Vivian Birchall was born in Uganda. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies from Uganda’s Makerere University, the oldest and most prestigious university in East Africa. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Good Governance from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Media and Medicine from Harvard Medical School.
Vivian learned early on the power of community, mobilization, advocacy and legislation through her work with non-profits, national government and partnerships with regional bodies and international organizations. She volunteered as a student with Action for Development (ACFODE), an advocacy group for women’s political and economic empowerment, and after graduating with the youth reproductive health NGO Straight Talk. She then joined the African Parliamentarian Network Against Corruption (APNAC), serving as Uganda’s first country coordinator, and mobilized members of Parliament to pass the Access to Information Act, encouraging transparency and discouraging corruption in lawmaking and other areas of government.
Vivian was born in western Uganda near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her mother Prossy worked as a nurse, and her father Charles was a teacher. When Vivian was three years old, her parents moved to the city of Kampala with Vivian and her baby brother. They rented two small rooms in the sprawling slum of Kamwokya, sharing latrines and a shower room with over a dozen other households. When Vivian was 13, her mother suffered a broken back in an accident. Vivian’s father died two months later in another accident, leaving his widow with seven children to raise.
Since her mother could not do most work due to her injuries, her parents’ friends fund-raised to build a frame for another small house that the family could live in, this home had no windows or running water for years.
Left with no stable source of family income, Vivian was sent back to rural Uganda for most of her secondary schooling. The school farmed its food on land tilled by hand, and students had to get water each day from a hand-pumped well, or a spring approximately two miles away. When she was home from school, Vivian helped her mother raise her six younger siblings, and worked to supplement the family’s income. She earned $1 a day selling freshly-cooked french fries from a makeshift roadside stand or would carry and sell and carrying crates of drinks to vendors in the Banda slum.
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