Because the past does not dictate the future.
It is another sunny day in Kampala, Uganda. The Honorable Margret Makhoha is tired but determined. Since becoming a Member of Parliament, her life has transformed beyond all recognition. In truth, the transformation began nearly 25 years ago when her local church, in partnership with Compassion, registered her in their child sponsorship programme.
That day set Margaret’s life on a different course; it released her from a future her past appeared to dictate. Living in a remote Ugandan village, girls like Margaret didn’t receive much of an education, if any, and could expect to be married young and a mother before they’d really stopped being a child.
Instead, Margaret received a full education and was able to not just complete high school, but go on to university. Here she not only studied for her degree, but was supported by Compassion and trained through their Leadership Development Programme. Margaret graduated with honours; determined to use her God given gifts to change the future for other children like her.
Sitting in the shade of the parliament buildings, Margaret explains; “Even as a small child, I always wanted to speak up for my people. When I finished my degree, I had a conviction to go back and serve my community.”
She did just this, returning to Jinja in Eastern Uganda and working as a social worker before taking the post of project director in a Compassion project. Already Margaret was changing the world for children in her care, but she wanted to do more. In 2011, she was sworn in as a Member of Parliament; “I don’t just advocate for the people in my district,” she explains, “but for all people living in poverty in Uganda.”
But Margaret doesn’t just speak about poverty; she daily lives out what she preaches. One of the major challenges facing her community is a lack of medical facilities. Margaret describes what she saw when she visited a local hospital, “I found a patient with a drip, laying on the floor. Another one lay on the bare metals of the bed.”
Margaret returned to Kampala and lobbied the Ministry of Health for better equipment, but not before she drove to the nearest shopping centre and bought 200 mattresses with her own money and had them distributed to the 30 medical centres in the region.
In a similar fashion, Margaret has seven orphaned children living with her and has set up a foundation to take care of another 20. Convinced that education is the key to eradicating early marriage, HIV and other side effects of poverty, she has personally set up the Namakangala Girl Child Educational Annual Award to encourage girls across the region to raise their expectations and work hard at school.
Margaret is changing the course of Ugandan history. As she lobbies for education for girls, improved hospitals, better roads, solar power and electrical provision for outlying districts she is ensuring that just as she has broken free from the grip of poverty, Uganda’s past does not need to dictate its children’s futures.
Written by Bekah Legg with Caroline A. Mwinemwesigwa
You can watch Margaret Mahoha’s story on You Tube at http://bit.ly/makhoha.