When ordinary people come together, they make an extraordinary impact. That is the story of Diana Tibesigwa, a children's rights advocate and believer in the power of a person’s voice to do the impossible, battle inequality, and call for justice. Through advocacy and campaign work, Diana has worked with the rank and file of the Ugandan society to change attitudes and beliefs about violence against children, ensuring girls and boys enjoy a childhood free from violence.
“To give and to put the needs of others in the first place is a feeling that warms my soul,” says Diana who, for four years, has been leading the 'It Takes A World' campaign as World Vision's Policy and Campaigns Officer in Uganda. “The desire to protect children, their smiles, and the potential to ease their burden, pushes me to wake up every morning energised to make a contribution towards meeting the most critical challenges of the time.”
Behind all the work that World Vision has been part of for the past 70 years, ordinary people like Diana have said ‘yes’ and risen to the call to stand for what is right, what is fair, and what is just for children. Heroes like Diana are not intimidated by the challenge at hand. Even in the most difficult situations that seem impossible to overcome and where the need is great, they have always chosen to stand by vulnerable children and their families.
“I gather my courage primarily thanks to what I feel in my heart, and that is the love to help someone and not to give up what I am fighting for,” says Diana. “I think that honesty, selflessness, commitment, resilience, and empathy are the qualities that push a person to become a part of such cause. I wish to believe that I possess these.”
Working with families, faith leaders, schools, and various levels of Government – as well as children themselves – Diana’s aspiration is to create lasting change for children in every community in Uganda. “It’s possible to create a violence-free environment at home, in schools and communities for children to enjoy life to its fullness,” says Diana. “If all of us work together and help one another, even a small voice when joined with other voices will be a great and powerful voice.”
Guided by the principles of humanity and pushed by an unrelenting desire to impact the lives of others, especially the most vulnerable children, Diana has always been at the forefront coalescing voices to end violence against children, including child marriage, child sacrifice, and violence at school in Uganda. “Nothing will come out of nothing, and I don’t want to be the one to just watch,” says Diana. “Being a part of humanitarian call resonates in my heart and makes me feel happy and satisfied.”
Isolated in unsafe homes, sent to work, or pushed into early marriage, millions of boys and girls could be facing physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Diana knows too well what advocacy work is all about, and hers as a children's rights advocate is clearly cut out. “We don’t just help children out of dangerous situations, we work with and among communities to address the root causes of violence such as poverty and social stigma that often lead to abuse, exploitation, and other forms of violence against children,” she says.
She adds that the relaunch of the 'It Takes A World' campaign has created an opportunity to harness voices to call on the Government and partners to urgently increase funding for health, education, and other social services that protect children from all forms of violence and abuse, especially for girls and boys at greater risk due to the impacts of COVID-19.
“We want to help every community build a safety net of loving people to protect children, prevent harm, and ensure that those impacted by the pandemic receive the help they need to recover,” says Diana. “But we can’t do it alone. The slogan ‘it takes a world’ is aimed at stirring minds and catalysing a movement of people committed to keeping children safe from harm and violence to play a part, no matter how small.”
No matter how difficult things get, true heroes always find a way to make a difference. And you can do it too. You can demonstrate courage and replace fear with hope.