Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals

2003 Recipients

Dr. Sylvia Tamale, Uganda
Ph.D. in Sociology (1997)

Dr. TamaleDr. Sylvia Tamale is a distinguished alumna of the Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts, at the University of Minnesota. She graduated in 1997 with a Ph.D. in sociology. Her dissertation, "When Hens Begin to Crow: Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda," was published as a book (Westview Press, 1999) and received widespread interest throughout East Africa.

Dr. Tamale is currently a senior lecturer at the Department of Law and Jurisprudence, Faculty of Law, Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda. She is also an advocate of the Courts of Judicature in Uganda. In 2001, she was a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

After the publication of her book, Dr. Tamale became a sought-after commentator in the Ugandan and East African media on issues of gender, human rights, and the law. Her major area of research is the issue of how women can become effective political actors through an enhanced understanding of advocacy and representation. Her work embraces not only the traditional political arena of parliament and elected officials, but also women activists in the non-governmental arena.

Dr. Tamale is also an activist. She has played a leading role in establishing a sexual harassment policy at Makerere University, which the faculty board adopted in May 2002, becoming the first institution in the country to have such a policy. She has also been a leader in legislative efforts to establish women's rights in the areas of land ownership and family relations. Recently, she took a controversial and courageous stand on behalf of equal rights for gays and lesbians in Uganda. Under current Ugandan law, homosexuality is illegal and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Her support of equal rights has resulted in her becoming the target of public threats and attacks.

In naming Dr. Tamale as a winner of the Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals, the selection committee cited her courageous leadership on behalf of the rights of women in East Africa and her ability to bring her scholarship to bear as an activist on some of the most pressing social issues for women in the region. In the words of one of her supporters, "She is a beacon of hope for human rights activists throughout Africa and a role model for young Ugandan men and women inside and outside the university."