The Heads of Missions of the European Union (EU) Member States, the EU Delegation and Norway announced Ms. Pamela Judith Angwech, the Executive Director of Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G) as winner of the EU Human Rights Defenders Award 2017. The annual European Union Human Rights Defenders Award (EU HRD), now in its sixth year, is granted by the EU and its member states in Uganda, to recognize achievements of Human Rights Defenders in the country.
Another IDF partner Mr. Gard Benda, the Executive Director for World Voices Uganda (WVU) was also one of the runners up list of the top five finalists who was recognized alongside Ms. Angwech. Fourteen (14) nominees from across Uganda were assessed by the EU member states and the two organisations were among the best five and one being the winner.
Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) are individuals who, individually or with others, act to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The work of HRDs has a positive impact on a country’s development and is essential for encouraging the respect for human rights as recognised by international human rights standards and agreements. HRDs need to be protected from interference and reprisals while executing their work and their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly need to be safeguarded to enable them to defend others.
GWED-G and World Voices Uganda have been supported by IDF for more than three years under the Human Rights Programme with projects focusing on strengthening informal systems in delivering justice and peace in local communities. World Voices Uganda approach has been through the “Bataka courts” where elders in communities are entrusted to use their basic knowledge of law, traditional customs and influence to resolve cases of conflict in their respective communities as well as reconcile the parties concerned into a more peaceful coexistence. On the other hand, GWED-G’s interventions have targeted post-war conflicts areas like Gulu in Northern Uganda especially communities that were resettling back to their land. GWED-G has also been able to use another innovative approach of “model men” to promote realization of women rights.
“IDF started supporting our activities especially at such a time when people were just returning from the IDP settlement camps after peace agreements had been made. This helped us support a number of women through recovery period. Today, we boost of 500 women groups at the grassroots, which is a good indicator that long term partnerships yield better results”, says Angwech.
There is no doubt that recognition of Ms. Angwech for the award was a great achievement given her long track record in promoting the rights of war-affected women and girls who suffered as a result of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in Northern Uganda. Her efforts in advancing women’s and girl’s rights and gender equality have contributed a lot in creating peace and smooth resettlement of many people but most importantly she has also done great work of economically empowering grassroots groups improve their livelihoods through village savings groups.
“It was the start of a long journey of more than 10 years, without knowing where it would bring you,” remarked Henk Jan Bakker, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Uganda at the event.
In a telephone interview with Ms. Angwech, her joy couldn’t be hidden, she added that the award was a sign that the issues of northern Uganda are not forgotten. “IDF support in this long partnership was very key in enabling us produce results. She added that most donors want quick results yet long term partnerships produced better outcomes. She also called upon partners to embrace long term partnerships because it allows specialization and provides key learning areas to issues that are frequently addressed and gives meaning to numbers, you see more tangible results”, Angwech emphasized.
Ms. Angwech concluded by dedicating the award to the women of Uganda “This award overall goes to the women of Uganda who do similar work, they are few in a gender sensitive world who champion the critical cause of Human Rights at the grassroots level and the fact of being a woman rights defender and emerging winner in an area that has always been dominated by men. She called upon the women to never give up the struggle”.