeed an affirmation that women in Uganda are doing great work to empower other women and their communities. These women are role models whose stories must celebrated, told to the world and supported to impact more people. Each of the winners got a token of $1000 to enhance or start a project that will advance their causes. They will join a network of role models for support and will be connected to other women for mentoring partnerships.
Ugandan Women of Courage Awards has become an annual event, which will raise awareness about the women who have done tremendous work in their communities and to illustrate women’s dedication to building leadership. Indeed, spotlighting the accomplishments of women in Uganda is a new beginning that will contribute to the positive African voices and role models, which the younger generation needs for inspiration for a better future.