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How this woman is empowering youth in slums to turn their passions into sustainable careers

Unemployment remains one of the most highlighted challenges for young people in Uganda today. The 2014 Uganda Census Report indicates that Uganda’s population between the productive age of 14 and 64 is slightly over 18 million. with 58% of this population group unemployed, it means that Uganda’s total non-utilized labour potential is 10.4m as of 2014.

One woman is trying to change this status quo.

Meet Noeline Kirabo, a change agent and the founder and C.E.O of Kyusa Uganda, a non-profit organization that is empowering out of school youth to become employable by starting their own business or get available jobs.

“Our organization focuses on youth between 15 to 25 years of age to help them discover and harness their passions and make them employable in the fast growing entrepreneurial environment of Uganda.” Says Noeline.

It all started as a dream when Noeline herself was working a full time, well-paying job. She desired to do something that would leave a legacy. Having a background of not being in tertiary education herself, she wanted to offer the same hope to youth who withdraw themselves from endless possibilities because they consider themselves unemployable due to dropping out of school.

The organization has been in existence since 2014 and has grown from its pioneer lot of 10 students to a total of 250 graduates

‘My passion derives from my experience as a former school dropout. I educated myself using online courses. When I got my first job, there was no turning back. At the height of my career, I was challenged to think about the legacy I wanted to build. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my passion was in people developing more so empowering youth to live purposeful and fruitful lives.’ She says.

Kyusa seeks to eradicate the issue of youth unemployment by accelerating youth employability. The organization has been in existence since 2014 and has grown from its pioneer lot of 10 students to a total of 250 graduates with great testimonies about the impact Kyusa had on their lives.

The initiative offers programs that include business startup trainings for potential entrepreneurs, business acceleration for small and micro entrepreneurs, employability class for youth seeking to enter formal employment.

“Support programs are also offered to participants including mentor matching with business icons, exposure filled visits to gather hands on skill, support to attend vocational training, apprenticeship training, apprenticeship placements, business branding and incubation. “ Noeline says.

Kyusa helps youth discover and harness their passions to make them employable in the fast growing entrepreneurial
environment of Uganda

This rich syllabus has seen majority of the Kyusa alumni successfully running small and medium enterprises.

Julius, one of the alumni from Kyusa started a catering business that has grown into a full restaurant operating in Kisenyi. He employs four people and is working with Kyusa to start an apprenticeship program. He also runs an Events Management Company where he offers ushers, public address system and outside catering services and employs 20 youth on part time basis.

Another beneficiary Henry, runs a commercial farm on eight acres of land. He grows fruits and vegetables. Henry employs 15 youth on his farm and he is also working with Kyusa to launch an agribusiness training center for youth on Nakaseke.

Deborah another alumni,  has started a pineapple jam business and is in the process of standardizing the brand so as to sell across the East African market.

Noeline is a 2013 Kanthari fellow, 2014 Hive San Francisco fellow, 2015 Cherry Blaire Foundation Mentee, 2016 Community Solutions Program fellow, 2017 YALI Regional Leadership Center Fellow.

This rich syllabus has seen majority of the Kyusa alumni successfully running small and medium enterprises.

The journey has not been all rose and no thorn for Kyusa. Noeline started out with very little funding from friends and family. She had to learn to get the job done with the few available resources which is a valuable lesson up to date. But like they say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way!’ Overtime many people have bought into the vision and partnered with Kyusa to get to this point.

Noeline looks up to her mother who made her believe she could be anything she set her heart to. She is inspired by Pastor Moses Mukisa of Worship Harvest ministries who has taught her a lot about vision, people development, leadership and resourcing for the vision.

Kyusa ultimate vision is to build a replicable model that will empower 10,000 youth annually across the African continent through the collaborative efforts of partners across Africa.

By Victoria Achom. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.

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13 Ugandan artists We Met on #DrawingWhileBlack Who Will Inspire You

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter over the last few days, you might have noticed a lot of really cool art from around the world taking over your feed.

Black artists, graphic designers and illustrators from all over the world are introducing themselves and showcasing their art to the timeline and to the world, using the hashtag.

You can thank Annabelle Hayford (@sparklyfawn), a 19-year-old, a gender artist studying animation and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for rallying others in their field to share their work.

Some EXTREMELY TALENTED Ugandans across the globe did not sit down. From New York, to London, Kampala and across the globe, Ugandans took to Twitter to also engage in the challenge and boy oh boy, they are proving that Uganda has got talent.

Let’s not talk too much. Here they are. Enjoy!

1. Here’s Solomon W. Jagwe

2. And then JNK

3. Say hello to Franco Mpagi who-wait-for-it uses black ink to create his murals

4. It seems we won’t get enough of Solomon W. Jagwe

5. Enter the super talented Neema Lyer

6. Here comes Andrew Mamawi. He’s not at all affiliated to Game of Thrones

7. Introducing Elise aka Seiishin who does character design and story-boarding in animation

8. Dorothy had to introduce Xenson because a multi-media artist needs some respect!

9. The only ballpaint artist on the hashtag- so far. Say hi to Michael Dungu

10. Everyone stand up for Jonas Rayme. This guy is a gem!

11. Darsan Aine is a super talented chap!

12. EZI (not Mr. Eazi) the vector artist also came through!

13. Daniel the low key chef made a plot twist!

Absolutely amazing art!

If you’re an artist and want to talk to us about your art, we’re eager to say hello! Send us an email on and let’s talk!



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This Beauty Queen Is Fighting Stigma Against People Living With HIV

Martha Clara Nakato first found out that she was HIV positive when she was 15 years old.  It happened when her twin brother had asked her to escort him to have an HIV test. Reaching the hospital, she too, decided to take an HIV test- and that’s when it dawned on her that she was HIV positive.

“I was very confused, scared and shocked. In my head, I was asking myself how I was HIV positive yet I was still a virgin.” Martha recalls. “I was scared my dad would kill me but to my dismay, he wasn’t shocked at all but rather bitter and asking what I was looking for at a hospital!” She says.

Her dad had never disclosed to anyone about her status not to even her family, because he was scared she couldn’t live a normal life since she was the only child born with HIV.

From that moment when she discovered she was HIV positive, her life turned upside down. She was no longer the jolly little girl who used to make everyone laugh. She was no longer the young girl who was always playing. She no longer wanted to talk to anyone and she became traumatized.

“I had terrible self stigma, self pity and denial. I always looked at myself in the mirror and saw a walking corpse and thought I would die soon.”  Martha says. “At a certain point, I tried killing myself because I never realized am worth a purpose in life.” She remembers.

Things became worse in her A-level. She had not yet accepted her HIV status and was constantly on suicide watch. Seeing that the boarding school she was attending was not comfortable looking after her due to her condition, she was “politely” expelled from Trinity College Nabbingo and her parents were advised to put her in a day school where she can receive acute care and management.

Martha (left) together with the 2014 Miss Y+ Sharifah Nalugo (middle) being hosted on Urban TV

One day when she was scrolling through Facebook, she landed on post that was advertising for an HIV Beauty Queen and King pageant organized by the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV.

“My heart froze at that moment. I could not believe that there was a contest for HIV positive young people. I began to stalk the then reigning Miss HIV+ Robinah Babirye and after following her posts, I decided to give it a shot.” Martha recalls.

The young positive (Y+) beauty pageant, is an annual event comprised of young men and women between the ages of 13 – 24 developed to celebrate beauty with Zero Discrimination, and aimed at fighting stigma and discrimination against young people affected and living with HIV and AIDS.

According to the 2016 Uganda Population HIV Impact Assessment Report (UPHIA), the total number of adults and children of all ages living with HIV in Uganda is estimated to be approximately 1.3 million. Uganda registers 230 HIV new infections a day. Despite widely available anti-retroviral therapy, 76 people die of AIDS-related causes every single day.

Botswana, one of the countries in sub-Sahara Africa with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate was the first to have organized a beauty pageant for HIV positive contestants in 2000. It has since organized over 20 such beauty contests to help reduce the HIV stigma.

After a boot camp and a series of competitions and emerging as Miss Y+ Central region 2016 on 3rd September 2016, she became  the 1st runners up at the grand finale on 24th September 2016 at Golf Course Hotel kololo.

“The night I was crowned Miss Y+ was one of the best days in my life. When I saw how people cheered and applauded each time I walked down the runway, I realized am someone special and worth great things in this world.” She says this with a beaming smile.

Martha has conducted a series of motivation speeches to inspires young people living with HIV

Martha, now 21 and a student at Kyambogo University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance, has been unstoppable ever since. She has shared her story as a speaker while addressing the statement for the Young people Living with HIV at the National Joint Aids Annual Review Meeting 2016, Panelist consultant during the launch of the Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment Survey, been to all East African Community countries, United Kingdom and South Africa as an HIV/AIDS Champion motivational speaker, she is currently the Secretary for the Youth Advisory Committee for the Uganda Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Alliance, she was elected Chairperson for the Ugandan Chapter for the Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition and she is a peer educator with The Aids Support Organization ( TASO).

“We people living with HIV have to de-stigmatize the community about HIV/AIDS. The struggle against HIV/AIDS will never succeed without addressing stigma. I have personally suffered stigma and I know it can be more lethal than the HIV virus.” Martha states.

Martha who is the 2016 Miss Y+ together with other awarded Y + winners, have been role models and have spear headed among the other champions in the fight against the spread of HIV and the fight against new HIV infections in in Uganda

“Here I am today once a nobody now a somebody, a strong admirable woman, inspiring, an international HIV motivational speaker and above all an advocate for the rights of Young people living and affected by HIV.” She says. “I call upon all Young positives to stand bold, stop hiding and letting HIV control them but rather come participate in this awesome life changing opportunity to realize their potentials and to the people in the communities. Come witness the beauty within Young boys and girls living with HIV.” She concludes.

The 2017 Miss Y+ beauty pageant finale will be held on September 23rd, 2017. (Photo by UNYPA)

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The Crested Crane, Uganda’s Chosen Crest

It walks with grace and serenity, as though the life of the country it symbolizes, depends on its every step. The Crested Crane – chosen as Uganda’s Crest (national symbol) nearly 100 years ago, is one of the most cherished birds in the country.

Commonly called the Crested Crane, it is a bird of national significance to Uganda, occupying a prime position on the country’s national flag and coat of arms.

Internet Photo

The Grey Crowned Crane, scientifically known as Balearica regulorum gibbericeps, inhabited Uganda’s swamps and fields long before the coming of tribes in our territory.

The unusual gracefulness of the elegant Crowned Crane, aptly typifying the country and its people, attracted then Governor of Uganda -Sir Frederick Jackson who, in 1893, chose it to embellish the Union Jack with its exquisite form and heraldic dignity.

With a crown of stiff gold-colored feathers on its head, a bright red gular sac and body made of gray, brown, gold and white patches, the grey crowned crane stands out for its striking features.

The Crane is definitely an object of great beauty. It is a tall bird standing well over three feet, on long-slender black legs. Its neck is almost as long as its legs and towards the base, pointed pearl-grey feathers are elongated to form an ornamental fringe.

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The tail feathers, comparatively short, are the color of dried straw. When at rest, the Crowned Crane seems to be enveloped in a cape of exquisite delicacy with its multi-colored head where the three colors of the Uganda’s Flag (Black, Yellow, Red) seem to be represented. The conspicuous velvety black forehead, yellowish crest and the vivid bright red wattles, make the Crested Crane an elegant creature, befitting its emblematic role.

There are 16 different species of Cranes in the world, four of which are found in Africa, including the ‘great’ Grey Crowned Crane, the Uganda national symbol. All these willowy creatures in the world are in one way or another, facing unfavourable conditions brought about by their ‘greatest friend’, Man, who works for their ‘survival and protection’.

Crowned Cranes generally inhabit dry and wet open areas including marshes, damp fields, and open margins of lakes and rivers, but rarely associated with open waters. In Uganda, the Crowned Cranes prefer freshly-ploughed fields to grasslands and short to tall grass.

Lifestyle: Courtship, feeding and Breeding

The grey crowned crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species. Both sexes dance, and immature birds join the adults. Dancing is an integral part of courtship, but also may be done at any time of the year.

Internet Photo

Their food consists of plant and animal matter including grass and sedge seeds, millet, rice, peas, corn, mollusks, crustaceans, insects (grasshoppers and flies), fish, amphibians and reptiles. They feed by rapidly pecking at food but they sometime uproot plants and rarely dig. They prefer seed heads of grasses and sedges.

Crowned Cranes are monogamous and pair for life. Though they may appear in flocks at a breeding area, they separate in pairs and nest singly controlling territories of about 1-1.5km2 defended by both sexes. They perform a series of courtship displays and excel in dancing, displaying their grace and beauty to the fullest. They twirl and curtsy to one another, with their wings wide open and held high above their backs. In this strange position, with the bill pointed skywards, it gives out a deep, booming love-call delivered from a fully inflated throat.

Man and the Crested Crane

To the many different tribes of Africa, the call of the Crowned Crane suggests many word variations and the sounds are varied and full. Thus to a Muganda the call is Ng’aali; to a Swahili M’waari; to an Acholi, O’welo; to Zulu of South Africa, the sound is Maahem and the same sound is Muraaho to a Munyarwanda.

Different tribes and people have learnt through time how to interact with the Crane, and in most areas, the Crane helps to tell people the time of the day through their calls which are done at specific times of the day. They are regarded as the birds of joy and relaxation in most parts of the country. For instance, when people clap and sing a particular song, the Cranes dance by nodding their heads. This happens in all places where Cranes exist.

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It is estimated that number of Grey Crowned Cranes in Uganda has reduced from more than 70,000 in 1970s to less than 10,000 in 2011. The global threat status declined from near-threatened to vulnerable to endangered in less than five years, and indication of global concern on the survival of Cranes in the region.

It is also estimated that the large number of the Cranes we see today are old individuals who may not survive beyond 15-20 years.


Most crested cranes live in mixed wetland habitats, on riverbanks, around dams and open grassland. As a result, they often forage on agricultural lands, which are close to wetlands or riverbanks, feeding on grass seeds, small toads, frogs, insects and other invertebrates.

It is this easy co-existence with humans that is putting the cranes’ survival at risk.

Crested cranes breed in wetlands and this is a good reason for us to see that the environment is conserved.

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Crowned Cranes are known to breed in swamps but a combination of increasing human population has tasked these beautiful birds to leave with man due to the demand for wetlands. Eastern and south-western Uganda are the major critical areas for the survival of the Crane.

The level of human activity in swamps influences the ability of Cranes to care for the young and successful breeding. The loss of habitat, therefore, combined with the species low reproductive rate and frequent capture of young, raises concern about the Crane’s survival.


There is no bird more truly representative of Uganda with its meadowlands and sparking green grass, than the Grey Crowned Crane. Throughout the country, there is not a natural sound more typical than the trumpeting of the Crested Cranes as they move to their feeding grounds or fly to the roosting sites in the dimming light of evening.



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