Ugandan Human Rights Leader to Deliver Soffa Lecture


Date: Friday, September 9, 2005

Contact: Ronnie Hess, Director of Communications, Division of International Studies,
(608) 262-5590,


Madison, WI – Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng, a human rights leader, peace activist and director of Isis-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis -WICCE), will be this year’s J. Jobe Soffa and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Distinguished International Visitor, the UW-Madison Division of International Studies announced today. Ms. Ochieng will deliver the annual Soffa Lecture, at 4:00 p.m., Thursday, October 27 at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison, Wisconsin. Ms. Ochieng will speak on “Women as Peacemakers in Africa: Lessons from Uganda.” The event is free and open to the public.

Ms. Ochieng has devoted her life to fighting sexual violence against women
in societies torn apart by war and civil strife. Whether it is in countries
such as the former Yugoslavia or contemporary Sudan and Uganda, systematic
rape and often the transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus is a “standard
weapon” in warfare. In the wake of this violence, there is extreme physical
and psychological damage, with women often too afraid to speak out against
their violators, some of whom continue to live unpunished in neighborhoods
and villages. “Women’s bodies have actually become battle grounds,
not only to the rebels who are fighting government, but even the government
soldiers are violating women, and targeting their sexuality. The violation
is all about destroying the inbuilt strength of a woman to build a community,
so both warring factions are targeting the woman’s body to make sure
that they destroy that community through this woman,” Ms. Ochieng says.

At Isis-WICCE, an international women’s organization founded in Geneva
in 1974 but based in Kampala since 1993, Ms. Ochieng works to empower women
who are victims of violence, to document the violations, and encourage governments
to prosecute the criminals. The international women’s organization, named
after the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, has been honored for its work researching
women’s experiences in Uganda during one of the African continent’s
longest civil conflicts.

The UW-Madison Division of International Studies’ J. Jobe Soffa and Marguerite
Jacqmin Soffa Distinguished International Visitor Fund provides a regular public
lecture on contemporary issues of global significance. Past speakers have included
Mary Burton, a commissioner on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
Estela Barnes de Carlotto, president of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers
of May Square), an organization that leads efforts to locate children who disappeared
during Argentina’s military dictatorship; and Veena Das, a scholar internationally
respected for both her academic research and activist work on physical and
structural violence in India.