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Women Empowerment Icon Elizabeth Kyasiimire Passes On

Uganda is mourning the death of the former Commissioner for Gender and Women Affairs, Ms. Elizabeth Kyasiimire, who breathed her last at Nsambya hospital.

She was 63.

Ms. Kyasiimire was a distinguished women empowerment icon who retired in 2016 after having diligently served Government in various capacities for over 36 years.

According to a statement released on Friday by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, in her illustrious career, she is profoundly remembered for having been among the top officials that saw the Ministry of Women in Development transition from being a Department in the President’s Office in 1988 to what it is today as a Ministry for Gender, Labour and Social Development.

“She had joined the Ministry from Agriculture as Head of Planning, and by virtue of her position it meant that she was in charge of the complex integration process as the department morphed into a fully-fledged Ministry.” The current Head of Social Protection, Stephen Kasaija recalls.

She ensured that the plans and budgets matched the new role the department was taking on as a Ministry.

An economist by training, Kyasiimire quickly cut her niche in women equality and empowerment programming because she had a clear understanding of how the challenges women face could be solved through her profession.          

No wonder she went on to spearhead the development of the National Gender Policies of 1997 and 2007 as well as the gender responsive policies that left her footprints in the Education, Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Environment sectors.

One of her most celebrated progenies at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP). When the former Permanent Secretary, Pius Bigirimana assigned her responsibility to ensure that a programme is developed as per a pledge made by President Yoweri Museveni during the International Women’s Day celebrations in Kabale in 2015, Kyasiimire hastily constituted a team with whom she worked to affix the pledge into context of national development as it stands today.

Her perspicacity and wisdom is evident in the goal they gave the Programme, which is; “to empower Ugandan women to improve their income levels and their contribution to economic development.”

And to achieve this, she envisioned that women needed; interest free credit devoid of collateral requirements, training in entrepreneurship and market linkages for their products and services. To-date, these are the tenets that have driven UWEP, reaching 9,660 women groups and over 120,000 direct beneficiaries across the country.

In 2017, just a year after retiring, she was recalled to receive a Golden Jubilee medal in recognition of her contributions. She picked the medal during the International Women’s Day celebrations that were held in Dokolo town.     

The Assistant Commissioner Gender and Women Affairs, Maggie Kyomukama, who worked with Kyasiimire for over 27 years, speaks of her as an administrator who cared about what was happening to her staff members including family wellbeing.

“Her dedication to work was unquestionable but satisfyingly she mentored and counseled her teams on family life when she realized something was wrong. I found it very full filling and indeed her counsel always brought positive changes to the entire department in terms of performance,” Kyomukama noted.

Yet it would be an incomplete tribute to speak about Kyasiimire without mentioning how soft-spoken, forthright and down-to-earth she was. This nurtured her into a person everyone got along with easily.     

The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Janat Mukwaya described it as a very big loss while the Acting Permanent Secretary, James Ebitu said Kyasiimire had succeeded in adding a brick to the attainment of women equality and empowerment in Uganda through her dedication to the Ministry’s goal.

Bigirimana noted: “It is sad to lose such well a nurtured person who had the interest of women at heart.”

The tentative programme indicates that there will be prayers held at St. John’s Church of Uganda in Entebbe Municipality on Saturday, August 17, 2019 at 3:00pm. Burial is planned for Monday in Ibanda.

More details will be shared in the due course.

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