“Mentoring young girls helped me discover more about myself, my focus and passions in life. Seeing them develop and achieve their dreams made me understand that we can all be important people in our countries in so many ways. One does not need to be a political leader or business person to be important…The little things we do for others can also make us important.”
Young and passionate Hellen Ziribagwa traces her ancestral roots to Wakiso, a district in the central part of Uganda. The 5th born of 8 children in her family, she grew up with lofty dreams of becoming a very important person in Uganda. As a child, Hellen’s young mind affiliated being an “important person” with becoming a political leader in her country. This motivated her to study Political Science in high school, in a bid to discover the political leader in her inner self.
Further down her journey of self-discovery, she came to the realization that business men and women were also very important people in the society. Seeing her father succeed at becoming a self-made business man, she was deeply inspired to pursue a Bachelors Degree in Procurement and Logistics at Kyambogo University Uganda. Armed with this degree, Hellen was determined to pursue her fresh dreams of quickly becoming a successful business woman. However, exposure to the realities in the field made her understand that successful businesses are built over time, with dedication and hard work.
At this point, our Super Girl ventured into some voluntary work and never looked back. For the past 5 years, she has served as a Youth Trainer/Mentor with the National Youth Empowerment Network and CEDA International Uganda, where she was trained to empower and mentor girls and young people across various communities in Uganda. Focusing on Entrepreneurship and Personal Development, Hellen has reached over 500 girls in the Central, Western, Northern and Eastern parts of Uganda. While mentoring these young girls, Ms Ziribagwa was exposed to several challenges confronting them – especially teenage pregnancy, school drop-outs, and early/forced marriages, which deprive many girls of the opportunity to access quality education. This knowledge pushed her forward to continue advocacy for girls rights and further inspired her to establish “Pass It On Trust Uganda”.
Pass It On Trust Uganda is a youth-led organization that focuses on using education as a tool for change in fighting against early and forced child marriages among children and young girls. The organization currently works with 2 primary schools in the Soroti and Wakiso districts of Uganda, advocating for education of disadvantaged children within these communities. In addition, Pass It On Trust fundraises scholastic materials, school fees and sells craft materials to keep these children in school and out of early/forced child marriages. Through individual and organizational support, over 300 children across 2 schools currently benefit from this project and 50 children are directly sponsored with school fees to ensure that their right to education is protected. In an attempt to break the chains of poverty in Soroti and Wakiso, Pass It On Trust also offers entrepreneurship skills training to over 20 women in the communities. The trainings are geared towards equipping women with the requisite knowledge and exposure to become economically independent, increase their household income, and in turn keep their children in school and out of early/forced child marriages. As a result of these trainings, the women groups have set up 2 mini-bakeries in their communities to generate more income.
Hellen Ziribagwa has worked in partnership with World Vision International (Soroti Programmes) and Mbale Area Federation of Communities (a partner of Child Fund International) in running sensitization campaigns against early marriage. She has also collaborated with the International Labor Organization to facilitate entrepreneurship trainings for Ugandan youth. In addition, she has helped build the capacity of small organizations through partnerships with AIESEC Uganda – carrying out voluntary work in Ghana, Nigeria and mobilizing a team of East African youth leaders at a leadership conference in Kenya.
In recognition of her outstanding impact, Hellen was named a highly commended runner-up in the 2017 Queen’s Young Leaders Programme 2017. She is an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, an Ashoka American Express Emerging Innovator Fellow (2015), a Women Entrepreneurship Promotion Fellow (2015), a Social Entrepreneurs Transforming Africa Fellow (2015) and a Facilitating Multi-Stakeholder Processes and Social Learning Fellow, Netherlands (2014).
Our Super Girl is motivated to ensure that every young girl achieves full education and can get on the road to achieving their dreams. Her golden aspiration is to set up a Learning Has a one stop centre where young girls can acquire various skills in personal development, entrepreneurship, as well as hands-on skills to supplement regular classroom education. Hellen is highly passionate about business and entrepreneurship. She loves mentoring younger people and travelling, because she believes that it motivates her to do things better and see the world through a different lens.
We are very proud of Ms Hellen Ziribagwa! We hope that her passion burns even more brightly to light candles of hope in the hearts of upcoming Super Girls across Africa!