Published on Voices

This International Women’s Day, three women who inspire me

March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “ Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality." The United Nations is encouraging the world to envision a world where women and girls can have the choice to participate in politics, get an education, have an income, and — an area I hold dear to my heart — live in a society free from violence and discrimination.
To echo this sentiment, we are giving a shout-out to women across the world in an Instagram mini-campaign called #SheIsInspiration.

There is a reason why the issue of women living in a society free from violence and discrimination is particularly personal for me. I am originally from Uganda. In 2009, as part of my graduate program, I conducted research on why there are fewer documented girl soldiers in Uganda, as opposed to their male counterparts.

My research, which later developed into a video documentary, introduced me to three women: Beatrice, Esther, and Alice. These women have one thing in common. They were all kidnapped when they were teenagers and forced to become “wives” to rebel leader Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) soldiers.

According to The Resolve, 66,000 youth between the ages of 14 and 30 were abducted from the mid-1990s to 2006. And 30,000 children under 18 were abducted from 1988 to 2004. This is when the war between the LRA and the Ugandan government was raging. Most of those affected were girls, including Beatrice, Esther, and Alice.
Alice (right) with Esther looking through photos.
Alice (right) with Esther looking through photos.

In February, we asked you in a poll what your wishes for International Women’s Day were. 42% of you said you want to see gender equality. 31% said they wanted women’s empowerment, and 27% wished for women’s human rights.

I think all three issues are critical — primarily because they can’t stand alone. A woman with rights is one who feels empowered to compete in an equal world. And this is why I am inspired by the three women I mentioned.

Beatrice struggles with raising three children, one fathered by a rebel soldier. She hopes to become a medical nurse and is already volunteering at Gulu hospital as an HIV counselor. She also formed a group of young people living with HIV to try to educate her community about the disease. Her story is one of resilience, hope and acceptance.
Zubedah (the author) with Beatrice, in Gulu, Uganda
Zubedah (the author) with Beatrice, in Gulu, Uganda

Like Beatrice, Esther is raising several children while living with HIV. Though she gets some help from the Comboni Missionaries (a local Charity in Gulu) and receives free HIV treatment from The AIDS Support Organization, Esther still struggles to make ends meet. I am particularly inspired by how hard-working she is. Esther started growing ginger, which she sells to a local Coca Cola plant. With the money, she opened a small grocery shop. On a good day, she makes 20,000 Uganda shillings (approximately $6). On a bad day, she takes home as little as 5,000 Uganda shillings (about $2).

Lastly, I greatly admire Alice’s entrepreneurial spirit. Not only did she manage to escape the rebels’ captivity, she also hopes to become a medical records keeper at Mulago hospital, Uganda’s largest government-owned hospital. For now, she makes jewelry from recycled paper and sells it at local markets.
The World Bank’s Demobilization and Integration in Uganda project has helped to ensure that people who were forced to be part of the LRA and have now returned to their homes get the assistance they need financially and through education. The project has helped more than 6,000 people.

Who inspires you? Honor her by posting her photo on Instagram. Make sure to tag it #SheIsInspiration! (And share your thoughts in the comments.)


Zubedah Robinson

Digital Engagement Specialist

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