KAMPALA: The European Union -EU delegation to Uganda has awarded Primah Kwagala, a women rights defender with the ‘EU Human Rights Defenders Award 2022’.
This awarding was done during a Wednesday event at the residence of the Ambassador of Belgium, Rudi Veestraeten.
The EU Human Rights Defenders Award, which is now in its 11th year, is given to a human rights defender who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights in their community over the past twelve months.
Ambassador Veestraeten says that Kwagala, the Executive Director of the Women Probono Initiative (WPI), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) was chosen as the winner in recognition of her outstanding work to advance human rights, particularly the rights of women.
He said that her work has addressed human rights challenges in a number of key areas, noting that during the Covid-19 lockdown, Kwagala worked to ensure the release of women unjustly incarcerated for curfew violations, including mothers who were taking babies to hospital for treatment.
“Her work has ensured that legal aid has reached many indigent women and she had also succeeded in providing sexual and reproductive health services to women with psychosocial challenges,” the Ambassador said. “In 2019, Kwagala worked to secure the repatriation of several women who had been trafficked to the Middle East and were trapped there in difficult conditions.”
Veestraeten noted that the State and its authorities need to take part in the collective effort to respect and defend human rights for all Ugandans and that more action by the government is needed to tackle persisting human rights abuses and hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account.
The EU shortlisted Kwagala for the award together with laywer Eron Kiiza, the Co-founder and managing partner of Kiiza & Mugisha Advocates Attorneys and Kayinga Muddu Yisito, the Network Coordinator of Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE), based in Greater Masaka focused on access to basic social services; youth unemployment; oil and gas management; human rights protection; child protection and land/property ownership.
The three were shortlisted form the 85 eligible nominations that the EU received for the award.
After receiving the award, Kwagala said that she is focused on making a difference in the world by particularly advocating for the rights of girls and women to ensure that they are not violated and discriminated against.
“Well as there are steady improvements in equity programming, there remains systemic inequities and discriminatory practices in our society,” she said. “For-instance, even though the law provides that anyone can own land, the practice is that women and girls mostly have user rights over land or family property. Many are unable to exercise autonomy and agency over land and even their bodies. Harmful customary practices such as child marriage still persevere making girls the chattel of choice in the face rising commodity prices and pandemics.”
Kwagala appealed for commitment to level the playing field for girls and women by equipping them with tangible resources to be able to lead independent lives.
Besides the EU award, Primah Kwagala is an award-winning human rights lawyer. In 2020 she was named Peace and Reconciliation Laureate by the German and French Embassies to Uganda in honour of her work defending women against violence and discrimination in Uganda. On Women’s Day 2022 was named by the US Embassy to Uganda as one of Uganda’s Outstanding Women of Courage.
Kwagala is also the Chairperson of Female Lawyers in the Uganda Law Society.
The Women’s Pro bono Initiative (WPI) – an Organization she founded has a vision for a Uganda free of violence and discrimination against women and girls. The organisation offers legal representation to vulnerable women and girls suffering discrimination, legal empowerment, research and knowledge sharing.