By Meleah Maynard
“As a girl my birth was a scandal,” says former Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow Agnes Igoye, staring straight into the camera. As the third baby girl in a row, her birth brought shame upon her family. But, unlike many in Uganda, her father, a teacher, believed in education for girls. “My father did not give up on me or my potential,” she says in the interview with the Women in Public Service Project, a program of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
Education remained a priority even when, in 1985, Igoye and her family fled to escape Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony’s advancing army. After living in a displacement camp, the family moved to Kampala, where, in 1995, Igoye earned her undergraduate degree in social studies. She then joined the country’s immigration service and began researching the abductions that were taking place in parts of Uganda. She is currently senior immigration officer and training coordinator for Uganda’s Ministry of International Affairs.
Last year Igoye received the Humphrey School’s Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals for her leadership on human rights and her efforts to improve the lives of impoverished women and children. She has founded many organizations, including Huts for Peace, which builds shelters for women in war-torn communities. She also works with Coming Home, a project to help orphaned children who have survived abduction and violence, and has helped send thousands of books to Kampala in collaboration with Minneapolis-based Books for Africa.
Igoye has maintained her connection to the University through the Global Mentor Program and in helping to select the 2012 and 2014 Fulbright Humphrey Fellows. “I’ve been able to take what I’ve been through and use it to be a force for positive change,” she says. “Because of what I’ve been through I have the strength now to do anything.”