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 health 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 their underprivileged peers and seek to transform the lives of these disadvantaged girls. As part of the “saving innocence challenge”, Essie shone a light on the shocking situation of teenage girls in the Kalangala islands who, out of socio-economic vulnerability, engage in what is dubbed “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 on “Women and Girls on the Move: Towards Safer Work and Migration for Women” alongside the Executive Director of UN Women, 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 organization 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 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!