UGANDA: My Father Saw My Worth When Others Saw a Debt

By standing up for his daughters, Agnes's father showed how men can be allies for women's empowerment.

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Agnes Igoye | Uganda

When it was time for my mother to give birth to me, my father rode a bicycle carrying my expectant mother to Pallisa hospital, in eastern Uganda. My mother held a lamp on her lap so my father could see the small path amidst the darkness. Deep in the night, they made their way, looking out for the lion that lived in the surrounding jungle.

This was the first of many times throughout my life that my father would take a risk to help me have a better chance in life.

I was born in the wee hours of the morning and my paternal auntie was the first person to arrive. She was on a mission to find out the sex of the baby. I am told that upon discovering I was a girl, she exclaimed with disappointment. “Apesenin bobo!” which literally means 'yet another debt'.

When this auntie delivered the 'bad news' to the village that my mother had delivered a girl child, my father stood up in support of my mother. Without his support, she might have been pressured to leave the marriage for bearing six girls. Instead, my parents teamed up to ignore the ridicule that many women who bore girl children in my village experience. They responded with kindness, opening up our home and offering food and hospitality to those who had ridiculed us.

As I grew up, I saw how my father’s many acts of support for the women and girls in our family were changing the way things were done in our village. Upon my grandfather’s death, my father was appointed heir to the clan. When he chairs clan meetings, he gives women a voice to articulate their issues. He is using his position to gradually change attitudes, championing women’s rights and empowerment.

There is much that needs to change.  Growing up, I witnessed mothers of girl children scolded, beaten, and given ultimatums by their husbands or even clan members to either produce boys or return to their families. Traditionally, girls are seen as worthless, not worth educating. We are only meant for marriage.

In the Teso culture a bride price is gifted from the family of the groom to that of the bride before the bride is officially handed over to the groom. This takes the form of cows, goats, and sheep. Because the bride price paid for us must be refunded if the marriage fails, girls are debts waiting to happen—a burden to the clan.

Years after my auntie called me 'apesenin bobo', I watched this happen to her. After she bore nine children, her husband showed up with armed guards to my grandfather’s homestead, calling my auntie old and ugly, shouting that he didn’t want her anymore. He drove away all my grandfather’s cows, sheep, and goats—more than the number paid for her bride price—claiming the animals had multiplied over the years. A few weeks later, he used the cows to marry another wife. I have witnessed women run away from abusive marriages, only to be sent back by their relatives and parents to endure abuse because the parents could not afford to return the bride price.

After years of advocacy and legal battles, this month, on August 7, 2015, Uganda’s Supreme Court ruled to deny husbands the right to demand a return of bride price. This is a huge breakthrough for women, but unfortunately, the bride price practice has not been outlawed completely.  

While girls are called debts, boys are regarded as pillars ('apir'). They hold the family home, they carry the family name, inherit land, and keep the clan growing. Boys’ education is prioritized, with some parents making use of the bride price obtained from their daughter’s marriage to support their son’s education. When a man is due for marriage, his sister can be married off even before age 18, to obtain bride price that her brother can use to marry a wife.

My father has led the way in resisting this inequality by refusing to accept a bride price for his daughters. He has seen how the bride price contributes to domestic violence and encourages a married woman to be treated as property without any decision-making abilities.

At the traditional marriage ceremony of one of my sisters, the groom’s grandfather insisted that they should pay a bride price of cows “‘to make it clear that the man is the head of the family”.

My father stood firm and told the gathering, “I have never seen a cow with so many powers to tell a woman that this is your husband and he is the head of the family.” He refused to take any cows and encouraged whomever wanted to give cows to give them to the young couple who needed it the most as they start their new lives in marriage.

My father always supported me even as I asked questions growing up, like why I was expected to kneel down while greeting elders and yet boys never knelt. When my cousin called me a prostitute, my parents didn’t tolerate the name calling. They would call meetings with other families to resolve such problems.

Despite my father’s modest income and the challenges of displacement due to armed conflict that we suffered as a family, my father made a decision to take all six of his girls to school, making sure we all made it to university.

To make sure they raised money for our education, my parents introduced us to farming at an early age, and we grew our own food. We had to wake up before 6am to walk to the garden several miles away while my father spent most of the week working in the city. My parents made so many sacrifices to ensure we all had an education.  

In those days there was no free universal primary or secondary school, and secondary school especially was expensive. While many of my playmates were getting married,, my father sent us to boarding school, away from the village and all the negativity and discouraging remarks from those who did not value girls’ education.

When my sister’s high school wouldn’t permit her to study mathematics because she was a girl, my father went to talk to the school. His protests paid off. My sister went on to study and pass mathematics, and this background allowed her to specialize in accounting at University.

I have vivid memories of my father visiting us at school with his locally made sisal bag.  This bag embarrassed me as a teenager, but he didn’t mind carrying it to bring me fruits at school. My father taught me by example not to let other people’s judgments get in my way.

As we studied, my parents also made a decision to go back to school. My father went on to complete University and joined the Ministry of Education as an inspector of schools.

Together, my parents started the first nursery school in our village with a grass thatched roof so that little girls from the age of four could spend time in school and escape from child labour. All of us volunteered at this school during holidays.

Perhaps my father’s biggest legacy is the example he has created in us—his educated, empowered daughters. Now that we are grown up (some married with families of their own), my father has given us land in which to build a house in our village amidst a patriarchal society where land is owned by men.

Today, with his support, we are building, one brick at a time. One of my brothers-in-law is even the site engineer. When I think of how men can be allies for women, I think of my father, a man who has set a precedence for generations. The whole village was in shock at the first man in the village to give customary land to his daughters.

Yet, increasingly, people from my village are seeing the benefits of changing their ways and sending girls to school. They see my sisters and I educated and working, supporting our parents and contributing to the development of our country. When they see us pulling our resources together to build our house, the best in the village, they are seeing the benefits of education and economic empowerment for women.

6Send Me Love


your story is very touching and i can't approve more men can be allies for women and can stand for women i respect your father he is  such a brave man and i think that there are others who followed his steps to support women in your village or even in your country it takes one leader to start the process and i encourage you to fight for your rights and the women's rights in Uganda because you are now educated you can speard their messages to the world .



Dear AMRI,

Thank you for your kind response. I agree when you say my father is a brave man and I salute him for championing women rights and I also respect all the men who have joined him in this cause and all those fathers around the world who are supporting their daughters. Thank you for your encouragement for us to continue fighting for Women's rights and with gratitude to My father who provided the powerful tool ( Education) for us to be able to do that and all the wonderful men in our lives whose support has enabled us achieve milestones.




Dear Agnes,

Reading your story reminds me of so many things that I am grateful for especially the amazing people in my life and one of them is my father.

God bless your father!.


Dear Adanna,

Your note lights up my heart. God bless your father too. Its amazing how much women achieve when they have supportive Fathers in their lives!



Dear Agnes,

Your life's story is very encouraging. In our house we are two sisters and I have never seen our father discouraging us from anyting. In fact he always told us that he wanted daughters, as its the girl child who takes care of her parents more than the boys. If you edicate the girls, you will have happier and healtier families. I hope your dad is a role model to many, which can bring about a real change



Dear Ruchika,

I salute your father for valueing his daughters-thanks for sharing! And what you say is so true that when you educate girls, you will have happier and healthier families. That's what we need to make this world a better place for all! 


Dear Agnes,

Your story is amazing and simply teach us that education for girl child is most important as it makes them strong and stand for what they believe in. If many fathers around the world were like your dad, the world would be the best place to live in for any woman globally. 

Dear Eatladi,

Thank you for your message of support. Yes, you are right-educating a girl child makes them strong and stand for what they believe in. Education leads to empowerment.

I notice that you are from Botswana. I have visited your Country- The capital Gabarone and found it beautiful.

Sending you warm regards from Kampala-Uganda.




Hello Agnes,

As I am a man with a son and a daughter, your father set an example of kindness and fairness and strength that I will now try to live up to.  It is hard to remain true in the face of the community, but only by such courage will things change.

Please feel free to reach out to my organization as we think about how to help young people attend university in Kampala.

Best Wishes, Shoshon  shoshon at thesenumbers dot org



Dear Shoshon, I have read with admiration the work you are doing at ‘These numbers have faces’ (love the name!). Reading stories of the students your organization is supporting in Uganda brought happy tears. Growing up, I see myself in these students because all I wanted was to be given a chance to have an education! I would love to meet your team and the Ugandan students in Uganda. I have done a lot of speaking engagements at Universities on subjects like career guidance and human trafficking and have taken Alumni based in Uganda -from US Funded fellowships including Fulbright and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows to speak to students (Am the National Coordinator of Uganda-US Exchange Alumni Association).

Am also a ‘Let Girls Learn’ Ambassador, a collaborative initiative of the White House, First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama and United States Peace Corps. We have a promotional video in support of girl education to premiere September 18th here in Uganda. Among several activities, I have also been distributing text books to schools since 2011 to promote education, 69,000 books to date. I believe in Education, Am who I am because I was given a chance to get an education.

Thank you for your support and by the way, I agree-you really have an awesome name!



Hello Agnes,

Thank you for sharing your story about your father and how he made sure his daughters grew up with better opportunities in the world.  I am curious, where did he learn to be so supportive to his females?  Was it another family member?  Something he learned while at school?



Dear Kristina,

Thank you for your great questions!

I think the biggest learning for my father was what he saw first-hand that was happening to the people he loved- his mother, sisters, other female relatives, who were all disadvantaged in society because they are women. My father put himself through school as a child including selling cassava to raise money for school fees. And yes, he saw the value of education-When he started earning his salary as a teacher, he decided to also take his younger siblings to school including his younger sisters. He would also go to people’s homes to question them why they were not sending their girl children to school and this motivated him to start a school where he provided free education to many of these girl children.


Agnes - This is both beautifully written and truly inspiring.  You father is a courageous man and has set a wonderful example for others.  What you say is true:  Men CAN be allies for women's empowerment.  Thank you so much for sharing this! 


Thank you for your wonderful comments and learning from your profile that you support and care about girl education brings me much joy. Education is key to women empowerment!




Wow! What an encouraging story of a father standing up for his daughters. I am sure he must be proud of you.

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful experience of your life. More power to such inspiring fathers and mothers around the globe.


Mukut Ray

Dear Mukut Ray,

Thanks for your wonderful words of support and yes, more power to all inspiring fathers and mothers all of whom deserve to be celebrated. Grateful to the World Pulse platform which keeps us all connected, sharing our stories.



Dear Agnes,

I was very touched by your post and loved learning about your father's relationship to you from birth to present-time. I thought your story was beautifully written, are you a writer by any chance? Where has your education journey taken you?

I feel passionately about educating women in order to mobilize them as individuals. I think that so much of the problem in various countries is from its ideology, I think that the bride price is a harmful practice. I respect your culture and I know each country has its flaws, but I was wondering if there were any movements to illiminate the practice of bride prices alltogether?

I was particularly struck by this sentence in your essay: "I have witnessed women run away from abusive marriages, only to be sent back by their relatives and parents to endure abuse because the parents could not afford to return the bride price." 

That is an incredibly sad situation, and I am glad that improvements have been made for women who have suffered abuse. I think that your family is doing amazing work, and I feel honored to have read your story.

Thank you for sharing, I am grateful to have learned from you.


Dear Angelica, Thank you for reading my story and for this wonderful feedback. Am not yet a writer but hope to write my biography someday! My education journey has taken me many places from Makerere University- my home Country Uganda to University of Minnesota (Fulbright/ Hubert Humphrey Fellowship), and to University of Oxford UK, where I studied forced Migration. It has been possible because of the generosity of so many people who have sacrificed so I could have an education. I continue to learn every day and the World is my inspiration whenever I travel-such an expanse of knowledge, from the people I meet and places I see! Yes, there have been efforts from various actors to eliminate the practice of bride price all together but there is a lot of resistance since it’s a deep rooted culture. It has taken 10 years of advocacy and court battles to outlaw the refund of bride price. And the struggle continues…. You are right-Education of Women is key and I appreciate your voice, in advocating for the education of Women.



Thank you KrysieBright,

And am honored to have him as my father and equally celebrate all the men and women who have supported their children equally.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!




Thank you for sharing your story with us! It is so encouraging to hear the impact of one man and his family fighting for what is right, and making significant social change. You also write in such a way that allows readers to visualize and experience what you are talking about. I love that you are using your gift with words to raise awareness and empower others and I greatly admire your family for your strength, tenacity and spirit!




Twitter: @joystrube Instagram: @strubesaurus

Dear Joy, I receive your message with gratitude. Thank you for your very kind and encouraging words of support. Am thankful to our World Pulse community that makes our connections happen. Am happy that it gives us the platform to tell our own stories and access to amazing people like you to cheer and support, when we tell our stories. I appreciate you!




Agnes Thank you so much to sharing your story, your biography will really be a killer if you wrote it one day. While reading your story, I could not stop thinking about my dad too, we are a seven girls all through university and gone to best schools. He has done way over and above what a father is obliged to do. He has given me an my sister more than what we could ask for. I am what I am today because of him and my mother. He always said that he did all that he did for us because he wanted us to have bargaining power. While we went to school, the dad to our neghbours refused to pay for them because he saw no point. Thanks really for sharing. Because of what my parents offered to me, the, love and support, I strive to fight for a girl child and women. Agnes, am happy that you ar e from Uganda, I would love to connect with you.

Every Blessings

Jayan Nanyonga Me and you can change her story and give her life a new meaning.

Dear Jayan,

I would love to connect with you too! Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story. Your father is a hero and I applaud you for following his footsteps supporting the girl child and women through your work. If you are on Facebook, let’s connect

It would be wonderful to meet you!



Wow Agnes, your story is amazing. You're such an inspiration to young women and girls. I've totally enjoyed reading your story and i look forward to the biography some day! Don't take too long with it.... Your Daddy is so similar with my Dad in that he ensured that we all had a good education, no matter the struggles they faced financially. Your father is a true representation of the HeforShe concept and will truly be remembered for years to come because he chose to go against the norm, against traditions, inorder to stand for what is right. You are blessed!

Thank you for sharing and may the Lord bless you as you keep lighting other candles and living the legacy your father started, to ensure education for all!


Terry Shiundu

Dear Terry Shiundu, Thank you for reading my story and for such lovely, kind words of support! And its so wonderful to hear about other wonderful Dad’s like yours who have empowered their girls with an education, and are now making a difference in their communities!

Blessings to you too


Dear Agness,

I envy your dad. He is one of a few men who sees values in a girl child unlike some cultures which traditionally concludes that a womans place is a kitchen.

I am a believer of a saying that "when you educate a woman, you educate the nation/world". I was orphaned when i was 11yrs.  But mum took care of all of us 7.   As a woman she never ever thought of re-marrying to date. When i asked her at some point why she cannot re-marry as things were getting harder for our livelyhood, she strongly told me that "remarrying will not solve the hardships we are going through, instead it will double".......i did not understand unitil now.......very often men do not manage the siblings like women do.......(my opinion).

Some men if they find money, the first thing they think of is how many beers  that money will buy!!  But for many women the priority is "what am i going to buy for my children". The list goes on.......I salute your dad Agness.



Dear Dorcas,

Thank you for writing! Yes I agree, "When you educate a woman, you educate the nation/world". Reading your post, I see that statement so true about your mum who sacrificed and prioritized taking good care of her 7 children. I see the same in you too, with your sons. And I see the same in my mum who equally sacrificed a lot. Grateful that she had the support of my father in ensuring we got educated. I appreciate your kind words about my father!



Love from Uganda to you too Sahro!

Thank you for your encouraging sweet words. And so you know, I admire your passion and dedicated service to your country Somalia. Indeed You are The Generation of Possibilities!

With much appreciation,



Dear Agnes, 

Dear Agnes, congratulations on your nomination!! We will be posting your story on the Chime for Change website as agreed a few weeks ago. We are very pleased to contribute to inspiring the rise of African women such as those you inspire yourself. Warm bests








Dear Agnes,

Your story is very inspiring and i am so happy that your father was one out of thousands who stood up for his daughters. He truly loved you all and his actions spoke louder than words.

We are glad and happy that the supreme court ruled in favour of women but the implementation is still a huge challenge espeicaly in the rurual areas. But with the education of these communities one day women will liberated.

Thank you so much for your great story and God bless your father becasue he has surely set that bar very high.

Stay blesed my dear sister.

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi

Executive Director and Co Founder

Sowing Seeds of Tumaini

Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

Thank you Anita for your feedback. Yes, I agree implementation is such a huge challenge as you rightly put it, Education is key. And its wonderful to read that you are involved with Batwa communities. thank you for the important work you are doing to uplift Batwa minorities



Reading your post, I felt as if it was the story written by an Indian woman. It is both surprising and shocking to hear about an environment and customs utterly similar to that I have heard from my elders and read from our history in India; except for the bride price which is groom price here, given in terms of money, gold, silver and whatnot.

The torture for a male child still continues in the most modern homes. Equality is a forever-dream for most women from lower economic status and liberty means more burden by way of earning outside and working at home. But I am happy to say it's changing albeit at a slow pace, changing for the better. I am glad that men like your father surround my life.

Shwetha Halambi

Hello Agnes

Thank you for such a great touching story. It  shows that men could make great advocates for changes related to female issues.

Your dad is a force to be reckoned. I wish i could meet him and learn a lot.


Thank you

Chinyere Mma Okoh

Pharmacist, Rotarian.



 thanks for your beautiful story it really made strong me as man how your father defended your mother and you as well.

your story proved  that every daughter who writes a beautiful story  there is great father behind her,,,

I was hoping to find inspiration here. Did not expect to find it on my first story read. I, too, came from a family of six sisters and the seventh, and eldest, was our only brother. He was great at looking out for us. And, for letting us know when we were out of line. My mom was a quiet feminist, as she hoped we would have more opportunities than she did. My father gave us all room to explore our world and woods around our home. Once a visitor asked my father what he was going to do with all them girls. My Father confidently stated back, "They do good work." Took me many years to fully realize the strength and love he had for his family. I now know, I am not alone. Thank you for sharing. And thanks to the great men in our lives.

OMG!what a brave dad u can women be seen as debt and men pillars?dad did a great job by advocating for women's right and their voices to be heard.what a society?Keep showing them that women have worth as men.