Meet Kevin Anena, One Of The Leaders Behind Hope Center Uganda

Going by her self-chosen name, "Kevin", this fearless leader is a guiding light with Hope Center Uganda, and an outspoken role model for women in the community.

Meet Kevin Anena Okumu – the program director of the NGO aimed at strengthening the vibrant community of Gulu, Uganda through hope, dedication and female empowerment. As a grassroots organization aimed at uplifting women and those in need, their strength stems from their female-driven team. The fearless leader and program director for Hope Center Uganda is Kevin Okumu, a single mother of six and a role model for girls and women within her community and beyond.

The outreach of Hope Center Uganda is wide-ranging and includes programs aimed at strengthening the local economy as well as supporting health and wellness needs, such as funding Nodding Syndrome care centers and Girl Power Gulu. Girl Power Gulu provides menstruation products, counseling and women’s health classes to keep girls in school and in touch with their own bodies, all important to personal empowerment, across cultures.

When asked about Kevin Okumu’s contributions to HCU, Lucy Russell, a contributor with Girl Power Gulu and former HCU volunteer offered her own beautiful words:

Kevin is my second mother. She has a warm heart, a beautiful spirit, and an incredible work ethic. She has taught me so much as a young woman finding my place in the world, as she has showed me there is no limit to what women can achieve. There will always be people who doubt the abilities of women, but Kevin has showed me how to prove them wrong. She carries herself with confidence and uses her innate strength to persevere through any challenge.

Kevin is a fearless leader in her community, and she is using her incredible talents to build a stronger future for Gulu. She is devoted to improving the lives of women and families across the region, and she inspires me every day to be a compassionate leader. As a woman in a patriarchal society, she is an unstoppable force for good who fights for gender equality every day. She is paving the way for women’s leadership in Gulu and beyond.

Feel free to read Lucy’s full post from Women’s Day 2019 “Celebrating Ms. Anena Kevin Okumu” and catch our conversation with Kevin about her background, female empowerment with Hope Center Uganda and some general advice about what it means to be a strong woman.

First of all, where are you from, and how would you describe your personal background?

My name is Anena Kevin Okumu, I am born in 1985 from my amazing parents Mr Okumu Larence Otobi and Mrs. Karla Aryemo. I was born in Amuru District in Village called Kaladima, am a single mother of three kids, two biological and one adopted son, and three other orphans under my custody. I graduated from the Kyambogo University in 2009, with a Bachelor in Microfinance – I started working in the same year with a local organization called Emergency Action Uganda that was supporting women with microfinance. I have worked with several organizations and I have a nine years of community work with the local organization.

What is your main role in the community with Hope Center Uganda?

My major roles with community are training and sensitization – its one way of creating awareness, encouraging and motivating women to become leaders and role models in their various communities. This could be community mediations in cases of gender-based violence and creating a platform for HOPE, LOVE and HARMONY. We implement projects with proper finance and accountability, monitoring and evaluating the projects and co-ordinating the organization with local government and other stakeholders. I managing the entire HCU team and handle any issues locally.

How did you become a part of Hope Center Uganda?

I became part of the HCU in team in 2015, when Ella Rose Simmons and Jamie Stuart came to Uganda for their internship with a local organization – they had passion to support children and built up a center in Northern Uganda, having worked with them, they were interested if I could help them to established the center and here I am.

There are many different areas that HCU addresses in Gulu. What is most important to you in community building and development?

HCU is addressing many issues but the most crucial one that I would go for is women empowerment and leadership training – and girl child support.

What is your favorite part about working within the community?

Transforming lives from nothing to something, and seeing a positive change and the smiles in different faces.

And what would you say is the biggest challenge facing women or girls in Uganda today? How do you think it should be addressed?

Vulnerability and poverty. Knowledge is power, we need adult literacy programs for the women in all ways they need to live. The girls need to be empowered with life skills and to be encouraged to stay in school so as to have a brighter future. But overall it can be explained as socio-economical and cultural; all these affects women.

So, your given name is Anena, and you chose the name Kevin for yourself. Is that right? What is the story behind this decision?

Anena is a cultural name that means “observation”. My grandparents wanted to see if my mother would be a good a mother. Kevin is my first name in the British world, but in my cultural context its the second name, and culturally my first name is Anena. I prefer Kevin to my elites but my local counterparts call me Anena.

What is your vision for the future of the community?

My vision for future, organization and community is “services for the humanity”. That can be through transforming and changing lives, and in the next life after serving the community, I would love to be a reference person to strive for peace and hope for the helpless.

You’ve been described as a generous mother figure to many! If you could leave one piece of wisdom to women or girls in general, what would that be?

Being a female is by birth and being a strong woman is by making success. Not by how much money you make but it’s the differences that you creates in many lives is what makes me a woman.