Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, took time off his busy schedule to heap praises on a Ugandan, anti-human trafficking crusader, Agnes Igoye.
Igoye who graduated at Harvard last week, works at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
“We can rebuild these communities and start new ones,” Zuckerberg said, asking Igoye to stand up for recognition, as he addressed the graduates.
“Agnes Igoye…Agnes where are you? Agnes stands against human trafficking in Uganda and has trained thousands to keep communities safe,” the Facebook boss said.
Christina Pazzanese, Harvard Gazette Staff Writer, in her profiles of Harvard’s stellar graduates, says Igoye, from the day of her birth in Uganda, confronted a world where girls were not valued.
Igoye’s mother, having already given birth to two girls, was expected by relatives and neighbors to produce a boy. Agnes’s arrival on March 8 (International Women’s Day) was greeted as a bitter disappointment that bordered on “scandalous,” said Igoye, M.C./M.P.A .’17, Pazzanese writes.
It was difficult for Igoye to study having grown up in an environment that undervalues girl education-her father too had put himself through school.
According to Pazzanese, Igoye was “discovered” by missionary sisters who paid for her education.
Igoye, 45, told Pazzanese that she was teased in school and even called a prostitute by one man which made her work hard to “succeed and embarrass this man!’
In the late 1980s, Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA] guerrilla group, killing Igoye’s cousins in his marauding and pillaging of villages in northern Uganda.
Her family was forced to live in an Internally Displaced Personas [IDPs] camp where she garnered the courage to protect other women and girls.
“In Uganda, for us, human trafficking includes child marriage, it includes the use of children in armed conflict, it includes superstition … it includes removal of organs for witchcraft and rituals,” she told Pazzanese.
When she finished high school, Igoye was admitted to Makerere University to study social sciences and graduated with a master’s degree.
She then went to the University of Oxford as a Fulbright/Hubert Humphrey Fellow in 2010-11 to study forced migration.
She last week graduated from Harvard Kennedy School as a Mason Fellow in the Mid-career Master in Public Administration Program.
She joined Uganda’s ministry of Internal Affairs as an immigration officer after university.
While working at the border and at the passport office, where fraudulent documents passed regularly, she saw trafficking and transnational organised crime operations up close and wondered why the government didn’t seem to be taking them seriously and — though it wasn’t part of their job description — why immigration officers weren’t being trained to identify these violations and intercede, Pazzanese writes.
Igoye then persuaded the Minister of Internal Affairs that with proper instruction, officers could help root out traffickers and protect survivors being moved in and out of the country.
He appointed Igoye Uganda’s first trafficking trainer and the first woman officer to hold an immigration command post.
Since then, she’s taught close to 2,000 new recruits how to identify suspected traffickers and victims, and she helped develop and coordinate Uganda’s anti-trafficking efforts to meet international standards.