JHF global health staffer opens youth leadership conference in Qatar

Hanifa Nakiryowa presenting at the youth leadership summit.

Global Health Associate Hanifa Nakiryowa shared her story with 900 students from 16 countries at a youth leadership summit in Doha, Qatar on October 17.

Nakiryowa, a staff member supporting JHF's Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) since 2018, delivered the opening plenary address at the three-day Qatar Leadership Conference. Designed to enhance the region's leadership capacity and amplify the role of youth in steering the future, the gathering included more than 130 workshops and 150 speakers from the humanitarian and education fields.

Nakiryowa spoke about the acid attack against her orchestrated by her ex-husband in 2011 and how she used her experience to spearhead the ZERO Tolerance to Acid Violence campaign. Such tactics are sometimes used by men in the region to maim and stigmatize women who step outside traditional roles. She was hospitalized for more than a year, endured 18 surgeries to repair her face and body, and continues to live with emotional and physical pain. She founded the Centre for Rehabilitation of Survivors of Acid and Burns Violence in Kampala, and in 2015 immigrated to Pittsburgh with her two daughters to earn a master's degree in International Development from the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

In Doha, Nakiryowa also facilitated two workshops: one considered the meaning of international development for developing countries; the other highlighted the work of JHF's WHAMglobal program in support of sustainable development goals.

As she told the audience, Nakiryowa became "comfortable with people who looked like me, but I eventually felt this was not addressing the problem. What makes a leader is to be uncomfortable all the time, until you begin to relax in your discomfort…. I learned that I needed to show my face and tell people what happened to me. You have to think of the legacy you are creating once you step out of your comfort zone. And, in creating that legacy, you are not focusing on yourself as a leader – you are focusing on the people that you mentor, those behind you and beside you."

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