ANTIGONISH, N.S. - For the first time in its 19-year history, the Katherine Fleming International Development Award was presented to a person from Uganda.
Grace Arach, founder and executive director of the Foundation for Women Affected by Conflicts (FOWAC), was presented with the award by a brother (George Fleming Jr.) and son (Alex Zutt) of the late Fleming; a 1985 St. F.X. graduate, “who dedicated her life to supporting the elimination of child poverty in Africa.”
Fleming passed away in 1999 at the age of 36.
The presentation was made, as it has been traditionally, at the Coady International Institute’s Dennis Hall as part of St. F.X. Homecoming Weekend activities. It took place Saturday (Sept. 29) morning.
“Bringing Katherine’s story to light has explored my story and, I request to let you know that, her story will never remain silent in my heart and in my doing,” Arach said, as part of her acceptance speech.
“I will continue with my empowerment struggle to educate, mentor, and build [up] women because, I know, there is no formula designed to realize ultimate female gender justice.”
Arach, currently participating in the Coady International Institute’s Diploma in Development Leadership program, said she is motivated in her work by personal experiences.
“Drawing from my own experience, I am a living example of those unprivileged girls who often end up being sold as sex slaves, weapons of war or sources of livelihood to a family,” she said.
“The organization was founded in 2007 to respond to the plight of war affecting women and girls, through creative means of psychosocial support, livelihood and advocacy. As of now, FOWAC has touched the lives of more than 6,000 vulnerable, disadvantaged and at risk women, girls and children.”
Talking to the Casket following the ceremony, officially titled Coffee with Coady, Arach said she is very “happy” and deeply “humbled” to have been chosen for the Fleming Award.
“This has opened my heart,” she said, her appreciation coming out in a joyous tone.
“This award given to me, this scholarship, without it, I wouldn’t have been here because I couldn’t have afforded to be. The people I work with, the people I support, this will also benefit them.”
Arach talked about a message she wanted to convey while at the podium.
“It’s important that each and every one who is concerned about the situation of women and children get up and, in their different capacities, give a hand,” she said. “Not only in terms of money, but in terms of mentorship, in terms of education and, then, in terms of building confidence in them.”
She added that a country that treats their women badly has poor results.
“Because women give life and if we want a quality life, we need to give this to women,” she said. “That is the most important thing; give peace to women.”
Arach said her education at the Coady has been excellent.
“There are things I never expected to learn from this institution,” she said. “But it’s like they know everything that happens in our counties, are able to relate [to our situations] everything they give us … it’s genuine.”