Sugra Visram was born in Kampala of Iranian parents who encouraged her to study and participate in extra-curricular activities. She became fluent in Cutchi, Gujerati, Hindi, Kiswahili, Luganda and English. In 1941 she met and married Haiderali Visram, grandson of Allidina Visram – one of East Africa’s most illustrious pioneers.
Growing up in the mixed Asian and African population of old Kampala and aware of her own good fortune, Sugra developed a strong desire to assist other women to improve their positions in all fields. With the help of local and international organizations she set up a family planning organization in Uganda.
She was active in the Kabaka Yekka Women’s Wing, the Uganda Council of Women, the Muslim Women’s Association, the YWCA and UWESO which took care of orphaned children. A new African girls’ school, the Red Cross, the Uganda club - all benefitted from her participation.
Sugra’s interests were wide ranging from business to a passion for the football pools. Soon after Uganda’s independence she was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Kibuga area. However, in 1966, when President Obote decided to tamper with the Constitution, principled as she was, Sugra opted to walk out in protest – the only woman member to do so. And six years later Idi Amin forced her to ‘walk out’ of her beloved country.
Gradually the family picked up the pieces of their shattered lives and settled in London. Haiderali passed away in 1988; in 1993, after almost 20 years in exile, Sugra returned home for a visit. President Museveni then appointed her as his Special Assistant for Inward Investment into Uganda – a position she was able to fulfil while resident in the UK. In 2004, AwaaZ published her story in Issue III after an interview that was most graciously given. At that time when asked if the Baganda Royalty, with which she has such close associations, should be preserved her response was an unequivocal ‘Yes, absolutely’.
Sugra passed away in London at the age of 88 and is survived by her sons Anil, Allidina and Feisal and their families.
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