Denis is one of CEDOVIP’s most valuable behind-the-scenes employees. He was one of the very first staff members at CEDOVIP, and his passion for human rights has continued to grow since he joined the team. His sense of humor and easy-going personality make him relatable to everyone in the office. Without Denis’ strong commitment to human rights and money management, CEDOVIP would not have grown into the important NGO it is today.
Question: What did you study in school?
Denis: I went to Makerere for a Bachelors of Commerce. My post-graduate degree is in financial management from the Uganda Management Institute. I have started a CPA professional course. I am finished with the third stage and stopped for a while.
Why did you study those subjects?
When you are in school, you should have an interest in what you want to do in the future. I did a course in high school with the intention of becoming an accountant. I have an interest in business. I liked the idea of becoming an accountant because they manage their own business, run it, check on it and keep it up. I got a job here because of my passion for human rights. Back home in my village in the north, I saw human rights abuses-- partner abuse and child abuse. So when I came to Kampala, I learned about CEDOVIP and got interested. In my final year at university, I joined the team here. That was in 2003. I went through the objective and everything, and I knew I would fit in well. When you work with CEDOVIP, you carry the values in all spheres of life. Back home, women were being undermined. They experienced physical abuse, mental abuse and psychological abuse. When I came here, I understood the different kinds of abuse and became a strong activist for women, children and the disabled.
What were you doing before you found CEDOVIP?
I completed an internship with a Uganda Human Rights Organization. Then I came to CEDOVIP straight out of university.
You were one of the original staff members, right?
Yes, I was. It was pretty hard at the beginning because it was a very young organization. At first we basically had one donor-- Action Aid. It was not sufficient funding for all costs, and it was problematic for the administration. Sometimes we lost salaries because we had so little funding. Slowly we started gaining partners and funders. We started hiring new staff and we started growing.
What has been your favorite memory at CEDOVIP?
We used to work without pay, so we voluntarily worked. That is pretty rare for some people. We all had a passion. So that really said something about us. We had strong feelings for this organization, otherwise we would have left and gone for other things.
What is something that you are proud of in your work?
Over the years, I have been managing finance effectively without issues from donors. I am also proud of that. If you mismanage funds, you can lose a lot. It is not easy. Money is emotional and tricky. You must have a sober mind and you must do the right thing at the right time. We now have 7-8 different donors from different countries. When you sign an agreement, if you don’t follow it, contracts get cancelled. But we keep our word and our work. We haven’t had any issues with any donor.
What has been the biggest change in yourself?
When I joined this organization, I had always been pro-human rights. I am against all human rights abuse. In my neighborhood, if I ever saw family quarrels, I intervened. I have never and will never commit physical abuse against my partner or my children. And I guide them on how to grow without using abuse. Children are often brought up by beatings here, and I make sure to always talk to people instead of violently reacting. That came out of my work here. I never got into drinking either. I come home early, and I appreciate time with my family. Many men go home late, get drunk and start quarreling. If I am ever late to come home, I always communicate and apologize. I have grown in a very positive way.
What is your favorite thing about working here?
Teamwork. Because when you work as a team, you make things proceed creatively. In isolation things do not work well. I like working together with others to promote our main cause at CEDOVIP.
What color represents your activism?
Purple. Even at my wedding, purple was my color. It has a lot of meanings in our work here. Then personally I also like it. It’s in my home too.
Do you have a favorite celebrity activist?
I admire Juliana Kamyamuzi. She is a strong musician who sings about human rights. She has nice songs. She is one of the most well-known celebrities in Uganda in terms of music.
What is something that you are passionate about besides business and human rights?
Tourism. I am a local tourist. Most Ugandans do not like tourism, but I make sure I go see new places. I love discovering new things from new places. I traveled to many places around East Africa, and I have been to almost all of the national parks in Uganda. I enjoy jungle life in my free time. Most Ugandans don’t like it but I really do. I have traveled a lot. I like to discover new things and see wildlife. I also appreciate learning new things from new people and making new friends. If someone has a different lifestyle, I like to compare and try to adapt good practices to suit my day-to-day life.