These narratives are a unique dataset to be used as tools to inspire, drive policy development and most importantly to give voice to women and girls in East Africa to share their life experiences in their own words.
Women in Advocacy
NAME: NANKUNDA HOPE MWIJUKA
ROLE: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RAISING TEENAGERS, UGANDA; CENTRAL REGION COORDINATOR, GIRLS NOT BRIDES, UGANDA
I am the second born of four children but the first girl in my family. I lost my father when I was four years old and life started getting really difficult. My uncle took care of my education but my little sister never got the same opportunity.
At fourteen years old she became a victim of teenage pregnancy which I am sure was due to lack of guidance and mainly related to managing her periods as a young teen. She almost died while giving birth because of complications given the fact that she was too young for childbirth.
When I finished school and got married I reflected back and imagined the many girls in rural Uganda that suffer the same as my sister did. I realized how disadvantaged many girls are.
I have been able to support over 10,000 women and girls with re-usable sanitary pads
As a teacher and adolescent counsellor, I decided to make it my mission to reach out to the needy girls and offer guidance and counselling. I also sought support from well-wishers to get sanitary pads for the less advantaged girls so that they didn't miss or drop out of school due to challenges related to menstruation. I founded an organisation called RAISING TEENAGERS UGANDA with the purpose of keeping girls in school to end child marriage.
In the last two years I have been able to support over 10,000 women and girls with re-usable sanitary pads and ten water tanks to ten schools to help girls manage their menstruation with dignity. I have done this with support from well-wishers who follow my work on social media and appreciate the need to support less advantaged girls to fulfil their dreams and aspirations.
We have faced some challenges, especially because the numbers of girls that need support are so many and we don’t have enough to support them, keeping in mind that every day another young girl starts her period. I know that everyone can do something to support the needy girls in rural Uganda. Together we can achieve a lot and contribute to the wellbeing of young people in different communities.
NAME: IRENE NAKASOLYA
ROLE: REGIONAL COORDINATOR FOR THE EAST AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION PROGRAMME (EAHRR), UGANDA
I lost my father at the age of ten years. I was then raised by a single mother who hustled to take care of her six children. She was a tailor and also had a small retail shop which she used to feed us as well as taking us to school. She hadn’t been to school but committed herself to educating her children. She hustled until we all graduated. It is impressive what a woman can do with a very small income. We didn’t attend the best schools, but we all graduated thanks to our mummy.
Having been raised by a single mother, I saw her hustling, doing all sorts of casual jobs to make ends meet. This also made me aggressive because I had to begin work at an early age. Every holiday was supposed to be work for me. I learnt how to tailor, and I would make a few bucks out of tailoring. Because of my aggressive nature, I’m not seen as a normal woman. Most men are scared of me, saying I’m more of a man since I’m assertive.
Being raised by a single mother, I became passionate about education. I went for BA Education then when I got some money, I paid for my Masters in Gender Studies. I’m currently a gender and human rights educator and activist. I do my work with a lot of passion because of my experiences as I was growing up in an impoverished family, always lacking, with no sanitary pads.
Struggling from growing up in the slums of Kampala has really empowered me
Poverty was one of the major challenges I faced. As a girl child, there’s a lot I wanted to have but of course my mum couldn’t afford it. She couldn’t afford sanitary pads hence I had to use clothes, making it hard for school. Walking long distances to school while padding myself with a big piece of cloth made life difficult since I couldn’t walk sometimes. I even developed wounds so I couldn’t go to school sometimes. I was married by the time I went back to school for my Masters in Gender Studies. I had to work, run to the university in the evening, then catch up with gender roles at night. It was a tight moment, but I managed being a mother, wife, an employee and a student at the same time. Struggling from growing up in the slums of Kampala has really empowered me.
To improve the lives of women and girls, we need conscious-making among women as an eye opener to the practices we take for granted as we are raising our children. This will help us not to reproduce the gendered nature as we nurture our children, instilling equality values as they grow up. Capacity building and networking of women will further help in creating networks since it's important to have numbers in advocacy, sharing experiences amongst women and girls. This will help in showcasing the success stories of these women that have made it, thereby empowering more and more women. Economic empowerment: this will help women in reducing dependence on men. Self-sustainability will help in making independent decisions and taking actions, leading to the development of women globally. Micro-finance is therefore important to enhance women’s achievements even without collateral for the banks. Positive legislation and the enforcement of human rights are instruments that enhance women’s rights.
NAME: DR THELMA AWORI
ROLES INCLUDE HONORARY COUNSEL FOR LIBERIA IN UGANDA, BOARD MEMBER AND CO-FOUNDER OF INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, UGANDA
When I first started working they didn’t want to give women housing because they assumed that the husband had housing. My husband was not around so I just had to go to the registrar and say, ‘No no no! I need to have this. You have to give me a house. Where will I live? There’s no husband here to give me a house.’ So, you know, you just have those kinds of conversations with them until they see the light of day.
But I remember when I went for the interview for my first job the registrar said to me, ‘So you want to do this job?’
I said, ‘Yes, I want to do this job.’
He said, ‘Well now that job really is for men,’ because it was an extra-mural job where I would have to travel around the countryside. So he said, ‘that job really is for men, you know, you have to travel around the countryside’.
I said, ‘Well there’s a woman who just had that job!’
And he said, ‘Ah, but she was really a man.’ Because she was British, she was single, everybody knew not to mess with her so they just categorised her as a man. Then he asked me, ‘Do you have small children?’.
I said, ‘Yes’.
He said, ‘How old are they?’
I told him, ‘Ah no, just give me the job and see what I do with it.’
And he did.
NAME: RITA ATUKWASA
ROLE: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IST, UGANDA
I think we were lucky our parents did have some wealth or property that they left behind. But also that the family that stayed behind, especially from my mother’s side, were educated and foresighted. So from the conversations they had, that we used to have with my parents, the message was always: children must go to school.
But also from five years and above when you’re forming as a child, they were very instrumental with my parents. My father was a civil servant, my mother was - I don’t even know the profession actually. I only know she worked. So the issue about education, the issue about equality at home, I don’t remember a time where they said, ‘You are a girl you can’t do this.’ I did ride a bicycle. I did go to the farm. It was uncommon for girls to milk cows but my sisters did, so my father would always say, ‘Girls are children like any other.’ So we used to do jobs which even culturally are regarded as not for girls and one of them, controversial, was him having us ride bicycles, which I did flaunt. He would say, ‘Why would they move on foot if they can ride a bicycle to go to the shop or anywhere?’ So growing up as a girl child I didn’t see much of, ‘Don’t do that, don’t do that because you are a girl.’
I took charge of leadership in my family role and my personal life very, very early in life. By the time I was going to secondary school I was already in charge of my life. You will go to school, you will go to read, do prep, do your work, make sure the family’s looked after, you pay the workers and all that but that is to say that the environment was not good. Especially later, when I was like middle level secondary education, I was about fourteen, fifteen, and people actually truly recognise you’re a very bright child, they recognise you’re foresighted and they see a future for you, though the best thing for somebody is to have you for themselves, so that at some points really the traps you survive are quite many. Very, very, very many. The experience shaped my leadership aspirations to promote gender equality, to create an environment for women and girls to achieve their full potential.
The women department used to get the least amount for money
When I worked for a Christian Catholic organisation, I was appointed as a manager. I was young, maybe about twenty-six or so. The team was largely male. Why they appointed me I didn’t ask them. They came and appointed me to be the programme manager but they felt that my position shouldn’t come with the benefits in terms of salary and other benefits as a similar position. They felt I was young, they felt I was a woman and why did I need the money? So I had to fight for the salary commensurate to the position, until I got it, but it was not easy. I was accused that I am greedy, I’m ungrateful you know? Because they felt one of the male colleagues there working for a long time in the organisation had been actually asked to step down by one of the partners, because he was regarded as incompetent. He was an accountant. So they choose to start a training wing to appoint him as a training coordinator manager, and then it was part of my salary to top up for him because he was a man and he had a family and all that. So it actually became a very, very serious backlash for me but I stood my ground and worked through it.
But also sometimes systems are put in place by men mainly. What I recognise is the importance of sitting at a table and being present at it at whatever time. When we came to certain processes, I remember one of them was drawing a strategic plan, and in the plan, people had positioned themselves strategically. And I don’t know how I got that insight. Somehow I came to understand and I said to myself, they had appointed only men to be going to those meetings. The meetings took quite a number of months, maybe about six months. There was this hotel they used to go and sit in, so after the first sitting where all of the management team was, they said, ‘Ok there are these various ones who will be able to continue.’ Now I remember, but I think I was very lucky because I was heading an advocacy programme and they knew very little about it. So when the strategic plan came to advocacy generally, and human rights, they were always stuck, so they needed help, so I managed to be co-opted on that seat. But when it would come to determining something that is happening, the women department used to get the least amount for money. But one thing I did, I told them for my salary I wouldn’t do that and if they wanted me to come and make sure I was there to make a resolution on the salary.
So when I went there was a statistician there. I mean she was very brilliant, now she works for an international body, so I told her, I said, ‘this is what is happening, I please ask you to talk to your manager about your salary increasing and because if you don’t and you plan to stay here for a few more years, it won’t be good for you.’ So, she also went and pressured. I told her when it comes then I will be able to back you up. Unfortunately, the difference between when you’re working with men and when you’re working with women’s organisations there are certain gender lines you do not see, and in areas where you may not actually be empowered to deal with every situation in future. Because now being in a women’s organisation you don’t see that, so if you’ve grown up in that side of your career, if you cross to the other side, you get shocked. So for me, I did face some gender discrimination. I did.
ROLE: ICT OFFICER/MENTOR, KENYA
I am the first born in a family of six girls. Growing up was a great challenge because my community doesn’t really “value” families without boys. This challenged me to really work hard to find my space and for my siblings.
In my first year in the university I was raped and got a baby still so young (it’s my first time sharing) and this frustrated me. I was kicked out by my dad for two years but he later took me back. This really affected my life and career and it’s because of this that I started First-Track Mentors to talk to girls and be their big sister.
I chose ICT because the internet consoled me when my life was in a mess. I am a proud mentor and big sister today. Seven years ago, I lost my father and the struggles my mom went through led to my program under First-Track Mentors which supports single women and widows through agriculture and skills development. Economic empowerment and mentorship would improve the lives of women and girls.
NAME: ELLIOT ORIZAARWA TUMWIJUKYE
ROLE: CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WOMEN AND GIRL CHILD DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION (WEGCDA); COORDINATOR, COALITION ON GIRLS' EMPOWERMENT (COGE), WAKISO, UGANDA
I have worked with different groups of women in the different regions of Uganda and this increased my passion for empowering girls and women. Women discussed many issues, but never thought of how they become women. I was facing my problems as a girl child but women could not know what was happening with me. Their daughters would share with me stories of which they never discussed with their mothers.
Founding the Women and Girl Child Development Association (WEGCD), I experienced many challenges, but to tell the truth most of my women bosses never knew what I was going through. 80% of women shared their domestic violence and how they have suffered in marriage or workplaces but they could not share with their daughters and instead they would want me to share with their daughters.
Still in 2015, my other dream kept disturbing me and I thought of beginning the Coalition on Girls’ Empowerment (COGE) so that we could build a movement of women, girls, men and boys to start sharing the ways of changing the mindset and transforming the lives of many girls and young women through advocacy and policy influence. I still support the two organisations and we hope together and united the world is ready to see change and not only by 2030 but by taking action now. We cannot achieve sustainable development if we cannot take the issues of empowering girls and women and reducing the gender inequalities as a must that needs everybody. No leaving anyone behind and the time is now.
I will not get tired. I have started a support girls shop and with two organisations and other organisations. Many girls will be touched and I wish every girl including my three girls could be in school whether formal or informal. This will help my dream come true.
[I am a] feminist because I don't believe in women and girls' oppression
I have not settled and I brand myself as an entrepreneur, an advanced advocate for gender equality, a mentor and coach for girls' empowerment. I am a feminist because I don’t believe in women and girls’ oppression. The mindset of the society and the community I live in think of me as feminist and in Uganda some citizens have a wrong attitude on feminists. Some community members think we fight men.
With decision-making, I take some decisions at a family level but when it comes to fixed assets then my decisions become less. In the community, decision-making is so minimal and we are still working towards demanding for space. At the organisational level I take decisions with other founder members. Most of the time in the workplace female staff still have a bias of female bosses are bad, we’d rather work with men. I have dealt with this through training them on the world of work before they are given the job. This has helped me. Gender does affect the way that you communicate with others to some extent because sometimes there are issues that are evaluated like, if I have been taking care of a sick child and the time is taken as wasted.
If I were Ugandan President I would first of all provide formal and informal education. I would empower women through capacity building and utilization in different areas of political, economic, social and technological issues. Men engaging in women and girls’ empowerment is very critical from the household level to society and they need to give women space to make their own decisions. I admire women depending on what they share with me, but I admire Nigerian women because they have been well empowered in terms of their rights.
Forced marriage in Uganda is still a big issue
FGM is one of the cultural practices that the government should work on first to share with girls about their choices. It is not a problem where I live because I live in a community where FGM is not practiced but it is a problem in other areas of Uganda. There is a need for more sensitization on and attitude change towards some cultural practices.
Forced marriage in Uganda is still a big issue. Forced marriage has affected many girls because of poverty, limited access to education and some of the traditional norms that dictate that girls are married at a young age to fulfil their role. Such practices can be changed through:
- Providing education of girls to higher education, for example enhancing girls' access to quality education in a safe environment.
- Provision of economic opportunities and incentives for girls and their families are very important.
- Need for training of change makers to provide information at a household level and in the community where their schools and markets and churches are.
- Considering the high levels of teenage pregnancy in Uganda, engaging young boys and girls in the discussion will be one of the ways of fighting forced marriages.
- Cultural leaders and elders have to re-strategize on the social norms and beliefs to end this scourge.
- Government policies must be emphasized and popularized for parents to be aware for any penetrates.
- Deepening understanding of children’s rights and conventions is also another area of concern.
Women and Girls in Education
ROLE: FARMER AND COMMUNITY LEADER, NGORA DISTRICT, UGANDA
After facing a number of challenges, especially when I lost my husband, I decided to interact with other women. It is important that we come together as women to fight poverty in our households. Also to support the children especially because I had been left with five orphans. I lacked the necessary resources to help take the children to school. So, through coming together as a group at least we have been in position to fight those challenges, much as we have not yet managed to finish everything. And in the group we’re empowered with the knowledge and skills for organic farming.
So after empowering ourselves with those skills we were able even to save money because we also got involved in the saving group to join hands to save some money. That is the money we are using for education, but also because there was a challenge of the long distance to the nearby schools. Actually we have about two or three in other parishes. This parish does not have a government school, this is the first school which is an initiative of women in the community, so those days we used to take children to those schools and they used to have problems but at least through the group we have been in position to save some money to take our children to school here, and also save some money for goat rearing.
So after considering the idea of the school, we are happy that some volunteers accepted to join us in teaching the children. So for us as women in this community, we have agreed to contribute money, take care of those people’s welfare, much as we are not paying them enough, but we are very grateful that those teachers have accepted to offer service.
NAME: IMELDA MALALA
ROLE: TEACHER, KENYA
My name is Imelda Malala. I am twenty-nine years old. I teach standards four, six and seven.
I was born in Mumias in a village called Bulembo. I am the eighth born child in a family of nine children, Two boys and seven girls. I attended different primary schools and sat for my K.C.P.E exams in the year 2003, where I scored 374 marks out of 500. I later joined St Brigid’s girls’ high school, where I was forced to transfer to Mufutu due to lack of school fees. I sat for K.C.S.E exams in 2007 and scored a C+. Later I joined Machakos TTC where I trained as a teacher.
When growing up, I was really affected by my gender, in that my brothers were always given first priority in everything, starting with education. In my community back then, they believed that a girl's place is in the kitchen. My sisters and I used to be given a lot of work while my brothers went out to play. After standard eight, nobody was interested in my education anymore until my brother came to my rescue.
I wanted to show girls that they too can learn and compete with boys
After form four, I decided to become a teacher. That’s when I joined Machakos TTC in the year 2009. My aim of becoming a teacher is that I wanted to act as a mentor to the young children in the community, especially girls. I wanted to show girls that they too can learn and compete with boys, regarding their gender.
One thing that can improve the lives of girls and women in Kenya is to teach them self awareness. This can be done through seminars. They also need to be taught how to be self-sufficient and to stop depending on men. For example, they can be taught how to start and manage small businesses or farming.
Along the way, there are challenges that I’ve always faced. For example, when looking for a job, many employers prefer males to females. One day, one employer told me that she can not hire me because I am a woman. When I asked her why, she told me that women are always stubborn in that they are always asking for maternity leave.
NAME: LINDAH SIMIYU
ROLE: TEACHER, KITALE, KENYA
I was born in Bungoma County where the girl child is not valued. I went through school but my dad was not in support of it. My mother struggled paying school fees for me. My mother had to persevere with my father’s beatings because she had chosen to support a girl child who was me. My mother struggled earning a living by selling vegetables and working on people’s farms.
I went to high school and performed well. My dad still wanted to engage me to an old man in the village. I ran away through the help of my mother and stayed at my uncle’s place. My uncle took me to college where I studied teaching. I never went back home. I graduated and now I am a teacher by profession. I thank God.
My father is now proud of me as a girl child. He now believes that a girl is important. Just like a boy child. He now gets support from me. Let each and every person support and encourage girls and women in Kenya by providing technical institutions to learn and empower women. I forced a challenge whereby the community believes that a girl or a woman cannot do better than a boy which is not true. We are all equal.
ROLE: TEACHER, KITALE, KENYA
I was born of a Christian mother and a teacher. My father was an addicted drunkard man though a teacher by profession. His drinking behaviour cost him demotions day and night, from a college tutor to a primary teacher due to God’s grace. But one time he decided to quit his job, signing for a premature retirement without informing anybody in the family. Therefore we were to be brought up in all life round with our mother who tried her level best to educate us mostly to form four level.
I left school at form four level where I was to fight for my future. By God’s grace I managed to join the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE). But unfortunately towards the end of my course it was announced that anyone with special education without any other course like P1 or ECDE is not recognised as a teacher in Kenya so it was difficult for me. I encouraged myself by applying for jobs in private schools whereby some schools could accept my papers while other refused. But I thank God because though I have never managed to top my course, with the little I get I squeeze in order to educate and upkeep my family. I am blessed with a husband and six children whereby my eldest son, born in 1997, is in Maseno University doing an ICT program, my second born is in Kitale National Polytechnic (KNP). My third born is in form two, fourth in form one and the last two girls are in Upendo School Kiminini Kitale.
I thank God for the gift of life, peace, love and compassion. Because if it were not for his grace, I could not have knowledge, understanding and wisdom of how to manage the little that am blessed with. And I’m continuing to learn to thank for every gift and embrace it.
Take it positive whenever you have an opportunity to go to school and use that chance well
My urge is that there are people who are living such a difficult life - we used to live with a drunkard and a battering father - and are discouraged and end up in drugs, abuse, commit suicide or some go to street life. What I can say is that it's better to take it positive whenever you have an opportunity to go to school and use that chance well.
For though through difficulty, I managed to score a minimum grade of C+ and I took myself to college. I was dismissed a chance to work for better pay, but what I get I use wisely, putting it into projects like farming, e.g. maize, beans, and poultry. Through that I have managed to upkeep my family. I may not be in a better position but I thank God for his sufficient grace.
NAME: MARIA N. WAKACHA
ROLE: TEACHER, SABOTI, KENYA
I was born in Trans-Nzoia county (Saboti). I am the third born of a family of six children, raised by an uncle at Magadi Soda. After form four I went back to my parents at Saboti. I had a lot of challenges while in the village because most girls had not gone to school and being the only girl in the area who had finished high school, I was looked down upon. I worked in a hotel in the same area. I worked with other workers who had never gone to school and they mocked me since I was doing the same job and I had gone to school. I later applied for a job in a factory in which I never succeeded because of my gender. They needed men.
I loved teaching. One of my primary school teachers was my role model and I vowed to be a teacher when I grew up and that is it, I am a teacher now.
Girls should be given the same opportunities as boys in education and jobs, and should not be looked down upon. Girls and women should come up front and show their abilities for others to recognise their effort in the community.
One of the challenges that I have faced on the way is discrimination due to my academic standards. Others don’t like when I air my views.
ROLE: TEACHER, MISIKHU, KENYA
I am a third born girl in a family of eight children, five girls and three boys. I started school in the year 1996 in class one at Bunjosi Primary School and finished class eight in 2005 in the same school. I joined Friends High School, Misikhu in 2006-2009. I hustled for two years before joining Trans-Nzoia West ECDE TTC in 2002-2003 for a certificate course in Early Childhood and Development Education.
Gender affected me in such a way that my parents concentrated on teaching my brothers. After high school, I had to hustle on my own so as to continue with my education for I wanted to accomplish my vision. I worked as a house girl so as to raise money that could take me to college, which I managed.
While I was in high school, there was a madam that was a role model to me. She used to be my close friend and that made me admire and want to be like her in the future which I did. I think what would improve the lives of girls and women in Kenyan society is education. Girls and women should be educated on the importance of learning. Society should also be taught the importance of educating a girl child.
Along my way of life, I have faced a lot of challenges such as lack of support from my parents, lack of finance, poverty, and illiteracy from parents whereby they didn’t understand the importance of my being educated.
NAME: ELLIOT ORIZAARWA TUMWIJUKYE
ROLE: CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WOMEN AND GIRL CHILD DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION (WEGCDA); COORDINATOR, COALITION ON GIRLS' EMPOWERMENT (COGE), WAKISO, UGANDA
My journey started far back when I found myself a first born of seven children, five girls and two boys, with a father and a mother who never had formal education. My father owned a small shop and sewing machine that he earned a little income from, on top of subsistence farming. He knew how to read simple words and most especially the bible. My poor mother cannot read or write and even calling me and others using her cellphone, she has to look for someone to redial for her.
I experienced life beyond being a girl child when my father always wanted me to dress in his jacket to feel that I am like a boy to him. His wish was to have a first boy child and here came a baby girl after three years of waiting. Rremember in African culture a woman should conceive in the first month and this a big question and until my mother gave birth on the 12th of May 1973. Naming was a big problem and since my late father Jackson was waiting for a boy child, he had to give the name Orizaarwa Elliot. Till today the majority who have not met me think I am a boy. Orizaarwa in local language means whoever is born and for Elliot, the majority still think it is for boys.
Life as a girl child was not easy in our community. It was a time when parents never thought that girls’ education was very important and therefore most of the girls did not go to school. Life was hard since culturally the girls were not allowed to have babies before marriage and if a girl got pregnant then the family members would take her to the falls and ask the brother to push her on the cliff and she would die. Life was not easy because some girls would spend most of the time in gardens, looking after the brothers and sisters and the next option was to marry since the families took them as source of income. My opportunities were affected by being a girl. I spent most of the time looking after my sisters and my brothers. My father never took me to good schools because the society was abusing him for taking us to school instead of marrying us away. Taking a lot of time in caring for my mother and father in the hospital affected my studies and my opportunities.
I believe that educating a girl child means a lot to the community
I have too much passion for empowering girls and women because yes, I witnessed my father and his family celebrating the birth of my brother who is the fifth born following four girls. Two goats were slaughtered and local beer was taken. Baptism was another life story in which I noticed the patriarchy issue setting standards. My father had to call meetings to decide on how much money and animals to be used for the celebration. The band was hired and it was a wedding party of a king’s son. As if this was not enough, the society still demanded him to produce another boy and if not he should marry a second wife. My mother had to be forced to produce a sixth child who was a girl. I did not see a goat and chicken slaughtered, and I started watching to see my mother pregnant again. Indeed, she did and gave birth to a baby boy and again this was a celebration.
It is not about some African women giving birth to many children but the society they socialize and live in. My father had to marry a second wife because two boys and five girls was not uplifting him to be a man in the society. After giving birth to three boys and one girl from the second wife, life changed. During this period, I would see my mother crying and she never shared with us why she would cry. I just released when I started learning about wife beating and the gender-based violence. Things could not remain the same and my father was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and passed on in 21/9/1994 leaving two wives and eleven children. Remember, I was in high school. During his sickness and after my life changed for the worse. I was stressed with high depression and thinking every minute about how I was going to manage the children as a first born. Thank God my mother’s brother, Dr. Kikafunda, loved his sister so much and he took me over. Oh, if he was not there, for sure I would have sold myself. I am forever grateful to his beloved wife, Ambassador Professor Joyce Kikafunda. She helped me have sanitary pads, which more girls have sexual intercourse with boda boda riders to buy them pads. It hurts me.
I just believed that girls and women can deliver and cause a lot of change
I would say that my education has not been the best because I had to look for money to educate my brothers and sisters at least to the level of senior four in Uganda. I gave myself targets and managed to fulfill them. From my first degree in Development Studies after visiting Sussex University and meeting Robert Chambers at the Institute of Development Studies and talking about poverty. I have passion for girls and women because after my first diploma in Uganda Business Studies in 1999, I started working with the National Association of Women Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU). It was the beginning to me starting to borrow money as loans for my brothers and sisters’ school fees. What pains me most is my research that I have failed to complete. I want to see a smile on their face with a curriculum vitae where my women and gender studies masters are highlighted.
It has not been easy until today, mind you. The women and majority of friends did not know what I was going through in addition to stressing thoughts about my mother who was in the village and knowing she would die any day. God, I praise your name, because my mother is still alive. Because I managed to build my mother a house before I married, paid fees for my sibings and myself. I just believed that girls and women can deliver and can cause a lot of change and change that is sustainable. I believe that educating a girl child means a lot to the community and to the world.
Women in STEM
NAME: ADELLA KYOHAIRWE
ROLE: ELECTRICAL ENGINEER, KAMPALA, UGANDA
Around 2006, I just made the decision that I wanted to be a doctor, but then I just changed my mind. I’m like you know what, I wanted to be an engineer in the first place. I was electrocuted. I was near death for some time and I felt like I needed to associate more with the power and get to know where it comes from, what it does and things like that. I was a little kid when I got electrocuted, but as I was growing up, I decided to be an engineer.
It’s not easy to prove yourself as a woman growing up. People always think you cannot do things until you actually do them. Even here at work when I was new, people from outside the organisation, you’re going to hold a meeting and they ask you, 'oh how long have you been here?' to assess whether you can actually hold the meeting in the field and they do not give you respect. They give your boss the respect until you actually earn it, you do something that actually proves you’re good at your job. So it’s not been easy even now, but I keep always determined.
I think it's emphasising that women should go to school
For you to become a registered engineer you have to have worked for four years in the field so I’m doing that right now. I’m already a member of the UIPE, the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers. I’m working towards becoming a registered engineer, maybe next year. I will write a report and see how it goes, but yeah that’s my short term goal. Then I also want to pursue a Masters. I’m still looking for a university but I’ve done a few applications to the UK and that will actually take me to the next step because I know that in order to work in those big organisations like the dollar funded companies, World Bank, among the qualifications of an engineer you should have Masters so maybe I’ll work there for a few years and then become self-employed.
When it comes to our projects, normally when we are doing community sensitisation, we usually emphasise the issue of gender equality in the societies and tell men, 'You know what? If you’re wiring the house please ensure that you put a bulb outside in the kitchen for your lady, for her security, for her to do things better'. When electricity comes not only the man can use it but also the women can too, so in our daily work we do that. I mean something’s being done already and when you’re graduating from high school there is always that extra point that a lady gets, so I think it’s emphasising that women should go to school and things have changed a lot. Yeah, things have changed a lot really in our society.
The women politicians, I feel that they’re not doing enough, because mostly if you go to Parliament then you’re focusing on many other things apart from gender equality, but what they can do is maybe equip us with skills and make us better. For instance, maybe you can build a school and maybe a female school. If I was in charge I would do that – build a female school, but that school should be able to empower the women in skills, in everyday life because most of the time women are very bitter. I think those should actually be able to change how you think as a person. Encourage innovativeness among women; people always have the mentality, “maybe I’m just a woman, it’s only the men that can do this”, but innovativeness in the mind that encourages innovation and showing the world that we can actually do things. Yeah, I think that’s what I would do, not just schools but bettering schools, bettering services.
NAME: ROSELINE NYONGARWIZI
ROLE: ACTING HEAD OF DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING, MAKERERE UNIVERSITY, UGANDA
In the faculty right now, I am an acting Head of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, but I’m employed as a lecturer in the department. So that’s basically what I’m doing. Now, in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering we have about three undergrads and three postgrads. We have telecommunications, we have the traditional electrical engineering, then we have computer engineering. Then in the postgrads we have the renewable energy, power systems, telecoms and we do hospital medical engineering in the first and second year. So my role is just basically to coordinate the actual administering of the studying and the exams, that’s pretty much what I do.
From the time when I was little, actually, I wanted to be an engineer. So for me that was the thing, but as for academics, I wanted actually to first work and later on enter into academics. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether it’s fortunately, when I finished, then got married, there was a freeze in the recruitment. I graduated in 1997. In 1996, just after we’d completed there was a freeze in the recruitment of government workers. That’s the time when they were doing restructuring. The World Bank had thought that the government needed to restructure, so there was a freeze in the traditional jobs that would normally take us. By then it was Uganda Electricity, UEB, then the electricity board, then there was Telecom, so for about three years there was a freeze in those traditional jobs that used to employ us. So, my colleagues and I actually didn’t have formal training for those years, so the only option which was there for me was to apply for academics. That’s how I ended up in academics. Then after that, in ‘98 I got married, then went off to study so I never had any experience working with industry. So once I went to study, then got my PhD, then the industry was not interested in me, so that’s how I ended up in academics. I was over-qualified but also when you’re coming back, you’re competing with younger people whom they are more interested in.
"I don't want you to be a woman who is going to slave for your husband"
My father took us to the airport when I was little, like in primary school, and I was fascinated with aeroplanes going up, going down, and I remember telling my father, ‘You know what? When I grow up I want to make that axle’. My father was just telling me, ‘oh, if you want to be that, you want to be an electric and aeronautic engineer mechanical engineer.’ So from that time on, I really dreamed of being an engineer and it really for me actually took off, kind of directed my everything, I mean changed my course of living so I really really wanted to become an engineer, though I sometimes wonder whether I feel I haven’t achieved what I wanted to do but at least for me that was my dream.
On my side, I wouldn’t want to bring up my girl feeling like she has to do this because she is a girl. I don’t think that is proper, in her head. And recently, actually it was last holiday, one of the boys I look after was telling me, ‘I don’t want any girl from my school to see that I’m cooking, she would be spreading the whole thing you know?’ So that’s the kind of mentality. I don’t want my daughters to grow up thinking that they can’t do this, or they can do this because they are girls.
I remember also having a question from my daughter when she was at school and something that I told her: ‘I’m bringing you up because I want you to be a woman who looks after her family. I don’t want you to be a woman who is going to slave for your husband. No, I want you to be able to feel empowered that you can look after your family. If you are washing that’s ok, you can wash because you are looking after your family, but I don’t want you to wash because you are woman. No. That is totally different.’ Actually, when I had just come back I was like, even this whole thing of washing, why should I tell my daughters to wash? There are washing machines! But why should I tell them to iron? Those kinds of things, but eventually those kind of life skills are important and to you as an individual, but you do them not because you are a woman, you do them because you are empowered to do them and look after yourself and be of help to the people who are around you and if it happens to be your children or husband, that's good enough, but not necessarily because you are a woman and you must do this and you must do that.
NAME: AIDAH BUKUBUZA
ROLE: ICT IN HEALTHCARE AND ADVOCACY, UGANDA
I am in information technology personnel. I studied information technology. However, then I pushed up my studies to do applied ICT health and service delivery in the health sector. I work with a group of people, a team of my people, in two organisations that we co-founded. One is called AYDIA Technology Consults and what we do here is, we build and design software applications to address challenges of health, especially women's health, to improve their service delivery in attaining global goals. How we do this is, as I speak right now, we are working on a maternal health app, that is supposed to support women who have faced trauma or who have been victims of violence or survivors, to be able to access information, the care, because in our hospitals here in Uganda there is lots of stigma when it comes to mental health. So we are leveraging technology to harness our potential to be able to extend these particular services, with available technologies that have been given to us as a platform where people can anonymously seek help.
And also with Bernice women, it’s an NGO, not for profit. We advocate for rights against all forms of violence to women and girls in Uganda. That’s basically what I do. I know lots of ICT advocacy, down to community empowerment in agricultural sectors, leveraging of technology, financial sector leveraging of technology and health leveraging of technology to be able to say that we can compete in this changing world of technology work. We do most of the work back here through mobile phones. It fits into the agriculture sector, it fits into sharing information in terms of leadership and the languages. We share particular segments where it is adoptable and also relevant to the particular people that you want to address or whose problem you are trying to solve.
[Without] online security women are violated
We started out as a very small social group where we used to be in employment and certain different forms of violence, especially economic violence, terrible raises, overtime and there was no money laws that would be in our favour as women in society. So that’s how as a social people, we came as friends, women and we used to complain about it. Before we knew it we were gaining help from each other. Then we adopted a small page on Facebook, people started putting in their complaints then we legally registered it on the 20th March 2018.
I did Information Technology at university but I didn’t know then how to leverage it, how to use my learned skills from university. One of the things in my country, we learn so much about the syllabus to pass the exam. There is not much practical work, until when this whole innovation and everything about innovating ideas came up about two years ago in my country, where innovation was taking up the space in tech and people were innovating different things, leveraging technology. So for me, because I had a need to address women issues, I went back to school. There was a very short course - it is called ICT in Health - so I went to the lecturers and the professors to say what I wanted to do. They told me, ‘look there is social media, you can campaign using social media, you can leverage different things’. That’s when it took up me to literally start using technology to address it, specifically for the health sector. In 2017, with a team of young people, were three young women. We worked with UN FPA and we did an innovation to be able to collect data that was used for resource allocation for the government and the application is used to collect data so that we can address our issues better because they used not to believe people in different areas of the country, so that was my contribution in that sector. And now the mental health app, and on Women’s Eay, I held a small event where I invited high school students, women only and girls and university students. We talked about security in terms of how best to stay safe, because without online security women are violated and everything.
Women as Entrepreneurs
ROLE: FARMER, KENYA
I’m the first born in a family of five. A mother of two (a 19-year-old university girl and an 11-year-old primary school boy). A rape victim at the tender age of 18 years old (rapist known to me), I went on to be a young mother. A contestant in a TV reality show about leadership in Kenya. A banker of ten years. I quit banking to start farming (it’s a very funny story that shouldn’t have happened in the first place) and looking back, that was the best decision I ever made. An educationist currently equipping schools in my village with reading materials to help improve communication. I solicit books from friends on social media and publishing houses and donate the same to the village schools.
I am very keen about what goes into my system. An ardent farmer who practices ‘from the farm to the table’ policy, even when I stay far away from the farm (which happens due to work nature).
NAME: REGINA GRACE AKULLU
ROLE: PROGRAM OFFICER, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION (IST). AREAS OF OPERATION: KAMPALA, GULU, BUSIA, IGANGA, ARUA DISTRICT, UGANDA
The interventions working with market women in Uganda on the areas of leadership development for business, voice and power, technology use, access to markets by market women followed formative research that was conducted in 2016 on “Women’s Access to Markets and the Nature and extent of Gender Based Violence Experienced by Market Women”.
IST is an institution that focuses on building the capacity of women to excel, fishing out the “invisible” market women to boost their potential through training, increasing access to markets, changing public perceptions towards them, use of technology, organizing and efforts towards favorable laws that regulate the markets.
What did we mean by the word ‘access’? Not about doors being open as such, but the environment within the market spaces where the women entrepreneurs operate have to be favorable. We look at issues of empowerment through sharing information that relates to business and financial literacy and skills, leadership for increased participation and inclusive decision making. We encourage women to take on leadership positions to be able to influence decisions in relation to changes they envision to have in and out of the market. In a bid to facilitate the process of addressing the issues identified, IST took on the drive to implement activities that would effect change in the lives of market women.
1,425 Market Women Entrepreneurs (MWEs) have been trained in business and financial literacy skills
1,425 Market Women Entrepreneurs (MWEs) have been trained in business and financial literacy skills. That being an entry point and niche for MWE, we realized that MWEs were not in the leadership structure of the markets yet they are the majority, thus the need for a leadership component to inspire and boost their confidence to take on leadership, organize and speak for their voice to be heard and counted. This has so far been achieved as women entrepreneurs who received training have organized and formed cooperative unions, giving them a platform to exercise their attained leadership skills.
At the beginning resistance from the market leaders was inevitable given the power they had over the MWEs and they were threatened by having an empowered MWE group that will question their actions. However, as IST, our unique Training for Transformation approach was applied, and it supported the women with skills and helped them to negotiate with their leaders on issues that affect them. So, they were able to approach their leaders on a number of issues including: a sanitary facility (toilets or latrines, garbage collection), violence, competition from street vendors.
During the training and different engagements with the women entrepreneurs and leaders, challenges in-relation to gender responsive communication were identified. IST held dialogue meetings with the leaders in which gender issues were identified that called for training on gender, language for effective leadership and communications. This established a need for further intervention in term of capacity building, training on gender responsiveness to end violence against women and girls, which currently has a funding gap.
As far as women and technology are concerned, market women entrepreneurs were not friends with technology (the “use of smart phones” for business) yet the world has gone digital. IST in partnership with UN Women have developed an e-line sales Market Garden App through which they can sell their products beyond the limit of the stalls. This is intended to minimize competition from middle-men who hijack customers before reaching market stalls, guarantee convenience, save time and costs, increase savings and enhance financial accessibility and improve on their records management. The idea for the application was ignited during the first ever national market women symposium for the Women Entrepreneurs that IST organized in 2017.
The national symposium is now an annual event that brings together women entrepreneurs from across Uganda, and different stakeholders and institutions to celebrate, network, educate, review, exhibit and unveil opportunities both in the public and private institutions.
NAME: SANDRA NASSALI
ROLE: COMMUNICATIONS AND KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST, UGANDA
As a child I wanted to be a journalist, a renowned journalist, that is why I pursued a career in journalism and communication but then while I was still at university, we were challenged to start writing articles with different newspapers, different newsrooms. Then I realised that the payments were not very favourable and then the women were normally given softer roles. You’re not taken on to give coverage on things like politics and business and that is what sells. Women are given soft tasks, stories to write about, things to do with sex, with beauty. For us here in Uganda, unless if you’re a senior reporter with a renowned publishing house, you’re not paid a salary, given a wage, an allowance, an assignment, so you’re not even sure if I write this article that the editor will approve it. So because of those dynamics - I was very ambitious - I switched and instead of majoring in writing, I majored in public relations.
If maybe a story is featured on the front page, you earn much more money than the person who is featured maybe on page ten and you know since for us women we are normally given softer news, the health, the beauty, the sex, that will go on without even featuring on the first page. And then of course you have to survive. Much as you’re very passionate, you have a life to live, so I had to make a decision at the end of the day: pursue journalism or pursue PR, where I can do something I am passionate about, but also be able to make a living out of it, adapt, majoring in public relations and working with non-profit organisations but my dream has always been to be a journalist. I wanted to be a celebrity, someone who is renowned, but then I realised journalists in Uganda are poor celebrities.
I remember when I just started at the communication and media advisory firm, I thought it was easy to get business opportunities but being a woman, sometimes clients look down on you, especially if they are male. They think you don’t have the potential, so you have to be really assertive and aggressive and you position yourself in a way that they will respect you and maybe sometimes you will offer to take an opportunity at half the price to just show male clients that you know what? I have the ability, I have the potential. When a client’s new and they don’t believe in our potential usually I give them discounts because I want to penetrate the market and that is one of the tricks I use. I have learnt to use that for clients who look down on me because I am a female heading a communications and consultancy firm. I will give them a discount, half the price, but after that they will test my potential. After that I’m not kind.
NAME: SHARON NABOSA
ROLE: MARKET SELLER, UGANDA
I do business and I sell telephones and accessories.
Gender affected my opportunities because after school, I had to give birth and I know that in that period of giving birth I feel in some way, somewhere I missed a chance of getting a job because I was concentrating on the child. I had a child at 22.
How I became involved in market selling is that it was decided by my husband after consulting with the friends that are doing the same business. And then I decided to take it up also. He saw that it was a good businesswoman and then he told me, ‘maybe you can do this’ and he consulted our friends. Then I started doing it. It is perfect because I can get the money I need and then I can pay for my kids’ fees, take care of the home, do some savings, that’s it.
I’m involved in decision-making because, I normally decide which schools my children should go to, and in the community we have like a circle and I’m a leader there, so I take part in making the rules to follow in our circle, so I understand the circle things, the savings and credit society, so I take part in that and even at home I tell you what should we do, like I take part.
In the community circle, like we decide when to bring the money in time, because when you don’t bring it in time you’re given a fine, because we have to get the money in time so that our friend who’s taking should benefit in time. We set the rules to follow because if you don’t have them it would be a disorganised thing.
NAME: SUSAN TAFUMBA
ROLE: BUSINESSWOMAN SELLING PRODUCE IN MARKET, POULTRY FARMER, UGANDA
I am a businesswoman who is dealing with market products. I sell market products. I have a business in the market where I sell rice, sugar, products, cooking oil, groundnuts. Then on top of that I do poultry farming. I rear birds for eggs.
I used to work with my dad in the market in order to prepare for the high education, so when we worked together I used to work in the morning, then go for evening lessons. In the evening at around 3pm I’d go for my lectures, that’s how I got into business with my dad. And when at university I studied a diploma in business administration and that’s where I developed an interest in business. Then for poultry, after school, I got married then the husband brought me land, then we build the house, so I had more land so I wanted to utilise that land in order to improve my source of income so I started to rear birds for eggs production. I did this because I had a lot of space which I wanted to utilise. I have around a thousand birds. I produce around twenty-seven to twenty-eight trays on a daily basis. I have helpers both at home with the birds, then also in the market, but I have to monitor them. I am always there with the birds and I’m always in the market to monitor my businesses.
I feel like I could not report my boss
My gender has affected my career path a bit. My internship failed me. After senior I went for an internship in a certain organisation. I had my internship there and I was ready to be a staff member there but the thing that failed me, my boss wanted to harass me sexually. Yet they were paying me well and I wanted to work there, but since my boss harassed me I decided to leave the job and came back once again with my dad. I feel like I could not report my boss. I feared, so I just decided to leave the job, what I did, I just told my dad what happened and I told him, ‘So I’m not ready to continue with the job, I’m coming back, dad’. Then he welcomed me back he said, ‘Come back and work’. So I went back to my family and we did business.
In the community, I also participate because I’m a voter. We always vote for our leaders. Then I also participate in village meetings, especially on Sunday. On Sunday I don’t work. After my prayers I stay home. That’s when I can attend village meetings. At times we always have general cleaning, as a community, we always clean the village, we at times meet to keep law and order in the village, so I do participate. At the organisational level, I’m a secretary of the savings group. Then in the same market we have a cooperative for women, we always have meetings for the cooperative, and at times I attend it there. Then we also at times attend study meetings, for example IST always brings some lessons for us to attend, us women, so we at times have to attend those meetings.
Women in Health
NAME: CAROL ARIBA
ROLE: JOURNALIST AND WOMEN’S HEALTH CAMPAIGNER, NO DEATH FROM A BIRTH, KAMPALA, UGANDA
Friends, family and acquaintances, I am asking you to join this conversation seeking to shed light on the fact that many women have died and continue dying whilst giving birth.
Since I don't have a personal birth experience, I am going to draw your attention to experiences from work. I am talking about women without the luxury of choice. Women who can barely afford the Mama kit, let alone the boda-boda fee needed to seek help kilometres away.
Women whose babies are born to no clothes, and must trek more kilometres back after child birth.
Women who don't have the luxury to make follow up appointments and die from postpartum complications.
Mothers whose death remains whispered in their communities and graves never get cement. Mothers who have been failed by the health system that won't equip our health centers.
I am adding my voice to this cause and imploring government to do better by these mothers. I will explain later. For now, let's all have the hashtag #WithoutMum and just say something about this topic.
NAME: DR SUSAN OKWAKOL
ROLE: ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF HEALTH SERVICES, KUMI DISTRICT, NORTH-EASTERN UGANDA
We had a camp at the health centre and that camp was comprised of family planning. We did nutrition, we did cancer screening, HIV testing and you know the men came on board as well. And of course they said, 'Now what is our role here?'
We say, 'yes we are really happy to receive you and these are the services we are going to offer you. We’re just going to screen you for any STIs that we have, we’re going to assess you, take your blood pressure, take your weight and see how your nutrition is' because they’re so happy, they’re happy because they are also being assessed and we are bringing them on board, because in this issue of gender we can’t say we are only looking at women.
You can never succeed if you leave the men behind. Because these are the family heads, these are the people who are supposed to steer and whatever a woman gets from the facility, she is supposed to come and say, 'my husband, my dear one, this is what they have told me'. Some of them listen, some of them do not listen. So you find that when you want to bring up these issues of gender equality, bring the men.
ROLE: RECORDS AND STATISTICS, HEALTHCARE SECTOR, UGANDA
As a child, when you’re growing up, especially in the infant education, even when you go for high school, we elect prefects and there are some positions where it would be like, ‘this position is suitable for a boy’. Even the teachers themselves hear them talking, ‘no we need a boy this side, girls can’t make it’. You know those excuses and at the end of the day you find that some positions are dominated by boys. A case in point, I really love much to share this:
I was running for the higher levels of high school, that is senior finance in year six, and I went to my sister as we were going to the new school and then the academic, the person in charge of academics, asked me, ‘what what subjects do you want to do?’
Then I told him: ‘I want Physics, Economics and Mathematics.'
The man really looked at me like, ‘Economics? Physics? Mathematics? You are a girl?’
It was so so disappointing, someone looks at you with a face of wondering: really, a girl? You want to do Physics and Mathematics? I’m like yes.
My sister interrupted and said, ‘Excuse me, sir, the child has said her subjects that she wants to do, so give her a try, if she fails then you can advise otherwise, give her a try’, you know? Because previously those subjects, the science subjects were aimed for boys, they know boys are good at Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and all of a sudden you come up as a girl, you want to do Mathematics, Physics and it was really disappointing. By the end of the day I had to make it and I only wish he would be there but he had left by the time I had finished.
Women in Politics and Law
NAME: PASCALIAH MAKONJIO
ROLE: GENDER ADVISOR TO H.E. THE GOVERNOR, BUSIA COUNTY, KENYA
I am from a family of seven, where we were four girls and three boys. Unfortunately my three sisters died more than ten years ago.
It was not easy for me to get education. My father prioritised my brothers for education against us. Being a last born, I told myself that I won’t live the life my sisters were living but wanted to be someone better in life. During school days, I had only two panties which I was given by my sister which was difficult, especially during menstruation. I never had an opportunity to get a sanitary towel but used some old rags and cotton wool to prevent blood from flowing on my uniform. This meant that I had to stay out of school during my menstruation days.
After completing my form four education I went to stay with one of my brothers and was taken to be a house help for three years. Whereby he was paid and never gave me the money. I thought of what to do next and went to stay with my sisters who were doing their own businesses (RIP).
One day I asked my brother in law for 100 shillings, which he gave my sister to give me and believe me it was turning point in my life.
I helped the girls who dropped out of schools and those that did not get opportunities because of poverty in the area
I took the money and bought two t-shirts of which I sold each at 250 and got 500 shillings. Thereafter I went and bought others.
I really wanted to learn how to use a computer and I used the money to go to college whereby I learnt and bought my own computer, started a computer services business which included typesetting and internet services.
Thereafter I engaged in youth activities in my district, whereby I was elected as a youth leader and thereafter a provincial youth leader.
From there, I went to Busia to do my business, running away from home because of poor business opportunities. In Nambale, Busia County, I opened the business where I helped the girls who dropped out of schools and those that did not get opportunities because of poverty in the area.
Due to this I vied to be the MP (Member of Parliament) of Nambale Constituency. Being the only woman and a young person who is not born nor married in the area, it was not easy even campaigning. During my campaigns, I rarely slept in the house because of too many threats. I used to run at night. Every day I felt like sleeping in my house. I slept on trees, ran with transparent night dress, just to mention but a few.
After the politics, I registered my NGO called Young Leaders of Kenya. I started visiting schools, doing mentorship to reduce early marriages, the spread of HIV and other STIs, based on the fact that Busia is the highway of East Africa, with several businesses including prostitution.
I started donating sanitary towels in schools to the vulnerable girls to help them be in school of which I can proudly say I have managed in a great way.
NAME: REGINA AKULLU
ROLE: CANDIDATE TO BE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT OF UGANDA, PROGRAM OFFICER, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION, UGANDA
In life there is a need to undertake calculated risks, know who you are, what you want for self-actualization and for your community, then go for it. In April, 2014, I reached a rather seemingly hard decision to resign from my job with the local government for whom I worked for eight years.
My vision was and still is to become a model leader in the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda as guided by the spirit to represent the voices of my people and improve their economic, social and political angles through evidence-based deliberations, consultation, openness and advocacy for fair policies.
Having been born, studied and worked within the constituency, I have firsthand experience of the life there. Looking at priorities that are being deliberated upon, it is clear that most of our representatives are either people who were voted in because they had too much money or based on division along party ideology and the principles of indoctrination. Sometimes they ride on the emotion of the electorate embedded in petty cultural inclination, for example one’s clan of marriage, sometimes the community perceived older age as a gauge for mental maturity.
The low level of livelihood and extreme poverty in Africa has forced our people to equate their votes to a ‘Sacket of waragi’ which is less than half a dollar, thus political commercialization and monetized politics.
My question is how we can work together to conscientize our communities to be able to appreciate that they have a role in determining the leadership dimension for their desired destiny? How can I make them know that their short-term decisions during the popular election of leaders determines and affect them immensely in a long run?
In the spirit of humanity, we can make this world a better place
How can I comfortably live in a society where our mothers are scared that if they do not vote a particular person then the ‘computer’ will capture them as defaulters and at the end they will not access social services and public infrastructures? I’ve seen the low level of livelihood, poverty, maternal mortality, land conflicts, killings, unemployment, street children, the GBV issues within the community, which are not featuring as main issues into the agenda to be discussed at national level.
These key issues either get less attention due to misplaced prioritization by those in power or are not seen as matters of urgency to popularize party ideologies, in some extreme cases considered a minority issue affecting just a marginalized section of the population which to them has less effect on the national economy. This is certainly not our desired destiny and shouldn’t be a mentality in the 21st century.
As Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba stated, ‘those who have the power lack the idea and those who have the idea have no power’. Together in the spirit of humanity, we can make this world a better place to live in!
NAME: NORAH NABWIRE
ROLE: LAWYER, PROGRAM OFFICER, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION, UGANDA
Currently I work for the Institute for Social Transformation as a Program Officer. I have been managing the Busia projects on gender-based violence, helping women and vulnerable communities access justice.
I train the communities, I train the women, I train the men, I train the local leaders and I also train the justice, law and order sectors, because those are the people that we partner with within the communities. So I basically do sensitisation of communities about their rights and gender-based violence. Then, I also do radio talk shows still sensitising people about that and then I also conduct community dialogues with our stakeholders, finding solutions for the communities to handle their own issues.
We have so many cases that we have handled within the communities that have been so successful
I help women and the vulnerable communities access justice, so that means I follow up cases within the communities. I try to mediate those cases where necessary. If they’re beyond us, we refer them to courts of law, especially if they are criminal cases. Because of the justice system being very slow, cases are not handled so immediately as one would expect. However, our system of work is that we do not really refer in those cases to courts given the fact that they delay, so the system is that we try to find other alternative means of solving those issues within the communities. The communities know their issues very well, so we do not look at court as an option. We look at mediating these issues and trying to sit with the leaders within the communities and see how best these people can compensate each other, because the justice system is very slow.
We have so many cases that we have handled within the communities that have been so successful without necessarily going to court. The justice system is very slow and yet these issues need immediate attention so it’s very difficult if we are going through the court system. So, what we do is to encourage alternative dispute resolution so that these issues are handled immediately.
NAME: HON. ESTHER PASSARIS
ROLE: MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, KENYA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
I’m a politician. I got in last year in the election. I had more votes than both the presidential candidates - I had more votes than them in Nairobi. But it was my fourth attempt in politics. My first attempt was to be mayor of Nairobi fifteen years ago and my name wasn’t presented by the current president. So immediately after, somebody died, a Member of Parliament, I ran again, and I won but I was rigged out. Africa has a problem with free, fair and credible elections. Elections are decided in the boardrooms, not by the ballot, so we’ve got a long way to go to get our democracy right. Then I tried again in 2013 for the woman’s representative seat where I was up against a woman, but at that particular time, I think tribal politics and partisan politics played a key role and I lost. But last year was when I got in and I got in with a bang!
NAME: LETTY CHIWARA
ROLE: REPRESENTATIVE TO ETHIOPIA, AFRICA UNION AND UN ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA AT UN WOMEN
We’ve been working with rural women in Ethiopia on economic empowerment. In that work we do in Ethiopia, we ensure that we have a multi-layered strategy. There, we are looking at women accessing the land, which is very critical for them to have control over the land, not only to use somebody else’s land but to control it and have the right to use the land. The second thing we have been doing is to ensure that once they have the land, we have given them the tools, the equipment to reduce the labour of tilling that land because one of the biggest challenges for our rural women is that they spend a lot of time using rudimentary methods and hedging their bets, ploughing the land, so we are giving them the technology to actually use that land.
The third layer of the work we are doing is to think now they produce better, they spend less time, what next do they need? We also are providing them with processing facilities in their own areas. What has been the biggest challenge with our women producers in rural areas, has been that they produce a lot of very good quality products, which could be vegetables, tomatoes or whatever, but they can’t take them to the market because the market is very far, maybe from here to Nairobi or to another city and they don’t have the resources, the cars and everything. So, what we are now trying to do is ensure that they have the equipment to actually process some of those products, package them and then they can be taken to market without having a lot of losses from their production.
We are beginning to see that once you empower a woman with knowledge [...] nobody else will take that away from her
Then the other thing we try to do that also helps with markets and their products, but more critically for me at least, is the issue to do with leadership. Transformational leadership skills for women. And I think we are beginning to see that once you empower a woman with knowledge, knowledge that goes here, nobody else will take that away from her and she will use it and use it for the right cause.
I have one example of one rural woman, from a village in Ethiopia and I wish I had actually brought her for you to listen to her story because when she tells her story, everybody in the room cries. Because as a young woman, married with kids, whose life was very much dependent on rural life and of course on her husband, but working together with her husband, as one element of what we do with our programming, we and they have now gone through all these layers I’ve mentioned and that woman has reached the stage today and is now a leader of the council level. Before that, nobody noticed her, before she could produce, before she could make money out of the labour, before she was able to speak, make issues out loudly, nobody knew she existed in that village but now she’s recognised and now she is a leader within the local council of her community. And we took her to New York to the CSW last year, because it was focusing on rural women. When she spoke in those big rooms, at the United Nations headquarters, everybody cried when she told her story. So there are stories of women and this goes to your network and what you do, there are stories of women that actually make you realise that women are change-makers, once you equip them with the tools, once you give them the opportunities and once you give them the skills they need.
The Role of Men: #HeForShe
NAME: MOSES WANYAMA MASINDE
ROLE: JOURNALIST AND PHD STUDENT, KENYA
I am a trained journalist. I have worked for more than twenty years in the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), World Vision Kenya and Transparency International in various capacities: Information Officer, Project Manager and Programme Co-ordinator.
Gender is critical in the work of peace and advocacy. For example, in NCCK, Peace Programmes focussed on children and vulnerable groups and with World Vision it was even more categorical. The most affected groups in conflict were women and children. In Transparency International, I focused more on capacity, building the grassroot groups affected by corruption.
Supporting women's groups and vulnerable groups is a tall order, especially in communities that are patriarchal. Economic empowerment awareness creation in terms of individual rights would be instrumental in changing the perception of society towards women and gender parity in general. Rural women in North Rift, North Eastern, and Nyanza regions require special support. Formation of pressure groups for change involving men would be an added advantage.
NAME: BENN AKUNDA
ROLE: VOLUNTEER SOCIAL WORKER, SHULE FOUNDATION
Shule Foundation is an organisation that is looking after street kids, rehabilitating them and after rehabilitating them at the facility, it makes sure kids are re-settled back home with their families. After reuniting them with their families, they resume education for those that are still at a young age. For those who are at an age above resuming education, because you might find someone who stopped studying when they were three, right now when you are trying to resettle them back home they are around thirteen and they can’t resume pre-classes or nursery or other lower levels. So for that case, we have those ones taking on practical skills. It’s tailoring, electrical work, basic engineering courses, carpentry and everything.
The number of boys on the streets is always larger than the number of girls on the streets, but there are also girls and you’d rather not be a girl on the street. Because in their case, it’s worse: the exploitation, the sexual harassment and all that. One way of finding money for girls is prostitution. For boys, they sell plastic bottles. A few girls who are there, they are involved in prostitution to get the money and they also have kids they give birth to at an early age.
I think men or boys should also take on the empowerment of women and girls. It’s not only themselves that deserve to be better, but equality should be put in place and looking at fellow women or girls as equal.
NAME: BERNIE HOLLYWOOD, OBE
ROLE: GLOBAL CHARITY CONSULTANT & STRATEGIST, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR
There is an amazing social enterprise here in Kenya: EndaSportswear.com. Nava who runs that business, an amazing female Kenyan, knew she had a problem raising collateral, and we advised her to do a crowdfunder. A crowdfunder is literally going out to the world and saying, ‘I have an amazing story that I want to deliver for social good, do you want to come on board and help, do you want to come on board as part of this particular journey?’ So that’s what we did. We went out into the world and we asked the world to fund the project through a crowdfunder. So if you look up companies like KickStarter.com or Indiegogo they are the two major fundraising websites that you can actually dip into if you’re thinking about setting up a business for social good or if you want to sell products or services, but you have to have an amazing story if you’re going to engage with the world. It’s got to be truly amazing.
We had an amazing story, so we went out to fund the first stage of this project and we wanted $60,000 for this project, a lot of money. It was over-subscribed three times in over seven days. The world wants to help solve our global issues.