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For The Rising Woman

Mary Nagawa Akol On Advocating And Changing The Conversation Around Mental Health

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At Bloom For Her, we are passionate about empowering women and giving a platform to women who are doing amazing work in their communities. This week we had a chat with  Mary Nagawa Akol, a young lady passionate about mental health and an activist doing amazing things in her community through the Tuli Ffena Foundation.

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Q1. What is your name?

My name is Nagawa Mary Frances Akol

Q2. What do you do?

I am a social entrepreneur, feminist, activist, and mental health advocate.

I founded and currently am the director of the Tuli Ffena foundation, a non -profit NGO that is led by a group of young enthusiastic minds, creating awareness on mental health which is a rampant vice in society affecting young adults and matures age group.

Q3. Tell us about yourself!

Well, I am a self-motivated, multi-talented, and outspoken young activist.

Am passionate about the development of youth and women in Uganda and I have been actively involved in youth and community development, both in Uganda and Russia.

I like to take up space and lend my voice where I believe there’s a gap especially when it comes to women’s rights and mental health.

I also have a special interest in climate change and humanitarian work.

Q4. Brief education and life background?

I was raised in many places. I moved to a few schools in primary but finally finished at Namungongo Girls Boarding Primary School,  I was a very active child, very much involved in the school activities and leadership.

After my primary, I was admitted on merit to Mount St.Mary’s College Namuganga for both my O and A’ level.

I was the quiet book worm though I am an introverted extrovert if that’s a thing.

After high school, I was  lucky to be offered a full scholarship to pursue my undergraduate studies from Russia,

I was nervous and excited when I finally got my approval from the Russian embassy after the selections list was sent from Moscow! It was almost unbelievable.

There was a rush of excitement, but thén  I knew my life was about to change, which way I had no idea, the overwhelmingness of uncertainty was like a cloud dancing over my head, but now I am glad to say Russia is my second home, Russians are welcoming people contrary to what we see in the media.

Q5. Tell us about your organization and the work you do.

Tuli ffena foundation is a non-government organization headquartered in Kampala, Uganda, it was founded in 2020  

Our mention objective is to provide awareness and information on mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, etc.

 We also focus on suicide prevention that has become rampant all over the world.

We also offer counseling to individuals who are battling mental health issues and domestic violence.

Tuli ffena membership has grown to include a growing number of youth from various countries such as Russia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Ghana.

We envision to shade a light on breaking the mental health stigma and providing a free ground for mental health conversations 

Because at the end of the day, none is immune to mental health and mental health affects all of us.

 The stigma that surrounds mental health has prevented several people from seeking help, and so often at times some result in suicide, unfortunately. But that’s our goal is to prevent and fight suicides! And suicide can be very much prevented 

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Q6. What inspired you to start the organization?

 Well, I always felt there was a gap in the mental health advocacy space! I believed enough wasn’t being done to speak about mental health and suicide as well as help the different individuals that were having mental health challenges! 

 Unfortunately, I lost a friend to suicide and a sense of guilt came upon me because I thought maybe I should have done more, maybe I should have been vigilant just a little bit, so when I returned to Uganda for my vacation, I came on a mission to start up an organization that prioritizes mental health, an organization that talks about it and that offers help to people going through it!

And alas that’s how Tuli Ffena was born.

Tuli Ffena is from the Luganda dialect which means we are together. Often people struggling with mental health feel alone and by themselves so Tuli Ffena is a  reminder that no one is alone and no one is left behind 

Q7. How long have you been running the organization?

 Over a year now and going strong 

Q8. What are your biggest/proudest achievements as an organization?

My proudest moment as a leader and as the organization is when an individual comes to me or when they inform one of our team leaders, counselors that, you saved my life!

I have received individuals who were on the brink of ending their lives.

And seeing them thrive, just tells me, we must be doing something right!

So directly changing someone’s life for the better is the greatest thing and the greatest fulfillment I can ever have as a leader and as an organization as a whole.

Q9. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced doing the work you do as an organization?

Well, the main challenge so far has been Covid, because it has prevented us from holding physical workshops in big numbers. We have had conferences on zoom and other platforms but the effects of CoVid have affected us.

Q10. What are the key lessons you have learnt from your work as an organization?

I have learnt to be patient and resilient, especially when it comes to management. It’s not always straightforward.

Q11. Where do you see your organization in five years?

Five years from now, I see Tuli Ffena impacting more lives. I hope and pray people see the relevance and importance of mental health,

In 5 years the Tuli Ffena mental health clubs that focus on students’ mental health In schools will definitely have grown!

And I believe more lives will be saved and transformed along the way 

Q12. In What ways can people support the work your organization does?

People can support financially,  this is an NGO, so the funds are definitely necessary 

 Another way people can support is through creating awareness and informing people about the foundation because at Tuli Ffena there’s help and oftentimes people feel stranded.

They can as well join us and be a part of the movement of Mental Health advocates.

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Q13. What advice would you like to give to young people who look up to you?

 My only advice is to look out for your purpose in life. And do something that will impact people positively.

There will be times when you will fail in whatever you are trying to pursue but keep on! Keep moving and don’t look back! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Q14. Any last words?

  Aaa well, I want to encourage each and all of us to be of use in our different communities and live and enjoy life! 

We have only one life, so let’s  make it count 


Q15. Your social media handles and on what platforms can people reach your organization?

Instagram @ maria Frances 

Facebook @ Akol Mary Frances 

Twitter @ Mary Nagawa 

For Tuli Ffena Foundation all socials are  @ tuli ffena foundation

Thank you so much for your precious time, Mary. We look forward to having you again sometime!

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Meet Our Founder

Joy Akatukunda

Joy Akatukunda

Hi, I’m Joy Akatukunda. I’m a lover. My main goal in life is to inspire and empower women become better versions of themselves. I use my talents and skills to share love, knowledge, advice and ideas that transform lives. I’m a writer, singer, and occasional dancer. My talents are a gateway for my own experiences and personality to be seen and heard by the world, hoping that a certain woman will be encouraged and fired up to start her own business, hit the studio, work on her body, leave a toxic relationship or do that one thing she’s forever been afraid to do. I have struggled with these and more, hence I understand the need to inspire someone to make that bold move.

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