Nakato Martha, 21

“I want a world where adolescent girls and young women know their rights and are empowered enough to speak out and defend them,” says Nakato Martha, a young woman who describes herself as someone “living openly, happily and healthily with HIV.”

As an activist and motivational speaker, Martha draws on the many challenges and darker times she faced as a young woman living with HIV to reach out to other young women and girls with the aim of helping to build their self-esteem, realize their self-worth and develop the confidence to speak openly about reproductive health.

“In my country Uganda, adolescent girls and young women still remain potential victims of gender-based violence, neglect, early marriages, unintended pregnancies and are most vulnerable to HIV infections because many are not empowered enough to speak out for their rights and what they want. The Ugandan culture still perceives young women and adolescent girls as weak compared to males. I believe women are key to the development of any country and their rights have to be heard, protected and always placed as a priority.”

Recently voted Miss Young Positive at a pageant for HIV-positive girls, Martha hopes her role and work has helped “inspire more positive girls to look at life differently.”