My childhood was deadly. Education saved me.
With encouragement from parents, a child can bloom in their education.
Agnes Igoye is committed to establish a rehabilitation center for victims of human trafficking in Uganda. In partnership with the International Organization for migration, Agnes will create a center for 20 women and girls that will provide schooling and vocational training for survivors, and will also train over 1,000 law enforcement officers on how to recognize and combat human trafficking. Agnes aims to produce a documentary about human trafficking in Uganda to be distributed internationally, and hopes to expand her program to serve more women.
Agnes Igoye: Young women and girls in my country, if I flashback, you know—how I grew up is really tough. The environment in which you are born, you know, the parents you have is very important.
That's why for me I am very keen and really advocate for education. Because what saved me is like, you know, my parents they had little education but they had something. I remember—the day of my birth—because it's a long story, I remember my father and mother telling me how my father had to ride the bicycle and my mother had to put a lamp so that they can see the path because at the time I was born in a hospital. They had to cross a forest, you know, which had a lion. That lion had eaten animals so it was a real danger. And my mother—you're a woman and you're pregnant and you are seated on a bicycle. So eventually they made it to hospital and the first person to come was my aunt, my father's sister. And her mission was to come and see the sex of the baby. And when she opened and saw that I was a girl, she just made an exclamation, and in my language it's like [speaking foreign language], meaning "This is yet another girl."
So for her that was really a disappointment and she sent the message to the village that my mother had given birth to another girl. So girls are regarded as useless. It's the boys who carry the traditions. It's the boys who carry the family name. And being born in that environment and living through that and like I said, you know, and you are being called a prostitute even as you're playing. And then I asked my mother, "What does this word mean? Because the men and the boys keep calling me this word, And yet I have my real name." That's when she told me what that meant, and I made her a promise. I said "Mommy, I'm going to really work so hard in life and embarrass these men by success in life." So that was a driving force for me and lucky for me they allowed the girls to have an education. We walked long distances, we went to school, you know, it was five kilometers. I don't know how much that is in miles. And you are teased, because that's not your space, where you're going to school with the boys. But, you know, you just go through that. And then along the way that's when the Lord's Resistance Army also disrupted our lives in the village, and they were targeting, again, the girl-child. They didn't want married women. They wanted virgins. They wanted girls to take for sexual exploitations. So again with my sisters we had to flee the village. I remember running through those bushes and forests and ending up in an internally-displaced people's camp.
So it's tough, you know, being a girl. The sexual exploitation, and if I didn't have the parents I have because when my father making that decision from that camp to move us far away to the city, having lost everything, he had his girls in his mind. And to really drum it into us that we are not useless, we can amount to something, really motivated me to get an education. So it's tough. I know it can improve because I've seen it improving. The more you educate your people, the more you educate a girl, the more she stays longer in school, the more you educate parents, the more they'll be mindful about education, and so many other things.
- In Igoye's native village, girls were often ridiculed on the basis of their sex. In her case, for example, boys would call her "prostitute" was she was still a chid at play. Also, the sexual exploitation of girls was not unheard of.
- Igoye used their harassment, she says, as fuel to study, work hard, and become successful.
- Another reason for her success, and why she advocates for female empowerment, is the encouragement she received from her father growing up. He would often tell her and her sister that they weren't "useless" and could amount to something.
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