How a Ugandan Lawyer made her way to The Athena Advisors’ Racing Upwards fellowship

APRIL 2022
Diana Angeret, 2022 Racing Upwards Fellow, talks us through what brought her to the fellowship and what she hopes to gain from her time with The Athena Advisors.

Growing up in Uganda, I learned there is no shortage of worthy causes to support. However, many of the issues facing Uganda–injustice, human rights violations, and inequality–are global problems. The only difference is that different societies and communities encounter them in a multitude of ways.

I started my legal career in non-profit and research, trying to use the knowledge I acquired to support worthy causes. Sometimes it was fulfilling, but many times it just felt like a never-ending road. You  dedicated so much and still saw almost no difference. It was very disheartening.

I decided to focus on commercial law, where it was easier to measure success and see immediate impact. However, after a while, I began to feel that there must be more I should be doing, beyond looking out for myself and the interests of my clients.

As a commercial law practitioner, I needed a trained eye to see some types of injustice and inequalities; it is easy to let your biases and prejudices lead you to dismiss other people’s suffering. Something I now know, from years of training, is known as victim-blaming. The training I received outside of the theoretical study of the law and the practical knowledge I acquired guided my interactions with clients. However, even with this knowledge, some injustices and inequalities I encountered still went unnoticed. I began to understand what social justice could look like if done correctly.

It is from this gap in my knowledge that I realised I could use my legal knowledge and training to benefit others beyond the law. I started to offer pro bono legal services to individuals and organisations and to work with NGOs, in ways that lawyers do not typically interact with other fields and professions. Among these NGOs was the 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation. They run a mentorship program and volunteer literacy program to teach inner-city children in Kampala. I also attended a soccer league with the Uganda Amputee Football Association that encouraged amputees to engage in the corporate soccer league.

However, in all my varied encounters with all these organisations, trying to address different types of injustices and inequalities, there was  one issue that kept appearing. The issue: fundraising and managing funds. Many organisations had come up with very creative and interesting ways to raise funds in non-traditional ways, but the issue of a lack of funds remained. This is because, in my opinion, fundraising looks very different in theory than practice and, therefore, requires expertise.

Not only do NGO leadership teams have to find funding through different donors, but must also use the funds raised in specific ways and maintain meaningful and healthy relationships with donors. Many NGO leadership teams simply lack the skill set required to enable them to raise and manage funds, all while effectively running a non-profit.

From my experience, fundraising and management determine whether the organisation thrives or just misses its targets. This is not an easy field to navigate without hands-on experience.

So, I set out to look for opportunities that would expose me to these skills with hands-on experience.  The end goal: use these skills to benefit the organisations I serve, whose missions are to address injustice, human rights abuse and inequality, and social justice more broadly.

I came across the Racing Upwards fellowship through forming connections in the social impact industry. Not only did The Athena Advisors have answers to my questions (which many people I had asked in the past failed to answer), but they provided the opportunity to work with a diverse and highly skilled team with an emphasis on including people of colour at the table.

The application process convinced me that this is where I am meant to be. I was delighted to be selected, alongside Emma Orefuwa, and I am so excited to be here. I am curious to find out where this road will lead and how it will shape my thinking going forwards.