Interview with Dr. Phoebe Arach Abe Okwon


By Valentine Nkoyo

Dr ABE was born in Uganda. She attended Medical School at Makerere University but had to abandon her studies when she arrived in the UK as a refugee. She completed her degree at Manchester University Medical School and has been working as a GP for nearly 30 years. She is a very active supporter of women and girls, and has been instrumental in tackling FGM in the UK. She founded Dr Abe Foundation and Female Genital Mutilation Association Worldwide (FAW). She discussed her work and passion with Valentine Nkoyo.

3. What does Dr Abe Foundation and FGM Association Worldwide (FAW) do? I have been doing charity work since I was a little girl. Helping the poor old man near our house called Okema Lamojelle. I would always fetch him some water and go and cook for him. Since 1992 I have been doing a lot of charity work in Uganda in IDP (Internally Displaced People’s) Camps in war torn Northern Uganda. I have danced, sang and cried with them. However, the thing we managed to do was to study anything any of them wanted to study

One of them told me “Doctor everybody wants to go to University but I just want to be a 4x4 wheel driver as there are so many NGOs and heavy tracks going from Sudan to Mombasa passingthrough Gulu I want to learn to Drive and be a good driver” Yes, I paid for his driving lesson and he is now supporting all his relatives paying their school fees and lending them money to build houses. A Driver! We have had many qualified both girls and boys pursuing whatever they wanted to do. We have lecturers in the University, Nurses, teachers, politicians just name it we have them and we are very proud that despite all the odds we have made it Next month we shall have a big celebration in Gulu for one of my students and other graduates from the University this month. Each student has assigned themselves to take/ adopt five children who looks to them as uncle/aunt (neru/wayo). It is a commitment they make to show that what I gave them they will give back also. As one of them said “Doctor we cannot measure your footstep but we can only follow it” I did this for Acholi Heartbeat and MAMA in Gulu from 1992 till 2010. Now they are able to look after themselves with little help

What kind of business activities are the women you work with interested in? I have asked them what they want to do as this is an individual choice from country to country they come from. Some want and are now doing beads necklaces and ear rings and bracelets and they have gone to London and obtained Saturday training at the beads crafts. Others want food as most of them think they can provide foods prepared that people in their community would like to eat but I had to send them to do ‘the health and safety Certificate and Diploma’. Most of these women are fantastic cooks but for those (very few) who cannot cook we try and teach them as they need to prepare food for themselves. Hair dressing, counselling sessions