The African Women’s Leadership Institute has awakened the power within me.

Earlier this year, I went through some tough moments that partly led me to a place of deep self-doubt. I became very vulnerable and dependent on a friend for my sustenance. So on a very hot afternoon, as I sipped on a glass of pot water that tasted like heaven, my mind was buzzing with ideas. I desired to be different, to grow, to inspire change but didn’t know how.

The universe must have heard my cry, and at that moment, a friend shared with me the link to the African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) Fellowship by Akina Mama wa Afrika. Did it say transformation? My heart raced because I desired to dig deeper within me and become transformational. I longed for a space to learn how to grow in my leadership capabilities. Immediately, I started working on my application and took passport photos, which was one of the many requirements. (I could not believe that I had no passport pictures!)

As I responded to some of the questions, I could not help but feel inadequate and this gave me goosebumps all over but nonetheless, I pressed on. I wanted to exude confidence, assertiveness, creativeness, and critical thinking; it was not just an application anymore, it was personal. Then a tiny voice reminded me of the reasons why I probably could not qualify until I clicked submit. My fingers suddenly felt tingly. I was staring at my laptop, scared of rejection.  My stomach ached and yet no activity could bring me relief. I prayed and engaged the highest as I waited for a response and on July 19th; I received my life-changing phone call. My voice suddenly became faint and the phone could not pick signals clearly so I was constantly saying “I beg your pardon”, “I did not get what you said” or asking, “did you hear me?” None the less I got in! I got in!!!

During the inaugural ceremony, that was held on 28th July 2020 we were introduced to some of the women who would walk this transformative journey with us at Akina Mama wa Afrika; Eunice Musiime, Chipo Bangira, Patricia Humura, and Joanita Najjuko. We also met our phenomenal facilitator Hope Chigudu and The UN Women Uganda Deputy Country Representative Adekemi Ndieli and Ms. Agripinner Nandhego who all inspired us to appreciate this space.

Being selected for the AWLI provided the first signal that I am still worthy of. The introductory processes stirred in me new fires and yet, at the same time fear. What will it take for me to show up? The still small voice reminded me that this is the opportunity that I have been waiting for. So I am ready to reinvent myself into the leader and change-maker that I have always desired to be! I am ready to learn, unlearn, and relearn!

So as I embark on this phenomenal journey, I will draw on the powerful words of Maya Angelou, Still, I shall rise!

By Pauline Bangirana
The writer is a participant in the ongoing Feminist and Transformational Leadership Fellowship supported by UN Women Uganda.