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From New York to Kampala and Mbale, youth advocate Zahara sticks to her message: ‘We must take action to support girls’ rights’

On International Day of the Girl Child in October 2018, Zahara Nabakooza, then a 19-year-old youth advocate from Uganda, in a symbolic presentation became UNFPA’s Executive Director for a day. Dr Natalia Kanem allowed Zahara to take over her office and chair meetings. Zahara was one of several girls from all over the world who stepped into the roles of leaders and influencers, as part of the global #GirlsTakeover campaign.

In Kampala, a few days later, she was one of three girls who took over the office of Mr. Alain Sibenaler, the UNFPA Uganda Representative.

Since then, Zahara has continued her work on rallying support for adolescent girls.

“Looking at Dr. Natalia, a woman Executive Director, gave me much inspiration to do what I do in my country. I go to schools and talk to young girls about how to deal with issues of sexual violence. I also encourage girls to stay in school and for those who have had babies to return to school,” she says.

On March 2 2020, during a festival to commemorate the global She Decides Day in Mbale district, supported by UNFPA Uganda, Zahara was there to advocate for the rights of adolescent girls.

She Decides is a global movement to advance the fundamental right of girls and women to have autonomy over their bodies, make their own choices and to have access to comprehensive sexuality education and quality reproductive health care.

Zahara’s message was very clear, letting leaders know the urgency of addressing the rights of adolescent girls.

“The She Decides movement helps create awareness among young girls on how important they are and how important it is to empower them. My message to all leaders in power is to help us fight rape and defilement,” she said to the policy makers in attendance.

Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum organized the festival under the theme “Voice, Choice and Control for Girls”. The event attracted over 3,000 young people, policy makers, community leaders and health practitioners who came together to show solidarity and highlight the need to empower girls and young women to protect themselves from teenage pregnancies, early marriages and how to make smart life-choices.

Dr. Emmanuel Tugaineyo Ituuza, the Director of Mbale Hospital who represented the Ministry of Health, highlighted the importance of empowering girls through a multi-sectoral approach and evidence-based interventions.


Compiled by Cecilie Skaarup Uldbjerg