Joyce Mpanga Remembered for Her Trailblazing Achievements

Joyce Mpanga, an illustrious educationist, women’s rights activist, and trailblazing politician, passed away last week at the age of 91. Born on January 22, 1933, in present-day Kasanda, which was then part of the Mubende district, Joyce Rovincer Masembe was a woman of many firsts and an influential figure in Uganda’s history.

In a 2019 during a media interview she expressed her desire to be remembered for her extensive volunteer work, particularly in championing women’s causes. Her commitment to women’s empowerment was evident throughout her life.

Joyce’s educational journey began at Ndejje High School and later at Gayaza High School, where she served as head girl for two years. Her academic excellence led her to Makerere University in 1953, where she eventually became the first female lecturer in the Faculty of Education.

One of her remarkable achievements was being the third woman in the East African region to obtain a university degree and the first Ugandan woman to receive a US Fulbright scholarship. The US Mission in Uganda expressed condolences, acknowledging Joyce’s role in opening opportunities for many women through her participation in the Fulbright Program at Indiana University in 1962.

Joyce Mpanga (L) with Nabagereka Nagginda Luswata at the launch of her book

Joyce Mpanga played a pivotal role in advocating for affirmative action policies to admit female students at Makerere University and other public universities. She was a member of the National Council of Women, actively lobbying the Odoki Commission for improved women’s representation in parliament and lower councils.

Her influence extended into politics, as she became a member of the Legislative Council in the 1960s. Notably, she was nominated as one of the first four women to join the Legislative Council in 1958, sparking her enduring interest in politics.

Joyce’s contributions were not limited to education and politics; she was a devoted women’s rights advocate and played a crucial role in making the Uganda constitution gender-sensitive through her involvement with the Odoki Commission.

Later in life, she served as Uganda’s ambassador to Germany, deputy chairperson of the Public Service Commission, and held ministerial positions in Women in Development and Primary Education during President Yoweri Museveni’s administration.

Joyce’s legacy in Buganda was equally significant. She was married to Andrew Fredrick Mpanga, a former attorney general of Buganda, and played a vital role in the kingdom’s parliament (Lukiiko). Her dedication to the Buganda kingdom and her instrumental role in raising her children as a single mother were emphasized by her family members.

Joyce’s influence transcended borders, as she went into exile in 1967 but returned to Uganda after Idi Amin took power. Her life was marked by challenges and triumphs, and she leaves behind a lasting impact on education, women’s rights, and politics in Uganda.

Joyce Mpanga is survived by her four children—lawyer and author David Mpanga, former private secretary to the Kabaka Peter Mpanga, poet and podcaster George Mpanga, and assistant professor at the University of Washington Lydia Mpanga Sebuyira. Her family suspects that she succumbed to a cardiac arrest.

As the nation mourns the loss of a remarkable woman, Joyce Mpanga’s legacy will continue to inspire generations to come. May her soul rest in eternal peace

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