“Change Is Achievable When Communities Come Together”

Hellen Lunkuse, Founder of Rape Hurts Foundation in Uganda was recently awarded the Vital Voices Award for her tireless efforts against gender-based violence. Hellen leads a team of dedicated activists who support survivors of gender-based violence and have reached more than 850,000 people over the last ten years. A survivor herself, Hellen is a courageous and committed voice for human rights, inclusion, and women’s empowerment. She has been a mentor with Global Thinkers Forum since 2019.

Q: What does this Award mean for you?

A: This award is an immense honour that acknowledges the relentless efforts and impact of the Rape Hurts Foundation in combating Gender-Based Violence, Human Trafficking, and Modern Day Slavery in Uganda. The award is not only a recognition of my personal journey from a survivor of gender-based violence to a leader driving societal change, but it also elevates the voices and struggles of the women and children we serve, bringing international attention to their resilience.

It validates our holistic approach and innovative initiatives, from emergency support to addressing climate change impacts, affirming the significance of our multifaceted strategies in empowering vulnerable communities. This accolade reinforces my commitment and energizes our team to further our mission with greater zeal, leveraging this platform to foster global collaborations and partnerships. Ultimately, this award symbolizes a shared vision of a world free from violence and discrimination, inspiring continued advocacy and action towards achieving this goal.

Q: Being a mentor with Global Thinkers Forum: how has this shaped your journey?

A: Serving as a mentor with the Global Thinkers Forum since 2019 has significantly enriched my journey, offering a unique platform to share the insights and lessons learned from leading the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF). This role has not only allowed me to empower emerging leaders with the skills and resilience necessary to tackle complex social issues like Gender-Based Violence, but it has also provided me with diverse perspectives that have furthered RHF's mission and approach. The interactions with various mentees have been mutually enlightening, fostering an environment of shared learning and growth, and reinforcing the importance of global collaboration and innovative thinking in addressing humanitarian challenges. This mentoring experience has been a catalyst for both personal and professional growth, deepening my commitment to creating sustainable societal change and inspiring a new generation of change-makers.

Q: Have you learned anything from your mentees?

A: Through my mentoring role at the Global Thinkers Forum, I have learned the immense value of fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that mentees bring, which have continuously challenged and enriched my own understanding of addressing complex social issues. Their resilience, diverse experiences, and unique approaches to problem-solving have not only enhanced the strategies and operations of the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF) but have also underscored the significance of inclusivity and adaptability in driving effective change. This reciprocal learning experience has been a profound reminder that mentorship is a two-way street, offering as much in the way of personal and organizational growth as it does in guidance and support to the mentees.

Q: What do you consider as your biggest achievement to date?

A: My biggest achievement to date as the Founder & Executive Director of the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF) is the profound impact we have made in combating Gender-Based Violence, Human Trafficking, and Modern Day Slavery in Uganda through a holistic approach.

The establishment and success of the Bukyerimba Vocational & Skilling Center in 2012, empowering women and girls with essential skills for self-reliance, stands as a testament to our commitment to sustainable solutions. Additionally, receiving significant recognitions like the Community Impact Award for our child policy work, the African Women Leaders nomination by Global Thinkers Forum, and the Global Leadership Award by Vital Voices, collectively highlight the effectiveness and influence of our work. These achievements, combined with my personal journey and educational advancements, including completing a Master of Arts in Human Rights, symbolize the transformative change we have been able to drive in society.

Q: How do you see the future for women in Uganda, are things improving?

A: The future for women in Uganda, viewed through the lens of the Rape Hurts Foundation's work, is one of cautious optimism. On the positive side, increased awareness and efforts like ours are empowering more women and girls with education, vocational skills, and access to legal and health services, leading to gradual societal shifts and more women challenging traditional norms. However, challenges persist, particularly in rural areas where economic dependency, poverty, and limited access to education and resources continue to hinder progress. Ultimately, while there are significant strides being made towards gender equality and empowerment, sustained effort, government support especially in policy making and implementation that address the same and then global collaboration are essential to overcome the remaining obstacles and ensure a brighter, more equitable future for women in Uganda.

Q: What is a message that you would like to communicate?

A: As the Founder & Executive Director of the Rape Hurts Foundation, my message is one of resilience, empowerment, and collective action. We, at RHF, demonstrate that with a holistic approach, it is possible to not only address the immediate needs of survivors of Gender-Based Violence, Human Trafficking, and Modern Day Slavery but also tackle the underlying systemic issues such as economic dependency, poverty, and climate change. Our work in establishing safe spaces, providing vocational training, and implementing sustainability projects shows that change is achievable when communities come together. I wish to communicate the importance of global collaboration and partnership in creating sustainable societal change, and invite individuals and organizations to join us in this mission to empower survivors and transform lives. #16daysofActivismAgainstGenderBasedViolence

Published: 15/12/2023