Pay It Forward - An Interview with GEF Keynote Speaker Maria Jurua

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Maria Jurua. Maria served as a keynote speaker for the Global Education Fund's first networking and fundraising event in Washington, D.C. The event also featured keynote speaker Alice Waguthi Kinyua. Both Maria and Alice are graduates of Makerere University in Uganda and fellows at the Georgetown University Law Center.  Editor's Note: Ms. JD's Fourth Annual Global Education Fund (GEF) Benefit will be held on August 22, 2016 from 6:30-9 pm at Doc's Lab in San Francisco.  Each year, the Ms. JD Global Education Fund has made it possible for two young Ugandan women to pursue their dreams of becoming lawyers by attending the law program at Makerere University in Uganda.  The benefit will raise funds for the GEF and include live entertainment, a silent auction and excellent food and networking.  Please click here to purchase your ticket or donate to GEF.

Maria Jurua is an an Advocate of the High Court of Uganda and holds an LL.B. from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. In addition, Maria is a Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa fellow and is pursuing an LL.M in Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to joining Georgetown, Maria served as the Coordinator of Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda (LAW-Uganda). LAW-Uganda is an organization committed to using the law to promote respect for and protection of women’s rights in Uganda.  

Describe your experience at Makere University.

In Makerere, I had the privilege of being taught by a leading female activist Professor Sylvia Tamale. She made me look at the world through a gender lens. This then made me realize the gaps and drove me towards focusing on women’s rights.

Tell us about your experience as a women attorney/legal professional in Uganda.

I have had the privilege of being the coordinator for six years of a women’s rights organization, the LAW-Uganda. This is a non-governmental organization founded in 1997 by Ugandan women lawyers brought together by their interest in women’s rights through a Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa program hosted by Georgetown University, USA.

During this time, I have been able to make a difference in women’s lives using the law because as a Coordinator, I have been able to steer this group through some achievements and these include: the Constitutional Court ruling declaring Female Genital Mutilation as unconstitutional and an infringement of human rights; the enactment of the Prevention of Trafficking in Person Act 2009; and the enactment of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010. However, implementation of these laws remains limited. Some significant pre-existing difficulties include preventing access to justice for women victims of violence have not been addressed, such as the costs associated with the complaint process. Other obstacles to implementation include the adoption of required implementing regulations and the allocation of an adequate budget.

What was your biggest challenge going through program at Makere?

The biggest challenge was funds to buy the readings for class. It was quite expensive photocopying and printing materials that were required for classes.

What was your best moment in the program at Makere?

My best moment in the Program was the networks that I have built. These same networks have been very helpful and instrumental in pushing me in my career.

Do you have any advice for our current scholars/aspiring scholars at Makere?

The advice I can share is that do not put to waste this opportunity. Utilize it to the best of your ability and use the acquired knowledge to give back to the community. This will be your way of paying it forward.


*Molly Timko serves on the Program Council of Ms. JD's Global Education Fund. Grateful for the educational opportunities we have had in the U.S., Ms. JD created the Global Education Fund to enable women in developing countries to pursue legal educations. Each year, the Ms. JD Global Education Fund has made it possible for two young Ugandan women to pursue their dreams of becoming lawyers by attending the law program at Makerere University. A little bit goes a long way. For example, $40 pays for three months of housing for one scholar; $100 pays for a semester's worth of fees for one scholar; and $250 pays for a semester's tutition for one scholar. 

Click here to learn how you can support Ms. JD's International Scholars.     

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