The AWLI Equipped Me With Leadership Skills – Susan Aciro

Susan Aciro is a 36-year-old woman who is deaf by disability. She works with the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda (NUWODU) as a Program Assistant. Her work focuses on Girls and women with disabilities (GWWDs). She is currently working to promote an inclusive women’s movement in Uganda. Her work revolves around building the capacities of Girls and women with Disabilities in Human Rights, feminism, leadership and politics in the five Districts of Kasese, Kitgum, Tororo, Amudat and Kampala for the purpose of collective advocacy and ensuring that no one is left behind in the fight for the eradication of Gender Based Violence (GBV)/Sexual Gender Based Violence. Susan attended the 2018 cohort of the Tuwezeshe Akina Dada fellowship.

In high school, Susan always wished for girls to participate in leadership processes and influence decision making but the boys would not give them a chance, and male teachers did not make it any easier. She wanted to make sure that the girls had equal space and influence so she joined the high school top students’ leadership as the Speaker. This was the start of her inspiring leadership journey.

After graduation, she got a job but the work place turned out to be a place of harassment, abuse and psychological torture. She just wanted to work in a place where women’s voices could be heard. This is how she ended up working at NUWODU in 2016, a national umbrella organization that brings together all categories of girls and women with disabilities in Uganda for a stronger, more unified voice to advocate for their rights.

Before the African Women’s Leadership Institute, she had limited background experience on Gender Based Violence and was under equipped with leadership skills. This was an urgent problem because she had just been entrusted with a very big project prioritizing issues of Gender Based Violence among GWWDs that was targeting over 1500 beneficiaries in four Districts. When her supervisors forwarded the opportunity and encouraged her to apply, she did not hesitate. It was the only opportunity she had to learn and she welcomed it with open arms.
At the AWLI, her expectations were simple; to gain knowledge on GBV and to build her capacity to become a better leader. The Institute met these expectations and more. She was able to gain knowledge on many subjects including developing project proposals, movement building and most importantly, feminism.

The sisterhood she nurtured at the Institute provides vital support in terms of advice, sharing experience and career growth to this day.

She is particularly thankful for the interactions which were very interesting, educative and greatly empowered her as a leader. The Director of FORWARD UK, Naana Otoo-Oyortey and her team equipped her with skills like public speaking and project proposal development. Solome Nakaweesi taught her the specifics of GBV with a focus on Sexual Gender Based Violence. Eunice Musiime, the Executive Director of AMwA advised her on the importance of self-care and gave her some tips. “She is the reason why I look very young and beautiful.” Susan says.
She also gained a mentor, Helen Kezie Nwoha, the Executive Director of The Women’s International Peace Center. “At the time, I had lost track with my career and self and what to do to be successful. Her tips are moving me forward. I am not yet there but I am already on the right path.” She went on to apply the mentorship spirit in the projects she runs for GWWDs. It is yielding good fruits as more women with disabilities aspire to stand for political positions. The sisterhood she nurtured at the Institute provides vital support in terms of advice, sharing experience and career growth to this day.

“I actively participate in feminist movement activities. I offer free peer support and counseling to GWWDs who experience GBV and sexual violence. I am always available to mentor young women to become feminist and encourage them to speak up against sexual harassment and abuse.

My advice to young women aspiring to lead is: Be determined – you will reach where you want to be.