Yvette has been with CEDOVIP since she finished university. She began as an assistant program officer, but has continued to climb ever since. Yvette’s caring and thoughtful personality help her relate to the different institutions and communities that CEDOVIP works with. She deliberately thinks through everything that she says and does so she can fully analyze situations around her. She is a great listener, easily approachable and easy to work with, all of which make her great at what she does.
What did you study in school?
I have a Bachelors of Adult and Community Education. For that we studied a lot about oppression and about how people who oppress others are oppressed themselves. It kind of gave me an insight to what people feel when they are powerless. Community interventions can help people find the power within themselves. They helped me understand how to get people to appreciate that they themselves can create change within their community.
What made you choose to study that?
I felt like from the time I was a child that I had the need and desire to work with disadvantaged people. I thought that that course would help me do that.
What were you doing before you came to CEDOVIP?
I went to CEDOVIP straight after university. I came as volunteer and an intern. After 8 months, I was given a job as an assistant program officer and I have been climbing since then.
How did you first find CEDOVIP?
When I finished university, like any other parent, my father knew he had a responsibility to help me find a job. He reached out to a lady who is now on the CEDOVIP board.
I knew I wanted to work with an NGO that focused on women and HIV.
My father called this woman and asked if I could volunteer with her. She asked me what I wanted to do and I said I would like to work with a women’s organization. She asked for more specifics and I decided women who are experiencing domestic violence. Then I got the placement.
I felt very comfortable at CEDOVIP. It felt like the place I wanted to be.
What is your favorite thing about working here?
So many things. I enjoy seeing that I am making a contribution towards the personal changes in people’s lives. My job is supporting institutions, but that involves getting people in the institutions to make changes before they can make institutional changes. When I do trainings, I can tell that we are having an impact on individuals, and that is the best moment.
Do you have a favorite training story?
My favorite story to use in trainings is about the different parts of the body. It goes like this:
One time the parts of the body were given a chance to campaign to pick a new leader of the body. The eyes said that they see, the heart said that it fees. Everyone said nice things. But when it was the anus’ turn, everyone else said, “No, no you cannot be the leader.” He felt so bad and thought, Why is it that no one values me? They want to use me and lock me in a dark place. No one looks at what I have done. I am sat on, and I am never taken care of. He decided not to cooperate and to go on strike. The rest of the body functioned normally, but anus decided to riot. Within 2-3 days, the body got sick. Everyone else apologized to the anus, and he said, “Now that you understand, all harmony will be restored.”
That story may seem silly, but it has a very important message. Everyone is important and has a role. These roles may be different, but they are all important. In our communities, women are treated like they are not important but they play a key rule. If our community continues to disrespect women, it will break down. We must respect everyone to keep harmony. All people are valuable.
What is your favorite CEDOVIP memory?
There was a case that I handled six years or seven years ago that always gets to me. There was a mother who had HIV. She had three children-- two boys, one girl. The boys were negative, but the girl became positive. She was experiencing violence and couldn’t access care. When she gave birth, the baby was negative. At that times, mothers were not allowed to breastfeed, but the husband was extremely violent. She was sleeping in a shack with her children. He would come back just to beat them. She was desperate and her baby was hungry, so she breast fed her and infected the baby girl at 9 months. She could not afford transport to get her to the facility, so she gave her local herbs. The herbs were cheaper, and she was sharing the herbal concoction with her child. I cried when I heard her story. We gave her support, got her transport, and gave her money for clothes. She came back just two years ago and she was doing well. She had moved on. She started a small business to take care of her children. She and her daughter received their ARV treatment. Her children were in school. Her story reminds me that I need to do something to change the world.
Did you always know that you were an activist?
My activism was natural from the time I was a child, way back when I was 10 or 11. My mother was single. She raised my sister and me, and my father supported us financially sometimes. She taught me a lot of lessons-- a woman does not need a man by her side to make it in life. My mother’s work evolved, too. It was a lot of social work involved in Uganda which prioritized education, especially girls education. She wanted girls going to school. She kept talking about defilement and telling other mothers and us children to be cautious. A woman has rights that should be expected. Growing up with that example made it easy for me to realize I wanted to be an activist. When I was choosing a course at university, I felt the world needed to be a safer place. I was in a gender course at university, and I remember us talking about stereotypes and how women in communities are “mere” woman. I knew that was not true. All humans are important.
When I was at the university, I also had a roommate who experienced violence by her boyfriend. He beat her. I told her it wasn’t right and that she needed to report him and stand up for herself. That was way before I became involved with CEDOVIP.
Do you have a favorite celebrity activist?
I get inspired by two people. One is a colleague of ours who passed away two or three years ago. She was a celebrity of sorts. She was a very tough woman who fought injustice. She was very known for fighting to the point that one time when some friends and I were watching TV, my friends would ask me to tell my workmate to advocate for different groups’ rights. She mentored me through my personal life. She was like a mother and a friend. She took so many of my secrets to the grave. She really guided me around important decisions in life.
The other who comes to mind is Tina Turner. She has a story about violence and activism. She knew that it wasn’t about love. She couldn’t continue a relationship just because of love if he was hurting her. In divorce settlements, she asked him to let her keep the name and that was it. And she continued to thrive in spite of her misfortunes. Even when all hope is lost and everything has been taken away, you can still pick up yourself, move on and be an inspiration to other women.
What color represents your activism?
I would say white. Many times when people think about activism, they feel like it is a fight or a battle. They feel like women activists are forcing our way to be recognized and appreciated. I don’t look at myself that way. I do not think women are battling for anything. We are making demands-- demanding that society makes women feel safe. I have a calm feeling about it. I feel like it is something pure. My activism is pure and it does not have to be bloody. It isn’t us against them. It is a struggle of humanity where everyone struggles equally to make sure all of humanity is recognized.
What is something that other people might not know about you?
Many people may not know that I have had a lot of struggle to accept myself. I feel that I am an introvert. Growing up I was gentle and reserved. And everyone made me feel that that was unusual. So I used to get comments like, “When will you say something?” Outside of class I didn’t have a life but I was very bright. People made me feel that being different was wrong. For a long time I struggled to express myself. And I think I reached the point that I realized that I was different and I didn’t have to be jumpy and naughty like other kids. I was also always compared to my sister who was funny and playful.
So I used to wonder if something was wrong with me. Finally I recognized that I was different and I should be comfortable in my skin. I do not have to be like everyone else. So I know some people may find me a bit reserved. But they do not know that I was much worse. I was so gentle that if someone stepped on my toe, I would say thank you. It has been a struggle to accept that I am different. Right now I am more open to understanding different people and the different ways that people do things.
What are you passionate about besides violence against women and children?
I have a backyard at house. I am passionate about farming. I have 40 chickens, I grow vegetables and I take care of everything myself. I really love to be healthy. I do everything within my means to be healthy. I want to be sure that I know what I am eating. I am pro-organic so I like to have control over my vegetables. Here at CEDOVIP, I am known for being knowledgeable about health things. If there are articles about anything related to health and nutrition I read it.