CHHS Hosts Its First Fulbright Scholar

2/21 - For Uganda University Dean Saidah Najjuma, research is important because it helps her create a fairer world. Through her research of women living with HIV/AIDS, she explores economic empowerment as a means to lessen women’s suffering, among other strategies to sustain their livelihoods. She envisions a world where empowering women economically becomes more useful in the management of HIV/AIDS.

Najjuma, who is the dean of the Social Sciences Department at Ndejje University in Uganda, is CHHS’ first Fulbright Scholar. “It is with great pleasure that I welcome Dr. Saidah Mbooge Najjuma to UNCW and the CHHS,” Dean Charles Hardy said. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers diverse opportunities for professionals to teach, conduct research, do professional projects and attend seminars abroad. During her semester at the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences, Najjuma will work to finish the research project she started in Uganda about women and HIV. She will work closely with faculty who are doing related research to analyze the data already collected, create meaning out of it and develop it into publishable material. 

“The Program Coordinator of our Public Health degree program, Dr. Michelle Cathorall, has visited Uganda several times and collaborated on research projects with Dean Najjuma ​from Ndejje University,” SHAHS Director Steve Elliott said. “We were thrilled when we heard that Dean Najjuma had received a Fulbright Fellowship and wanted to visit UNCW to continue her important research. In the few weeks that Dean Najjuma has been on campus, she has created numerous interprofessional collaborative relations with colleagues from across the College of Health and Human Services. In the next few months, Dean Najjuma will speak with many of our students about her research and continue working with Dr. Cathorall on creating a student exchange opportunity with Dean Najjuma’s University in Uganda.”

In her study, Najjuma argues that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a disease of inequality and often associated with economic transactions rather than poverty itself and many positive women shoulder a disproportionate share of the HIV/AIDS burden. In the Wakiso district of Uganda, she worked with 50 HIV positive women who saved and borrowed to make some investment and overcome deprivation. These women were able to understand and appreciate the discipline of economics while, at the same time, addressing the concern of sustainability to help them navigate poverty. When women are empowered economically, they are able to address many of these challenges of marginalization and be able to sustain their livelihoods.

Before she began teaching, Najjuma worked in non-governmental organization work for seven years. During this time, she discovered what she was doing with the community was not a reflection of what was being taught at the university, so she decided to become a teacher, with a commitment to change the curriculum to reflect more community engagement. She began as a lecturer and later became head of the department.

Najjuma earned her bachelor’s degree in social administration and linguistics; master’s degree in social sector planning and management; and doctorate in social work planning and management from Makerere University, Uganda and her diploma in community based-development from St. Francis Xavier University, Canada. Additionally, she trained in the leadership and management of higher education. Throughout her journey, she worked as a mother, a student and an employee.

“I can tell you that I value all my accomplishments in equal measure,” Najjuma said. “I am excited for having been selected to be part of the 2021 visiting scholars. My congratulatory letter by Paul Winfree, chair of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, indicated that my selection for a Fulbright award is a reflection of my leadership and contribution to society and an achievement for which I can be just proud!”

The goal of the Fulbright program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of United States and the people of other countries. Najjuma looks forward to working with UNCW students and faculty to establish long-term relationships, sharing her research, participating in professional development workshops, publishing and exploring life at UNCW. Najjuma encourages her colleagues at UNCW to apply to become Fulbright scholars at Ndejje University.

In her free time, she talks to her children and their friends on life challenges and she visits women in the village to support them to grow their developmental ideas.

“I am a person who is willing to learn from people of all walks of life and in all situations,” she said. “The funniest bit about this passion is when the people I meet mostly expect to learn from me.”