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Ritah’s Story– Defeating Adversity through Education, Fighting HIV/AIDs by Giving Back

Ritah Namwiza was able to go to school thanks to the Children of Uganda. She now works for UNAIDS in Uganda.

As the 19th International AIDS Conference ended this week, the delegates packed up, said their goodbyes and caught jets back to their home countries.  One of those delegates was Ritah Namwiza, who recently completed a nine-month training program with UNAIDS—the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS—in Geneva.  Ritah went back to Kampala, Uganda, where she will work with UNAIDS to help strengthen youth organizations and build awareness and support for projects designed to end the spread of HIV.

There was a time in Ritah’s life when it was impossible for her to imagine the life she lives today. One day when she was 12 years old, her father came home to their rural Ugandan home, sold all of their possessions, and left his wife and six children.  Her mother was unable to care for the children.  Ritah, the youngest, went to live with relatives. “Back then,” she said, “the future was too bleak to contemplate.”

Ritah learned that Children of Uganda, an Aid for Africa member that cares for AIDS orphans and disadvantaged and vulnerable children, offered scholarships to girls like her.  She applied and was accepted.  Children of Uganda supported her through high school.  Then she received a scholarship to Makerere University in Kampala, where she completed her degree in community psychology. 

Ritah’s success is astounding for a person of poverty in Sub Saharan Africa.  But because she is a woman, Ritah’s story is doubly remarkable.  She helps support her mother and is committed to staying in Uganda and making a difference for others.  “Young people in Uganda see the West as very attractive, she said, “but we are needed at home.”

The AIDS Conference was a great place to learn and share experiences, according to Ritah.  “But we have to translate the strategies into action,” she said.  “The 1.2 million people living with HIV in Uganda want to see action.” Ritah is ready to comply.

Ritah is an example of why it is so important to support girls education in Sub Saharan Africa.  The Aid for Africa Girls Education Fund is committed to empowering girls through education. When a girl in Africa gets the chance to go to school and stay in school, the cycle of poverty is broken and things change.  Learn more