The first session of Makerere University’s 72nd graduation ceremony yesterday offered us unique, yet inspiring stories of women breaking the proverbial glass ceiling.
Dr Ritah Bakesiima Ssozi, 29, was the youngest PhD graduant after she was awarded a Doctorate in Reproductive Health. Close to her was Dr Olivia Nabawanda, 31, who took home a Doctorate in Mathematics.
To crown this was Dr Caroline Adoch, who was awarded the Doctorate of Laws, being the first female to achieve the feat in the university’s history.
Dr Ritah Bakesima Ssozi, 29, the youngest
PhD in Reproductive Health
My research was in modern contraceptive use among female refugee adolescents.
There is a high burden of teenage pregnancy in the refugee population so we needed to know how we can help to reduce teenage pregnancies among this population.
I feel really good although it has been a long journey of struggling but we kept encouraging ourselves and I feel good that after four years, I am standing here as Doctor (PhD) now. It is a huge achievement for me.
The people out there shouldn’t take this for granted because I know they may be biased about acquiring a PhD. But it is a huge achievement and comes with a lot of opportunities and I encourage all those who need to study it not to lose hope because scholarships are available.
I am now going to lecture at Makerere University School of Public Health, do research and apply for more grants and there is a lot that I am going to do as a Doctor and I am excited for the new journey.
Dr Olivia Nabawanda, 31, PhD in Mathematics
I have not stopped studying ever since I started school. After my undergraduate studies, I went for my Master’s and immediately pursued my PhD.
After completion of my Master’s, I was called at Mbarara University to start lecturing. And when I had just started working, opportunities for PhDs came and I immediately enrolled for it at Makerere University. It was a sponsorship by Sida Bilateral Research programme and they were looking for members of public universities in Uganda in Mathematics and they wanted to build capacity in training lecturers, supervising Master’s students or supervise research even up to PhD level.
My PhD focused on a class of permutations and I was trying to look at their behaviour. My area of research is counting just like you see formulas.
READ: Makerere registers slight drop in first class degrees
I believe I am an inspiration to the girl child. I love teaching and I have passion for it.
I would advise students who are still in school to be humble because when you are humble there is a way God aligns things for you, be hard working and patient, but most importantly understand that achieving something needs patience and time.
Now that I am done with my PhD, first of all I want to have a family because I am already seeing someone and I would also love to become a professor because I still have a lot of time.
I advise girls to stay focused and be hardworking.
Those who say Mathematics is hard, it isn’t hard and the only trick is practising. I used not to include it on my reading timetable and would make sure that at least I solve four equations every day. It’s all about practice and keeping in touch with your teachers and ask them about your mistakes because that is how we learn.
Dr Caroline Adoch (PhD in Law)
Topic: Access to Gender Justice in Uganda: A Feminist Analysis of the Experiences of Rape Victims in the Reporting and Prosecution Processes
Ms Adoch undertook a feminist analysis of how victims of rape experience the criminal justice system as they report and prosecute cases and the impact that this has on their access to justice.
The study found that victims of rape who report and prosecute cases do so in a patriarchal colonial criminal justice system that is massively rigged against them; that, rape survivors are re-traumatized in a context fraught with shame, stigma and victim blaming in a criminal justice framework where they have no legally defined position, rights or voice.
Ultimately, the criminal justice system does not provide substantive access to justice for women who report and prosecute cases of rape; instead they experience the process as a series of continued gendered violations. The study concludes that many of the difficulties that women face in the criminal justice system are an inherent aspect of the adversarial criminal justice system and cannot be wholly addressed by legal and policy reforms without rooting out those patriarchal structures and legacies.
The study recommends a recourse to restorative justice which can provide comprehensive justice and accountability for rape survivors.
The study was funded with partial tuition support by Makerere University and CivSource Africa and was supervised by Prof. Sylvia Tamale and Prof. Christopher Mbazira.
Dr Agaba Bekita Bosco, PhD in Molecular Epidemiology
My research focused on Malaria parasites that are not detected by the current diagnostic tools that we are using now in Uganda and all over Africa. So these parasites evade detection and keep multiplying in the patient and so before you know the patient progresses to severe malaria and may also die.
But also if you don’t detect these parasites, the infected patient continues transmitting these parasites to those who are not infected. We didn’t know whether Uganda had parasites circulating in the population and my study was the first one to identify these parasites and confirm but also mapped the regions where they are found and we used this data to inform the current policy to introduce better diagnostic tools that can be used to pick and diagnose these patients.
My research will help minimise the effect of malaria because it is one of the leading killer diseases in Uganda but once we detect these patients early, they can be treated and we can be able to save lives and cut the amount of money we spend on treating malaria
Dr Amongin Dinah, PhD in Maternal and Adolescent Health
My PhD focused on the number of girls who have first babies before 18 years, tracking them to see what proportion have another baby before they turn 20 years.
This issue hadn’t been investigated in sub-Saharan Africa and you find that we needed to know how big the problem is and what can be done.
And I also looked at why they want to have another baby because if a girl has had her first child birth before 18 years then it means she is under age and should ideally get back to school.
So my research found that the number is high and that six of 10 will have another baby before 20 years. The major cause of this is an escalation of an economic distress which drove them into sexual relationships the first time and escalated once they had the first baby and the girls had to look for alternatives on how to get basic needs.
Based on this, my research is advocating that we must take her back and maintain her in school. Another thing is helping them to engage in economic activities. I also found out that girls who have babies before 18, are disadvantaged even up to 30 to 40 years because they are less-economically empowered.
Dr Anne Kapaata Andama, PhD Molecular Virology
I studied how HIV/ Aids behaves after it gets into the body of a new person so that when you find out how it behaves you are able to find out those weak points of it to be able to guide you in making a vaccine.
We don’t have a vaccine after 40 years of research but this one was important because I was studying the first virus that enters your body and was able to find…we call them signatures and I am going to the US next week to see if we can use those signatures to design vaccines for the East African region.
I feel so excited because it has been a long awaited one and yet excited that I am going to encourage the girl-child.
The hardest part is that I was trying to get HIV from the body replicate or multiply outside your body. It was so hard that sometimes I would spend four weeks trying to make it grow. So I took a whole year trying to make this.