Written by Parker Wadding
Victoria Nalongo Namusisi spoke to students, faculty, and former pupils on Tuesday, September 26 about how far she has come and how much further we must still go.
Dr. Namusisi was the first female sports journalist in Uganda and went on to become a renowned political journalist and administrator, receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Carlow University in May 2018 and the African Humanitarian Award in April 2023.
Namusisi discussed her time as a journalist with a sense of comprehensive understanding that only comes from hindsight. As both a sports journalist and the Ugandan team’s female chaperone, during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, she came up against a considerable amount of sexism and domineering. Namusisi stated, “You have to put everything double as a woman.” After gaining the respect of many in her field she made the switch to political journalism.
Although Namusisi has an extensive resume the work she has done founding Bright Kids Uganda is what she is most proud of. In 2000 an orphanage called Bright Kids Uganda (BKU) was opened, it currently houses 79 children. Since then, Namusisi has also founded the Blessed Survivors Organization, which helps victims of acid attacks become financially independent, and Noah’s Ark, a home and school for orphans with disabilities. The orphans are just as much her children as the ones she birthed; they call her Jajja, which means Grandma in Uganda.
Namusisi understands better than most the value of an education and instills that idea into the minds of her children. Several times throughout the talk she refers to herself as “a simple fisherman’s daughter.” Her father, who had no traditional school education, persevered every day, rain, or shine, to provide for his family. Her father instilled the value of an education into all his children, without discrimination against his daughters, a common practice in Uganda. For seven years Namusisi walked four miles barefoot to reach her village’s primary school. This time built the foundation of what would soon become the bedrock of her mission. To provide a home, food, and education to the orphaned children of Uganda.
Through this mission, in 2000, Bright Kids Uganda was conceived. Namusisi and a team of passionate individuals raised enough money to house 10 children. “We started with the girls” Namusisi stated, because girls have an increased vulnerability to the atrocities common to homeless orphans in Uganda. In the end, 10 girls were picked, but surprisingly 13 children were taken home to BKU. This is because three of the girls had children of their own.
Namusisi spoke about the injustice many young girls in Uganda must cope with, “You are supposed to be mothered before you can become a mother.” Unfortunately, this is not the case for many girls in Uganda. According to The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), “one in four of Ugandan women ages 15-19 have given birth or are pregnant with their first child by the age of 18.” Namusisi credits this dilemma with a lack of family planning and sex education in Uganda. Sex education is emphasized in the curriculum at Bright Kids Uganda.
Abortion is strictly prohibited, making dangerous back-alley procedures much more common. The 2018 edition of the Women’s Atlas reports that 76% of abortions in Eastern Africa, where Uganda is located, are considered unsafe. Namusisi explains “So many of our people have no access to family planning faculties in the rural areas… it is in those hard-to-reach areas where girls are abused and raped, they get pregnant when they are very young, they now go to people who are not quantified to carry out abortions.”
Victoria Namusisi is an impressive individual, who has made it her life’s mission to contribute to the common good. Her commitment to helping and educating others has brought her across the world and has motivated her to continue running her charities. The love she has for her children shone through her entire talk and has changed the lives of hundreds of people.
Carlow has a study abroad internship available with Bright Kids Uganda. Students interested in this opportunity can learn more on Carlow’s Study Abroad Website or by contacting Susan O’Rourke.
Those interested in sponsoring a child through school can read more on the Bright Kids Uganda Website.