It is impossible to speak about Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), the African Feminist Forum, the Uganda Women’s Movement and the Uganda Feminist Forum without mentioning Stella Mukasa. A feminist, lawyer and activist with over 20 years of experience spanning government, international development, and academia, Stella undoubtedly espoused feminist principles in the different spaces she participated in and to say that she lived a rich and fulfilling life is an understatement.The African and Uganda Women’s movements are devastated by the heartbreaking news of her untimely passing as she has been at the forefront of the battle for women’s rights on the continent. She founded one of the very few Feminist Consulting Groups in Africa – Nordic Consulting Group (U) Limited. At the time of her demise, Stella was employing all her energies fighting for women’s justice through research as the Regional Director for Africa at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).
Stella has been an activist whose work guiding governments and civil society on gender-responsive policy development influenced a number of policies in Africa including the banning of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria and Uganda’s Domestic Violence Act. The inclusion of progressive reforms for women in Uganda and Rwanda’s constitutions are some of the other processes that Stella engaged policy makers with to advance women’s rights. True to her feminism and her love for African women’s emancipation, Stella’s voice was always out-and-out on the issues that affected the women’s movement. Civil society in Uganda cannot forget how boldly she came out against the shrinking space for civic engagement in 2017 which among other injustices saw Action Aid International Uganda and the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) bank accounts frozen.
In her work, Stella facilitated and advocated for women’s engagement in critical spaces by supporting women in leadership and creating linkages between governance and rights. When she was not in that room imparting knowledge and ideas to young African women, she was away mentoring others to follow in the steps of feminist and transformational leaders who have gone before them. Besides feminist mentorship, Stella was zealous about sisterhood and the importance of looking out for one another and it comes as nosurprise that she is one the women who spearheaded the inaugural convening of the Uganda Feminist Forum in 2008.
I fully embrace my responsibility to stand up to patriarchy at whatever scale in both my private life and the public spaces that I occupy. This responsibility includes ensuring that every woman understands their worth as a human being and makes an effort to defend their personhood and dignity – Stella, in an interview with the African Feminist Forum
During her time as the Chairperson of the Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) International Governance Board, Stella provided stewardship that transitioned AMwA from the global north to the Global South. This transition also enabled the organisation to strategically position and address pertinent issues that affect the lives of African Women in Africa and the Diaspora. She further provided direction on how the feminist movement in Africa could cultivate value for women in leadership and sustain their initiatives, to develop their leadership capacities and amplify their voices to address gender inequality and women’s empowerment. Stella has also served on the board of Action Aid International Uganda and Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA) and Mentoring Program for Young Women (MEMPROW).
I remember Stella as one of the feminists who trained me in the African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) in 2006. I will never forget the valuable advice she gave us during the training on feminism and human rights – Nyambura Gathumba, AMwA Alumna, Hivos East Africa
Farewell thee Stella, you are gone but you have left a legacy that has transformed Uganda, Africa and the world that will continue influencing feminism on the African continent. You have been beautiful, wise, cheerful, pleasant, confident, firm in your beliefs, supportive, and an irreplaceable sister. We shall miss your delightful presence in all our spaces and shall not stop speaking truth to power and mobilising until every woman's voice counts, every right respected and all systems and structures that continue to legitimise the oppression of and discrimination against women are eradicated, in your honor. Rest well Stella, Rest in Power!!