Women leaders in Uganda’s NGO and CSO space

Uganda’s landscape of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) is enriched by dynamic women leaders who are championing various causes, from human rights to media development. These women are breaking barriers, advocating for marginalized communities, and driving impactful change.

Here, we profile some of these remarkable leaders whose dedication and resilience inspires many;

Primah Kwagala: Human Rights champion

Primah Kwagala, born on October 14, 1987, in Luuka district, is the eldest of nine children. Her father, Moses Ngobi, was the secretary-general of the Busoga Growers Cooperative Union, and her mother, Florence Nabirye, was a secondary school teacher. Kwagala’s journey into human rights advocacy was influenced by her upbringing in a patriarchal family and her struggle for gender equality. She pursued her education, earning degrees from Makerere University and the University of Pretoria, and is currently working on her PhD in Gender Studies.

As the founder of the Women’s ProBono Initiative, Kwagala aims to advance equity and amplify women’s voices in policy and societal matters.

“We founded the initiative to advance equity and promote autonomy and voices of women in policy and other matters in society. To tell other women that we have a voice, belong and deserve, and are entitled to everything,” Kwagala explains.

The initiative provides legal aid to women and helps them realize their potential to advocate for fairness. Despite financial constraints and systemic corruption, Kwagala’s unwavering commitment to human rights was recognized when she received an award from the European Union in 2022 for her outstanding work in advancing women’s rights.

Dr Sarah Bireete: Constitutional Governance

Dr. Sarah Bireete is a lawyer, human rights activist, and the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) in Uganda. She has a rich background in public defence and governance, having served as Deputy Executive Director of CCG and worked with the Public Defenders Association of Uganda. Dr. Bireete is also a familiar face in the media, regularly participating in political talk shows and contributing to discussions on constitutionalism, human rights, and civic space.

Dr Bireete’s dedication extends beyond her professional roles; she actively participates in national and international coalitions and initiatives aimed at enhancing civic engagement and democratic governance. Her recent appointment as Chairperson of the Global Network for Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) underscores her influence and commitment to ensuring electoral democracy and human rights.

Dr Emilly Comfort Maractho: Media Development advocate

Dr. Emilly Comfort Maractho, with a PhD in Cultural and Media Studies, is a distinguished academic and policy analyst. She serves as an Associate Professor of Media and Development at Uganda Christian University’s School of Journalism, Media and Communication. Her research focuses on media, gender, and social justice, areas in which she has made significant contributions through teaching, policy analysis, and capacity building.

Dr Maractho has held several influential positions, including Vice Chairperson of the Uganda Media Women’s Association and Board Member of the National Media Group Uganda. She was recently appointed Chair of the Board of Directors for the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), further solidifying her leadership in media development and advocacy for journalistic integrity.

Cissy Kagaba: Anti-Corruption advocate

Cissy Nabazinga Kagaba, a lawyer with extensive experience in human rights and governance, currently serves as the Secretariat Director of the South Sudan NGO Forum in Juba. With over 20 years of experience, Kagaba has been instrumental in anti-corruption efforts in Uganda, contributing to legislation such as the Whistleblowers Protection Act and the Leadership Code Amendment Act.

She is also a board member representing Sub-Saharan Africa on the UN Coordination Committee Against Corruption and an Advisor for the Legal Aid Service Providers Network.

Kagaba’s dedication to transparency and accountability is evident in her leadership roles and her work with various organizations, including the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda. Her advocacy extends to grassroots communities, empowering them to demand transparent and accountable governance. Her involvement in international anti-corruption efforts and advisory roles highlights her influence in promoting ethical leadership.

In addition to her expertise, Kagaba has worked as a consultant, trainer, and facilitator on numerous issues with various organizations, including MS-Denmark’s Thematic Program Policy on Anti-Corruption for the Training Centre for Development Cooperation in Tanzania. She has assessed the performance of Uganda’s accountability sector, trained local government officials in various districts across Uganda, and provided training for the Uganda Police Force. Additionally, she has been a faculty facilitator with the International Law Institute, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and CARE International. Cissy has also led several anti-corruption initiatives such as Black Monday, Return Our Money, and judicial campaigns, and has spearheaded the branding of government-distributed drugs.

Jacqueline Asiimwe: A philanthropist

Jacqueline Asiimwe, CEO of CivSource Africa, is a pioneering figure in Africa’s philanthropy sector. CivSource Africa bridges traditional philanthropy with African feminist movements, promoting effective civic participation and strategic financing models. Asiimwe’s background as a lawyer and advocate for women’s and children’s rights informs her leadership approach, which emphasizes storytelling and transformative impact.

Under Asiimwe’s stewardship, CivSource Africa has expanded significantly, now operating in multiple African countries. Her initiatives, such as Walk Talk Connect, foster deep conversations and inspire young people in low-income communities. Asiimwe’s vision and strategic execution have positioned CivSource as a leader in philanthropy and civic engagement. She also emphasizes the significance of cultivating meaningful relationships that go beyond simple transactions.

“It’s important to always strive to add value in every interaction,” Jacqueline says.

Her work in promoting good governance and electoral integrity has also been noteworthy, with campaigns focused on ensuring free and fair elections.

The women leaders profiled here represent just a fraction of the incredible female leadership in Uganda’s NGO and CSO sectors. Their stories of courage, innovation, and unwavering commitment to justice serve as an inspiration to many. They continue to transform, inspire and pave the way for future generations.


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