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Leaders commit to fight cancer among women

by Noeline Namugwanya and Gertrude Nakigudde, UWOCASO, Uganda


Uganda Women’s Cancer Support Organisation (UWOCASO) in partnership with Buwaya Hope Project( BUHOP), through Voice’s support, is working with the community to improve care for women with cancer in Mende subcounty, Wakiso District.


Since the inception of their project “Mentally cancer free and thriving” in March 2023, UWOCASO has conducted  home visits where cancer survivors provide counselling and support to patients and caretakers. Cancer, particularly among women, is on the increase in Mende subcounty. Community case finding activities by UWOCASO between September 2023 and February 2024 revealed that women suffer largely from cervical and breast cancer. Other common cancers include; Kaposi’s sarcoma and skin cancer.


Whereas cancer is on the rise, access to healthcare including testing and treatment, palliative care and psychosocial support is still limited. Furthermore, there is low community awareness about cancer, its causes and how to care for cancer patients which leads to widespread stigma and discrimination. During community meetings and peer support sessions conducted by UWOCASO, cancer survivors, patients and caretakers come together to share personal experiences on cancer treatment, mental health challenges, and access information from experts, participate in edutainment activities, and sometimes access material support such as artificial breasts.


BUHOP also equips women with cancer with income generating skills such as poultry management and vegetable farming to improve their quality of life .  These initiatives have greatly enhanced the physical and emotional well-being of cancer patients as they share below;


 I am relieved after seeing cancer survivors looking healthy, I will go through this cancer journey however much it’s tough, my hair will come back again, this has been a great opportunity for me to learn and recover”

Cancer patient (name withheld)


“I thank UWOCASO and BUHOP for restoring our lives, you have given us a new life, my family had given up on me, because they thought I would die in one year” – Sarah ( Not real name, cancer patient)


A physical exercise and recreational activity during a peer session in Mende subcounty
A physical exercise and recreational activity during a peer session in Mende subcounty


On February 23rd 2024, UWOCASO held an advocacy meeting with District leaders at the Wakiso District Health Quarters to provide an update on the project progress and highlight issues that require government action. The meeting was embraced by high-ranking District officials including the District Chairperson, Chief Administrative officer, District Health Officer, Secretaries for Health and Production, among others. There was also active participation by the Subcounty leaders and partners including the Infectious Diseases Institute and the Uganda Cancer Institute.


During the meeting, several observations were made by District leaders, community champions, and rightsholders as follows;

“We need to emphasise prevention because many people have died of cancer and they don’t know what do, lets focus on giving cancer information to the masses” –  District  Councillor


We get many patients and refer them to health facilities but they come back to us in community with no help and condition is worsened.” – Community champion, UWOCASO  


“Since I joined UWOCASO I see change in myself especially confidence, I talk to my friends about cancer which wasn’t the case before this intervention, I am so grateful for your efforts.” – rightsholder


Following the discussions, the leaders resolved and made the  commitments below;


  • Organise a cancer run to create awareness and solicit funds to support UWOCASO in their efforts to fight cancer;
  • Collaborate with UWOCASO in writing a joint research proposal to inform scale up efforts in the district;
  • To allocate funds for cancer interventions within the District budget during the Financial Year 2024/2025 fiscal year;
  • Integrate cancer services in the District health programs; and
  • Continue sponsoring a radio talk show on one of the national radio broadcasters (CBS FM) based in Kampala to improve cancer awareness, where previous shows featured UWOCASO cancer survivors and District technical personnel.


UWOCASO has cultivated a good relationship with leaders and non-government organisations working in the health and livelihood sectors. Through several joint initiatives, the voices of rightsholders are growing louder.  The commitment of Wakiso District administration towards fighting cancer is a manifestation of the efforts by the district leadership and other stakeholders to fight cancer and similarly  aligned to this year’s Women’s Day theme, ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’.


Gertrude Nakigudde, UWOCASO project manager sharing project progress with the meeting participants at Wakiso District Headquarters
Gertrude Nakigudde, UWOCASO project manager sharing project progress with the meeting participants at Wakiso District Headquarters


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