U.S Mission Honors Human Rights Defender Margaret Sekaggya

The United States- US Mission has recognized human rights defender, Margaret Sekaggya with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sekaggya received the award during the inaugural U.S Mission Alumni Impact Awards Ceremony held at Sheraton Hotel on Saturday. 

The event was organized to honor the impact of U.S. exchange program alumni as the Mission celebrates 60 years of its relationship with Uganda. 

Sekaggya, the Executive Director of the Human Rights and Peace Center was recognized with the highest award, beating former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and Santa Joyce Laker, the Vice Chairperson at Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited.

Also, other 12 Ugandans were honored with outstanding awards in different categories for their dedication to selfless service within their communities, region, and the world. A total of 150 people were nominated for the awards and 58 reached the semi-finals. 

Before she founded the Human Rights and Peace Center, Sekaggya served as the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) which she also helped establish. She has been a leader in human rights for over 30 years in Uganda and the world. Sekaggya was also the first United Nations (UN) special rapporteur for human rights defenders. 

“I have been working for many years, I have mentored many and it is good to see that many people are coming up to take up the work I have been doing. I was sent to the U.S. for the International exchange program, I learnt a lot, we traversed the U.S…..we went to the Bill Gates campus and I was seeing young people doing a lot. I think young people can be mentored,” said Sekaggya after receiving her award and cash price of 3.7 million Shillings. 

She added that while the UN special rapporteur, she went to 45 countries and that she continues to serve since a lot has to be done to cause a difference in the country. 

“It has been a pleasure working world over, at the UN Council, and General Assembly, fighting for human rights defenders. We need to do more, you know we are having a lot of challenges…but we have a lot of successes which we should build on,” said Sekaggya.

The Lifetime Achievement Award received by Sekaggya is named after the longest-serving Public Diplomacy Professional at the U.S. Embassy in Uganda, Dorothy Ngalombi who is recognized for her work supporting U.S. government exchange program participants over the years.

The award is given to an alum who has had the greatest impact on their communities using the experience they gained while in the United States. The impact is defined as affecting policy or social change, providing meaningful social benefit, contributing to education, training, or raising awareness about important issues.

The U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Natalie E. Brown said that the United States believes in investing in people, and partnership and that the Mission was proud to see the experiences, networks, and new perspectives gained through its programs, to thrive and positively impact the communities.

“As we celebrate 60 years of the United State’s partnership with the Ugandan people, I can think of no better way to honor the work we are doing together than by celebrating the impact of U.S. exchange program alumni,” said Ambassador Natalie. 

She added that in September last year, the Mission celebrated the first African Fulbright Scholar, the late Professor William Senteza Kajubi, who went to the United States on the program in the early 1950s before Uganda’s Independence.

“He went on to do many things to support the development of this country, including two separate terms as Makerere University Vice-Chancellor. Following his inspiring example, so many alumni of our programs return home to Uganda and make an impact in their respective sectors,” the Ambassador said. 

According to the U.S Mission, over 4,700 Ugandans have participated in the U.S. government-supported exchange programs and these alumni are under the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI and Mandela Washington Fellows), Fulbright academia exchange programs, the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) and others.

“From the first Ugandan Fulbright scholar to study in the United States in the 1950s, to the cohort of 2022 Mandela Washington Fellows under the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), alumni of U.S. government-supported exchange programs have made a significant impact in their respective sectors in Uganda, be it business, academia, education, public management, civil society, the arts, medicine, public health, the media and many more,” said Tony Kujawa the U.S. Mission spokesperson. 

Some of the other recognized Ugandans are Florence Nightingale Kuteesa, the founder Council for the Economic Empowerment of Women- Uganda (CEEWA-Uganda) with the Outstanding Public Sector award. She is a retired civil servant from the Ministry of Finance Budget office and a public finance management consultant.

“Through her impressive career in government and international organizations, Kuteesa has been instrumental in developing and instituting gender-responsive planning and budgeting reforms that have helped bridge the gap between policy and the empowerment of women and girls including gender-based advocacy enhancing the economic status of women through her organization,” reads a statement from the U.S Embassy. 

Associate Professor Etheldreda Nakimuli Mpungu, a senior lecturer and psychiatric epidemiologist Makerere University was awarded the Health sector outstanding award for innovative work in mental health and HIV. 

The award event brought together hundreds of Ugandans from across the country who participated different in U.S. government exchange programs over the past six decades. Some of the key dignitaries were former legislator Joyce Mpanga, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, and others.

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