Harvard’s 2017 Star Grad, Uganda’s Agnes Igoye Wins Oval Office Award

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By Samuel Muwanguzi

In Summary: Routinely teased for packing cassava for lunch, the poor village girl nearly quit school.  She survived the belittling gender inequities, trumped the odds of poverty, defied the ravages of war, and emerged as a consummate professional and scholar to thrust herself and stand tall on the world stage as a distinguished crusader against human trafficking. She earned a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School and graduated as a Mason Fellow in the Mid-career Master in Public Administration Program. From the Harvard square, she walked away with multiple honors including the prestigious Oval office summer internship funding as a WAPPP Fellow. The 2011/12 Fulbright and Hubert Humphrey Fellow was featured in the Harvard Gazette for her accomplishments; was an invited speaker at multiple events across the USA; named a Clinton Global Initiative University ‘committed mentor’; bagged a DF grant from the United Nations in 2016 to construct a rehabilitation center for survivors of human trafficking, and has thrown herself into the throes of writing a book. While straddling the corridors of the UN headquarters in New York, she has etched her fingerprints on some of its resolutions as an accomplished scholar, consummate law enforcement professional, and activist. The climax of her epic one-year program was the highly coveted and internationally publicized recognition by the 2017 commencement speaker at Harvard, facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Coming top on the list of the 2017 publicly honored Steller graduates, she pulled a first one for the Pearl of Africa. Now an icon of the global anti-human trafficking crusade, Uganda’s national training manager and deputy national coordinator of the anti-trafficking task force, Agnes Igoye has placed Uganda on a pedestal, too exceptional to simply give lip service. Yet, even as she continues basking in the brightest of limelight; brushing shoulders with the most famous, influential, and powerful in the world, success has not gone into her head. Instead, Agnes Igoye’ humility and down to earth demeanor remains as adorable as it is infectious. The unassuming girl from Kaboloi Village in Pallisa district is back in Uganda to complete her internship and resume her duties with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. To this cosmopolitan trail-blazer, yet culturally-grounded Atesot, the sky is not even the limit. Failure to join and participate in her anti-human trafficking crusade is neither optional nor acceptable. Atemele, Agnes Igoye, Yoga Aitelekar! (Awesome girl, Agnes Igoye, Congratulations! Thank you for the victory!).

Agnes Igoye earned her Master’s in Public Administration and graduated as a Mason Fellow from Harvard University Kennedy School Mid-career Program.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories to feature in a forthcoming special edition highlighting the accomplishments of the seven Ugandans who graduated from Harvard University this year.

Cambridge, Massachusetts—Harvard’s 2017 best graduate, Uganda’s Agnes Igoye last June left the most prestigious university in the world celebrating her multiple honors and laughing all her way to the bank. She bagged cash prizes at the end of what she described as one of the most transformative years of her life.  She walked away from the Harvard Square with a Master’s in Public Administration (MC/MPA) and as an Edward S. Mason Fellow from the Kennedy School Mid-career Program. Additionally, she won the prestigious Oval office summer internship funding as a Women in Public Policy Program (WAPPP) Fellow. She also received another cash award as an Outstanding Mason Fellow for embodying the spirit and mission of the Edward S. Mason Program at Harvard Kennedy School.

Agnes Igoye savoring her graduation from Harvard’s Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts last May.

The Ugandan deputy national coordinator of the anti-trafficking task force, Agnes Igoye, was also the first to be featured in the commencement issue of the Harvard gazette in a series of the stellar graduating students from the University. Every year, the university recognizes the most outstanding students by featuring their scholarly and professional accomplishments in the commencement issue of the Harvard Gazette. A hard copy of the Harvard Gazette is distributed to the over 40,000 guests who annually attend the graduation ceremony.

The 2011/12 Fulbright and Hubert Humphrey Fellow, who also doubles as Uganda’s   training manager at the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control, joined Harvard in August 2016 on full scholarship to pursue a Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration (MC/MPA) Edward S. Mason program at the Kennedy School. “The three awards I received included the Robert Woods scholarship; George W. Mallinckrodt Fellow; and Dean's Fellow, all amounting to about $100,000 dollars,” the soft spoken law enforcement told the EADM in an interview last month.

With all smiles, Agnes delights in her success soon after the commencement ceremony at Harvard square.

She was elected to the Kennedy School Student Government as a class representative for the Mid-Career- Masters in Public Administration Program and represented her 77 classmates at their Mason commencement ceremony. Beyond her scholarly pursuits at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Agnes Igoye heavily invested both time and energy as an invited keynote speaker, conference presenter, mentor, panelist, or moderator during her eventful one-year program. She drew valuable life experiences brushing shoulders with the most famous, influential, and powerful in the world while at the same time savored those moments of basking in the brightest of limelight.   Yet, even as she continues to attract global attention as a result of her accomplishments, success has not gone into her head. Instead, Agnes Igoye’ humility and down to earth demeanor remains as adorable as it is infectious.

Agnes Igoye with some of her 77 classmates who completed the mid-career program at Kennedy School last May.

But the climax of her epic one-year program was the highly coveted and internationally publicized recognition by the 2017 commencement speaker at Harvard, facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, CEO  of the premier global social media platform. When Mark Zuckerberg took to the podium to address the audience at the Harvard Square, he first called out Agnes out of the four graduates he recognized.  “I met Agnes Igoye, who’s graduating today. Where are you, Agnes? She spent her childhood navigating conflict zones in Uganda, and now she trains thousands of law enforcement officers to keep communities safe,” the youthful billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg said during the commencement also attended by Uganda’s Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.

Uganda’s Agnes Igoye, the 2017 Harvard’s top graduate student with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the commencement ceremony.

The other three graduates Mark Zuckerberg recognized were Kayla Oakley, Niha Jain, and David Razu Aznar from Mexico. “That was a great and unforgettable honor,” said Agnes Igoye in an interview with the EADM. It is a tradition at Harvard University to mention the most outstanding graduating students during the graduation ceremony. Coming top on the list of the 2017 publicly honored Steller graduates, she pulled a first one for the Pearl of Africa. Commenting on her reactions when Mark Zuckerberg called out her name and the compliments he showered on her during his speech at a gathering of more than 40,000 people from all corners of the world, Agnes took it in good stride. However, the magnitude of the honor was not lost on her.

“My reaction was normal because I was emotionally prepared for it. I knew I would be mentioned in his speech, he had told me. And I had a special guest seat. I had already met with him and he made me feel comfortable in his presence,” Agnes told the EADM.

“Despite that, I wasn’t ready when he called me out. I had covered my head, from the rain and when I stood up, my graduation cap was off my head and I had to put it back on,” she said with a chuckle. “The only difference was that my name was now mentioned in front of the ‘whole world’, which made me realize how honored I was because, let’s face it, All graduating students at Harvard are exceptional, but he chose my story. He even asked whether I would be there at the time he would talk about me,” she said bullishly.

The joy of a top Harvard graduate. Uganda’s Agnes Igoye poses for a memorable photo on the commencement day at Harvard Square.

Agnes recalls that when Mark Zuckerberg met her and the three other graduates he recognized in his commencement speech, the Facebook founder told them that when he was selected to give the commencement speech, he reached out to the University for the List of its most outstanding graduating students. “He told us that the stories of the four of us he would include in his speech were the most outstanding and that was the reason he was meeting us,” Agnes recalled. She told the EADM that although his assistant had given him researched information about the four graduates he was to mention in his speech, he wanted to hear the stories from us ourselves. “His humility is unbelievable. He joked about us achieving what he couldn’t achieve at Harvard, graduating from Harvard University,” she said.

Harvard’s 2017 most outstanding graduate, Uganda’s Agnes Igoye with Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda soon after the commencement ceremony at Harvard Square.

Asked to share the finer details of her conversation with one of the most powerful, influential, and fifth richest man in the world, Agnes plays her cards close to her chest. “Am not able to disclose everything I spoke with him during our private meeting because it was a confidential conversation with him and his wonderful wife, Pricilla,” she said selecting her words carefully. However, Agnes said that Mr. Zuckerberg was very interested in hearing about her counter human-trafficking activities in Uganda. “We spent more time talking about me and my work. He is a very good listener and really sincere about caring and transforming communities. His wife Pricilla is equally passionate about community-based work,” Agnes said. She could not offer any more details about her private conversation with the innovative and enterprising billionaire.

While Agnes Igoye survived the belittling gender inequities, trumped the odds of poverty, defied the ravages of war, and has emerged as a consummate professional and scholar to thrust herself and stand tall on the world stage as a distinguished and recognized crusader against human trafficking, she is not oblivious to the easily forgettable but pivotal turning points in her life. A daughter of a poorly-paid primary school teacher whose father had just been transferred to City Primary School in Kampala,  Agnes Igoye, then a little village girl plucked from some remote place in Pallisa district was allowed to enroll at Kitante Primary School, then a preserve for children from affluent families in the city.  But it was not long before the poverty streak followed and found the little Agnes at the School just as night follows day. Routinely teased for packing cassava for lunch, the poor village girl nearly quit school to escape the humiliation.

She defied the poverty streak and while at Harvard Agnes was elected to represent students in the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration program on the Kennedy School Student Government (KSSG).

“I routinely packed cassava or potatoes for lunch   and not rice and beef or chicken as kids from well-to-do families regularly brought to school. Kids from affluent families constantly mocked me for packing cassava or potatoes for lunch because that is what my family could afford,” Agnes recalled.  When the humiliation persisted, Agnes contemplated quitting school until she mustered courage to report the bullies to the Headmaster, the late Augustine Dymock (“AD”) Sozi. “Headmaster AD Ssozi (RIP) acted swiftly; crack the whip and called the bullies to order and encouraged me to continue with my education because the harassment from the kids stopped immediately,” Agnes Igoye recalled in tribute to the renowned educationist.

She told the EADM that she would perhaps  never have scaled such highest of heights and savored the accolades she has earned from around the world had it not been, partly, for the timely intervention of the late Augustine Dymock (“AD”) Sozi. “He was such a fatherly figure who enforced strict discipline at the school and saved me from the constant humiliation I was enduring from some students from affluent families,” she reflectively recalled.

The late AD Ssozi, former Headmaster of Kitante Primary School.

Born in Kaboloi Village to Odet Francis and Regina Ariokot Odet of Pallisa district, Agnes Igoye was raised in a community that was and remains unapologetically patriarchal by every measure. The third born of six sisters and two brothers, her birth was never celebrated in this community with strong preference for boys. “This quickly earned me the nickname ‘amalayat’ literary meaning prostitute,” the straight speaking Agnes recalled. But, according to Agnes, her father, a primary school teacher; an average education but by all accounts the lowest paid civil servant, had a different view of his daughters from that of his community.   

“He worked hard to give equal educational opportunities to both his daughters and sons,” she said with gratitude to her retired father.  Perhaps that explains why Agnes, like all other rural children, walked barefooted to the village primary school before her father was transferred to City Primary School in Kampala. “I walked barefooted to school for 3 miles and often returned home with bleeding feet and toes due to the sharp stones in the uneven marram roads and village paths that pierced my tender feet,” she recalled with laughter.

With the dark past behind her, Agnes Igoye is seen here during a presentation at the opening session of the Conference on Gender and International Affairs at Fletcher School at Tufts University where she headlined the event with the Former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy last December.

Because her father was a teacher at City Primary School, Agnes was accepted as a beneficiary of her father’s privileges to attend Kitante Primary School.  It is at Kitante that Agnes wore her first pair of shoes. But her stay in Kampala was short-lived. When the 1985 coup and 1986 war that toppled the Obote and Tito Okello regimes respectively turned Kampala into a battlefield, her family returned to the village. She recalled that during one of the wars to take over Kampala, all the family members had to stuff their ears with cotton wool to protect their eardrums from bursting as a result of the bombs that were pounding the city and rocking the neighborhood.

“It was so bad that at one time my sister fainted and almost died because of the heavy gunfire. The gate to our home in the city was like a frontline; a contingent of soldiers and some of their big guns were stationed there and they were shooting randomly all day long,” she recalled.

But Agnes said that the village where they returned for safety was soon plunged into rebellion and was to endure a prolonged period of insecurity. “It was like jumping from a frying pan to fire!” she exclaimed. Because of the insecurity in the village where her family had returned, they were forced to move again. As a result, Agnes Igoye attended several primary schools close to where her father was transferred. These included Pallisa girl’s primary school, Kitante primary school, and Nagalama Primary School.

Her past could not define her. Seen here, Agnes with former US Vice President Walter Mondale at the University of Minnesota.

The insecurity in her home village worsened    when the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels attacked and even kidnapped her cousin sister who has never been seen again. She recalled that during the Kony rebellion, village communities were torched and populations herded into internally displaced peoples camps (IDPs) where killings, rape, defilement, and all forms of dehumanizing criminality took place.  At that time, an internally displaced people’s camp was the location of her village home where some of her family and relatives lived.  Agnes told the EADM that the harrowing experiences in internally displaced camps were compounded by widespread communicable diseases, abductions, and poverty that mostly left women and children beaten black and blue.

But in the midst of all those horrifying experiences, lady luck smiled at Agnes Igoye and she passed her primary leaving examinations with flying colors. She was admitted at Trinity College Nabbingo for her ordinary and advanced level education. Because the wars in Teso sub region left entire communities out high and dry, Agnes Igoye was nudged to dip her soul and toes into the deep waters of law-enforcement to combat lawlessness and impunity. “While I was personally fortunate to survive the wars and some of its physical effects, the traumatic experiences endured by the communities inspired me to study hard and commit to becoming a law enforcement professional to protect vulnerable people and also punish perpetrators of criminality,” she said.

From Nabbingo, Agnes was admitted to Makerere University where she studied social sciences for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Later, she Studied management at Uganda Management institute before winning the Fulbright/Hubert Humphrey Fellowships, the second Ugandan to  win the double.  Agnes went to the University of Oxford in UK as a Fulbright/Hubert Humphrey Fellow in 2010-11 to study forced migration and simultaneously enrolled for Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship at the   University of Minnesota in the United States.

Agnes Igoye was recognized and featured in the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board Annual report to US senate as a Fulbright Alumni making a difference.

As to what inspired her to pursue another Master’s degree at Harvard Kennedy School yet she already had one before, Agnes minces no words: “I have never seen anything like the Mid-career program at Harvard Kennedy School in terms of the kind of people they recruit into the program,” she said. “If you are a kind who arrives feeling like a world star, very quickly you realize you are among giants,” she said. She recalled that in their first class session, they were asked ‘look at your neighbor…‘The person next to you could be the next President’. “I laughed so hard when my neighbor looked at me, with Presidential thoughts of me. A year later, I can no longer laugh because being president is no longer the scariest thing in my life,” she said with a chuckle.

She told the EADM that during the year she spent at Harvard, she was surrounded by very confident people and some of them introduce themselves as the next Presidents of their respective countries.  “So even if I don’t become a President, am so sure I will have very many friends who are Heads of State in a few years,” she said with self-assurance. “Some are already running for office,” she said.  Further highlighting the benefits of studying at Harvard, the anti-human trafficking activist said that Harvard is a convening place that offers access to anybody including those in high security prisons if students request to interact with them.  For example, “we even had Edward Snowden, the American fugitive in Russia teach a class via skype,” she revealed.

The American fugitive in Russia Edward Snowden taught a class at Harvard’s Kennedy School via Skype.

To Agnes Igoye, the holistic value of her one year experience at Harvard was as overwhelming and transformative as it was unique and diverse. “I had the opportunity to meet and learn from world leaders including Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, and other global luminaries I would never have dreamt of meeting in my life,” she said. “Harvard is a place where people you would like to meet on your list before you die are found on the go,” she said. At Harvard, she continued, “you are spoilt for choice and you have to be extremely selective in choosing whom to meet because it is too difficult to be at several events at the same time.

“You walk in the corridors and interact with people who you would ordinarily have to pay to listen to them speak,” she said with discernible admiration. “Harvard is indeed a special place; if you want to become a President in future, you interact with Presidents and ex-Presidents,” Agnes said. Yet, although she has met the brightest and the most famous, her unassuming nature is still humbling. For example, all students in her program visited countries of their choice to meet Heads of State and top leaders in the public and private sectors.

Uganda’s Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda taught a class at Harvard Kennedy School via Skype.

“Some of my classmates went to Uganda and met with President Museveni, others went to Japan, Israel, etc. and all met with Heads of State,” she said, adding, “President Kagame of Rwanda came and taught our class while some world  leaders, including our own Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda  spoke to us via skype,” she said. She personally visited Israel, and her team was hosted by Israel President Rivlin at Presidents house. Her group met with other leaders in Government and private sector, with study tours of Jerusalem, Golan Heights, Tel Aviv, Masada, Dead sea, sea of Galilee, Gaza strip, and borders with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. “We also visited Palestine- Ramallah including meeting with senior Fatah officials,” Agnes said. “It’s been a privilege being at Harvard; the network of really loyal Alumni take care of each other,” she said.

Agnes Igoye with her Harvard classmates on a visit to Israel and other countries in the Middle East.

The Ugandan Deputy national coordinator of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons, Agnes Igoye, whose graduate program emphasized the development of a broad range of analytical and leadership skills to initiate and implement major political, social or economic change, said Harvard has taught her to ask the right questions and to listen more mindfully to people. “The people have the answers to problems we the officials seek to solve,” she said. “Survivors of human trafficking have the knowledge and answers to help overcome the challenge of human trafficking,” she said. She told the EADM that survivors of human trafficking are capable of guiding officials on how best to support them and respond to human trafficking problems. “Those survivors know better because they have gone through the trauma,” she said.

After undergoing the radical make-over, now Agnes Igoye suggests that law enforcement officials should listen more and communicate better to survivors of human trafficking by asking the right questions. “The backgrounds and circumstances of the survivors may offer valuable solutions to eliminate trafficking in humans,” she opined.

Agnes Igoye with her debate teammates during her mid-career program at the Kennedy School. The group received theoretical and practical communication competences to apply in their respective professional endeavors. Some of her team members include Meredith, Valerio, Herbie and their Professor, Steve Jarding.

Drawing lessons from her humble background as an example of a poster child who has defied multiple odds of gender inequities, poverty, and war, the anti-human trafficking crusader said that there is nothing impossible to achieve in life however adverse one’s background is. “For a village girl born in a community that didn’t appreciate a girl child; who walked 3 miles to school; who endured mockery at school; who had to dig to grow food  for the family because our parents could not afford buying food; who had to periodically ran away from the Lord’s resistance army  of Joseph Kony; who was displaced and lived in internally displaced camps; and who grew up as a teenager without a home, no one would have ever thought that I would grow up  and go to Harvard,” she tearfully recounted the obstacles she had to overcome.

She told the EADM that after beating all such odds and acquiring a world class education  at the prestigious Harvard University, her primary goal now is to continue mentoring and inspiring the youth to attain their highest potential and realize their desired goals. “I am not the most brilliant person in Uganda, not even close. Yet, I managed to go to Harvard,” she said. “But I am also saddened that many of our Youth cannot even open the application to apply to Ivy League schools, thinking they are not good enough to apply and secure admission,” She lamented.

“We must change our mindset and starting believing that Harvard is not exclusively for the richest and most famous. Even poor girls can go to Harvard. I did, “she declared confidently.

Agnes Igoye’s adverse background never defined her destiny. She now brushes shoulders with the most powerful and famous in the world. Here, she is seen sharing a light moment with Hillary Clinton.

Beyond the scholarly insights, professional grounding, and the global networks she built, Agnes Igoye, who doubles as the manager for the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, also pulled off another first one: “As an extra-curricular activity, I received self-defense/martial arts training from Gal Lin, who has trained the Israeli military for over 10 years,” she said. She continued, “Gal Lin was the Director at The Martial Arts Training Department, YAHALOM special operations unit, The Engineering Corps of the Israel Defense Forces,” she said.  Gal Lin is credited for establishing the martial arts department, responsible for staff management and the training of 300 elite troops. “Gal was a fellow student at Harvard Kennedy School who also graduated from the Masters in Public Policy Program with us,” she revealed. So, don’t mess with Agnes!

The more cash prizes her accomplishments drew, the more inspired she became to give back to her community in Pallisa and Uganda in general.   Indeed, in 2016, when she received a $50,000 Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation (DVF) International prize from the United Nations, she invested the money in the construction of a rehabilitation center for survivors of human-trafficking in Pallisa.  “When I received the DVF Award, I decided to use that money to build a center to rehabilitate female survivors. But I need to furnish the center; survivors have health, security, social and economic needs, all of which require resources,” she said.   With multiple honors firmly stacked away under her belt, she has now rolled-up her sleeves to do battle against human trafficking in Uganda and around the world. When she returned to Uganda in mid-June, Agnes Igoye hit the ground running to oversee the operations of the center in Pallisa.

“I have always used my personal resources however small to take care of survivors some of whom I sometimes pick up in the middle of the night to take to my house for safety,” Agnes Igoye recounted. However, the anti-human trafficking crusader laments that there is only so much that she can do as an individual. Yet, rehabilitation of survivors is key in the campaign to combat the global syndicate. “Because we do not take care of our survivors needs, we end up losing court cases that we could have won easily,” the counter-trafficking expert and activist observed.

With the completion of the Pallisa-based center, Agnes Igoye has quickly made a plea to potential donors to lend a hand. “Since trafficking is everywhere and affects everybody, I welcome grants from everyone, including fellow Ugandans, who have always expressed their compassion towards victims of human trafficking,” she pleaded with passion. She paid tribute to Ugandans who are woken every day to devastating stories about trafficked Ugandans and are asked to help the victims, especially girls who are most affected. “Imagine if every working Ugandan donated just 500 Ugandan shillings! Imagine how much work we can do and accomplish together? A lot!” she visualized with optimism. To all men and women of goodwill, failure to join and participate in her anti-human trafficking crusade is neither optional nor acceptable. Your call.

She plans to expand the center to accommodate more survivors; provide Health/Psychosocial support; and offer education and skills training to help survivors get jobs. “But more importantly, we need to empower survivors to regain their self-esteem and confidence to competently participate in court processes to hold traffickers accountable,” she envisaged. “These initiatives should also be replicated in other African countries and globally   because this is a global problem!” she said.

Agnes Igoye with fellow recipients of the Oval office funding award as Women in Public Policy Fellow (WAPPP) with the Director of the program, Victoria Budson.

Agnes is using the WAPPP cash award to support a grassroots campaign towards social transformation in Pallisa district in Eastern Uganda this summer. Treading the beaten village paths, she is preaching, with almost evangelical zeal, the gospel of empowerment and self-reliance to the impoverished women and girls in rural areas. She is supporting efforts by the   district woman Member of Parliament to establish and implement programs for social-economic empowerment of rural women and girls. “I am even blogging on the WAPPP Harvard Kennedy School Website to highlight my internship activities,” she said. Agnes Igoye is spending time visiting schools in the district including those to which she has been donating books since 2011. “While I am still donating books to schools I have been assisting over the years, I have expanded the program to rally communities to build new schools and community libraries to benefit from the book donations,” she said about her ongoing internship activities.   Over the years, Agnes Igoye’s community-based efforts to promote education has involved fundraisings and delivery of over 92,000 text books  to rural schools attended by vulnerable children in Uganda.

The 2017 top Harvard graduate and a recipient of the 2011/12 Fulbright and Hubert Humphrey Fellowships, Agnes Igoye is emerging as an icon of the global anti-human trafficking crusade and gender equity movement, influencing, in a significant way, critical and innovative thinking at national, continental, and international levels. At the end of July, Agnes had to temporarily place her internship in Pallisa on hold to fly to Italy for the inaugural international Women’s leadership Summit at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center at Lake Como. She was the first key speakers invited to the 4-day summit at which inspired and innovative women leaders convened to learn and collaborate across silos to confront old and emerging global challenges against women. As one of Africa’s most erstwhile anti-human trafficking crusaders, Agnes Igoye joined other women leaders to develop new solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges confronting women. The summit was organized by the Women’s Leadership Forum in partnership with the Skoll Foundation, the Carter Center, Council of Women World Leaders and Apolitical.

Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda was among the speakers at the conference.

Some of the high profile Participants at the summit included, among others, Afitete Jahjaga, former President of Kosovo; Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi; Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General; Kathy Calvin, President/Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation; Irina Georgieva Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO; and Susana Mabel Malcorra, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina. By every measure, Uganda’s deputy national coordinator of the anti-trafficking task force, Agnes Igoye has placed Uganda on a pedestal, too exceptional to simply give lip service but to acknowledge and support.

Always seeking new and exciting challenges, Agnes Igoye has thrown herself into the throes of writing a book. With the help of Prof. Greg Harris at Harvard, she has thus far completed a draft of the first chapter, she said. Beyond highlighting her life’s journey, the book will underline challenges women and girls endure while growing up, strategies for overcoming them, and what they are capable of doing when empowered. “But most importantly, the book will aim at sensitizing communities about the dangers of human trafficking,” she said with unbridled optimism.

Agnes Igoye and another alumnus of the Humphrey Fellowship Program from Zambia at the 2016–2017 Boston University graduation ceremony that took place at the Questrom School of Business Executive Leadership Center on May 4th 2017.

With adequate immersion into her program at Kennedy School, it was not long before floodgates of speaking engagements at international conferences and universities started to fly open for Uganda’s deputy national coordinator for prevention of trafficking in persons. Agnes Igoye’s most recent speaking engagement was during a commencement ceremony to graduates of the Humphrey Fellowship Program at Questrom School of Business Executive Leadership Center, Boston University on May 4th 2017. The 2010/11 Fulbright/ Hubert Humphrey Fellow, University of Minnesota and Oxford University in the UK where she jointly studied Forced Migration, Agnes Igoye spoke movingly to the Fellows on the theme of “making choices.” She also passionately weighed in about her pet subject, a campaign to end human trafficking around the world.

Agnes Igoye and the Hubert Humphrey Graduates at the University of Boston. She was accompanied to the event by her Ugandan compatriots; Kwame Rugunda, Allen Sophia Asiimwe, and Sheila Kyarisiima, also classmates in the Mid-career Master in Public Administration Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Previously, she had landed an invitation to the US Department of State in Washington DC by Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan to address the Global Leadership Forum. During the meeting, she drew from her professional and academic experiences to share ideas on how the over 167 Fulbright/Hubert Humphrey Fellows can make the best of their one year across 14 host Universities in the US. Reflecting her feminist ideology, She offered insights on the forum theme; “Building a gender inclusive world: The new art of the possible.” The invitation followed the recognition and featuring of Agnes Igoye in the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board Annual report to the US senate as one of Fulbright Alumni making a difference.

Agnes Igoye at the Global Leadership Forum at the invitation of the US Department of State and International Institute of Education (IIE where she presented a paper on how best Fulbright/ Hubert Humphrey Fellows can optimize their one-year study program in the USA.

The Ugandan training manager at the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control was also taken on a guided education tour of the USA-Mexico border to inspect the Wall by a border patrol unit. “This was an opportunity that gave me a hands-on experience on border management, “said Agnes Igoye, who   also doubles as the deputy national coordinator for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons.

The Ugandan deputy national coordinator for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons, is, by all accounts, succeeding in blending her scholarly, professional, and advocacy exploits to span continental boarders including Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Her global outreach is impacting other communities through her frequent presentations and interactions with the world’s most powerful diplomats whose natural habitats are the conference halls and corridors of the United Nations headquarters in New York.

At the United Nations high level round table on Women and Legislative reform in New York, Agnes Igoye joined other leading women jurists, legislators, policymakers and advocates to articulate issues related to violence against women.

The round-table discussion, focusing on existing human trafficking laws and interventions, the legal loopholes, proposed recommendations to protect women globally. More still, she has lent her expertise to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Organization for Migration.

Agnes Igoye with her classmates in the inclusive security class taught by Ambassador Swanee Hunt, former US Ambassador to Austria.

While straddling the corridors of the UN headquarters in New York, she etched her fingerprints on some of its resolutions as an accomplished scholar, consummate law enforcement professional, and activist. She translated that experience and engaged in private research work with Ambassador Swanee to author a white paper on human trafficking. Agnes hopes the White Paper will be helpful in rallying Uganda to ratify The Palermo protocol, adopted by the UN General Assembly resolution 55/25. The protocol seeks to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

A Keynote speaker at the Intercollegiate Convention against Modern Slavery, Agnes Igoye urged anti human trafficking crusaders to double down their efforts to combat the global syndicate.

In April 2017, Agnes Igoye delivered a keynote speech at  the Intercollegiate Convention against Modern Slavery at the Harvard Kennedy School to students from the Universities of California at San Diego, Rutgers, Maryland, Brown, Michigan, New York, Columbia, Boston, and Gordon college; fervent supporters of global efforts to end human trafficking. During the same month, she was interviewed by the BBC to support and feature in a documentary about human trafficking.

Some of the team members Agnes Collaborated with including the Boston University Deputy Director Hubert H. Program to edit a photo essay book ’Reclaiming the Pearl’.

While at Harvard, Agnes Igoye collaborated with Boston University Deputy Director Hubert Humphrey Program to edit a photo-essay book titled, ‘Reclaiming the Pearl’. A product of a photo camp conducted in Uganda, the photo-essay book project, sponsored by the American Embassy in Uganda, with partnerships from Peace Corps Uganda, Boston University, Fulbright Hubert Humphrey and YALI Fellows, was organized by Agnes Igoye through Our Global cultures project. During the project, 25 individuals, divided into 5 teams including survivors of human trafficking, were sent to five different regions in Uganda. The teams took photos documenting Ugandan culture through the gender lens and climate change adaptations.   Furthermore, she enlisted the support of Six Masters and Doctoral students at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to collaborate with the Ugandan campaign to end child trafficking.

Agnes Igoye with President Clinton, other ‘Commitment Mentors’, alumni, and prospective applicants to the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) team (Criminal Justice category). She was selected as a ‘Commitment Mentor’ in February 2017.

This year, Agnes Igoye was named a Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Commitment Mentor to competitively selected 50 university students across the world who is engaged in criminal justice studies. This was a follow-up to the commitment of action Agnes Igoye made with President Clinton in 2011 to counter human trafficking. ‘Commitment Mentors facilitate conversation, share resources, promote networking, and help CGI U participants refine their Commitments to Action through virtual communication and in-person meet-ups. Commitment Mentors are previous CGI U commitment-makers with demonstrated progress on their commitment and academic and/or field knowledge’. Agnes Igoye had earlier delivered a keynote speech at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) information session as a leading social innovator in New York.

Agnes Igoye was also a speaker at ‘MPA Talks’ HKS; a guest speaker at the Africa Center, Colorado State University; addressed the Global Livingstone Institute Board; was an invited speaker at Colorado State University, Human Trafficking Center; speaker at a Conference on Gender and International Affairs at the Fletcher School of Tufts University; and was a guest speaker at Somerville Community Access Television in Massachusetts.  She was also a VIP guest at the official opening of the second First Med Health and Wellness center in the State of Nevada for the underserved populations including survivors of human trafficking. The event was also headlined by the former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Representative Dina Titus, and Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, now a sitting Senator from Nevada.

Agnes Igoye at the VIP official opening of the second First Med Health and Wellness center in Nevada that was also attended by Senator Harry Reid, Representative Dina Titus, and Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto now Senator.

Agnes Igoye has made the 2017 list of Vital Voices; 100 most exceptional women at the forefront of change and global progress who were honored in San Francisco, California. Early this year, she was selected to feature in the opening film at the annual vital voices global leadership Awards highlighting the impact women leaders have had throughout the world over the past two decades! In 2015, Agnes was named one of 100 most influential people in Africa by The New African Magazine.

Agnes was honored in San Francisco, and made the list of Vital Voices 100 most exceptional women (VV100) who are at the forefront of change and global progress.

Still single, Agnes has no biological children but takes care of tens of children from all over Uganda including survivors of human trafficking. Reflecting on her life’s journey, she highlights some of her major milestones: “The major turning points in my life include managing to go to school despite the odds; getting admitted to Makerere University, the only University in the country at that time,; one of two Ugandans to make it as a Fulbright/Hubert Humphrey Fellow; and making a commitment of action with President Clinton; the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2011,” she said with contentment.

The deputy national coordinator for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons in Uganda Agnes Igoye and some of her trainees.

Regardless of any office she will hold, Agnes Igoye is committed to public service.  “For now, am dedicated to my responsibilities at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and my biggest agenda is to kick human trafficking out of Uganda  and to continue my global campaign against human trafficking by training more law enforcement/Immigration officers to combat the vice,” she said with unreserved determination. To-date, Agnes Igoye has trained, and still counting,  over 2000 law enforcement officials in Uganda and abroad.

To this cosmopolitan trail-blazer, yet culturally-grounded Atesot, the sky is not even the limit. Atemele, Agnes Igoye, Yoga Aitelekar! (awesome girl, Agnes Igoye, Congratulations! Thank you for the victory!).

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