The sudden death of 23-year old Esther Nakajjigo, also known as Uganda’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, continues to trigger sadness beyond Uganda’s borders.
This is because many people who knew Essie, as she was fondly referred to, cannot come to terms with the fact that her outstanding work, passion, charisma and dreams in advocating for the rights of young girls has been brought to a brutal end by an accident.
Nakajigo died last Saturday June 13, after she was hit by a heavy gate at a Shopping Mall during a heavy storm. She had gone to the USA to pursue studies at Drexel University, in Philadelphia.
Among the agencies that have expressed sadness at Nakajjigo’s passing is EuropeAid, the European Union’s office in charge of managing the aid programmes for the 27-member nation organisation, the European Union Delegation in Uganda, The Danish Embassy, The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga among many other notable individuals and entities.
Last year, she was chosen to be among only 16 young people who attended the European Development Days in Brussels, Belgium. Her star had shone bright before that, thanks in part to her participation in the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) 2018 edition. The YALI initiative is the brainchild of former US President Barack Obama as a platform to nurture future leaders of the continent.
EU delegation ambassador to Uganda praised the late Esther for ‘her passion & enthusiasm for the cause she had embraced.’
Below is the full statement by the EU delegation in Uganda on the passing of Esther Nakajjigo;
The Staff of the European Union Delegation to Uganda, together with EU Member States’ Missions and EU institutions in Brussels, mourn the untimely death of Esther Nakajjigo, who passed away on 13th June following a tragic accident in Utah, USA. Esther, Commonly called Essie, was known as Uganda’s Ambassador for Women and Girls.
Esther Nakajjigo had dedicated her life to supporting vulnerable people especially the youth. Essie’s service for underprivileged members of the community started when she used funds given to her for university tuition to establish the Princess Diana Health Centre III in Makindye, Kampala.
The centre provided free adolescent health and reproductive services to young people aged 10-24 years. In the following years, she traversed the country sensitising girls and boys on the risks of teenage pregnancy and creating opportunities for teenage mothers so they could have a second chance in life.
Among the most outstanding achievements of Essie’s work is the Saving Innocence Challenge” a reality TV show that saw girls from well off families go on an expedition to experience the reality of the underprivileged peers and seek to transform the lives of these disadvantaged girls. As part of the Savings Innocence Challenge” Essie shone a light on the shocking situation of teenage girls in the Kalangala islands who, out of social-economic vulnerability, engage in what is dubbed as “Sex for Fish”, an exploitative practice resulting in teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and abject poverty.
Recently, Essie also started campaigning to raise awareness for the plight of the refugees hosted in Uganda.
Based on her outstanding work in Uganda, Essie was selected as one of only 16 young leaders worldwide to participate in the 2018 European Development Days (EDD) organised by the EU institutions in Brussels, Belgium. At that meeting, she presented on the topic “Women and Girls on the Move: Towards Safe work and Migration for Women.” alongside the Executive Director of UNWomen, the Deputy Director General of IOM and other dignitaries.
At the time of her death Esther was an associate for International Programmes at Drexel University Philadelphia. She leaves behind a young charity organisation she had founded. She will be missed by the human rights fraternity not only in Uganda but across the globe. Whereas the challenges she addressed were exceptionally grim, Essie was a very positive, optimistic and tremendously compassionate young woman. She was and will continue to be an inspiration to many.
At the EU delegation in Uganda, we shall miss her passion, determination and courage to transform lives, especially of the young people, but most importantly her passion to make Uganda safer for for women and girls.
We convey our deepest condolences to Essie’s family and friends for their sad loss.
May her soul rest in eternal peace!
Update on Return of her body
The death of Nakajjigo has triggered a widely circulated online appeal to the government of Uganda to permit the return of her body so she can be given a decent burial.
However, the Ministry of Health has turned down this call, citing a standing order by the President banning the importation of all bodies of persons from other countries due to fear of importing the Coronavirus.
A letter that was written by the Director General of Health Services Dr. Henry Mwebesa, urged the family members and agitators of Essie’s return to postpone burial arrangements until the situation about COVID-19 normalizes.