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Remembering Esther Nakajjigo


June 18, 2020

It is with profound sadness that we share the unexpected passing of Esther “Essie” Nakajjigo, a Drexel University Mandela Washington Fellow alumna from the 2018 cohort.

Essie was the founder of a reality television show called Saving Innocence, which sought to foster mutual understanding between young girls in urban and rural areas in Uganda and promote education and empowerment for teenage mothers. In this renowned program, young women from urban areas would visit rural areas to learn alongside girls, who, as young mothers, did not have the economic opportunities to attend school. The show was known for breaking down barriers between economic and social realities in Uganda.

Essie was also Uganda's Ambassador for Women and Girls and a member of the Women Ambassador's Forum in Dallas, Texas and a Youth Expert at the African Union-European Union Youth Cooperation Hub in Addis Ababa. Esther was also a Commonwealth Youth Trainer. In 2019, she launched the Global Girls Movement in Brussels, Belgium, where women from universities worked together to respond to the most challenging humanitarian concerns affecting the most vulnerable women and girls around the globe.

In an interview with the Office of Global Engagement, Essie explained her interest in gender equality: “Uganda has the world's largest refugee settlement, mostly from Somalia, Congo, South Sudan. The biggest percentage of this population are women and children. They are the most vulnerable, they are unemployed, they have lost all they have. They have no idea as to why the war even broke out. They did not vote. They know nothing of the political insurgencies. Yet they are the most impacted. Why not empower university girls to do something positive in their respective countries?”

As a participant of the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Drexel, Essie was known for her warm smile, kindness, and compassion. She believed in the ability for everyone to positively impact the lives of others around them.  She brought joy and positivity to our 2018 cohort – and challenged others to demonstrate empathy and support for those impacted by trauma. She was a devoted changemaker and role model for others who fought for equity.

Our hearts and condolences go to Essie’s family during this time. She was, and will always be, a beloved member of the Drexel family.