Sophie Carol Wanyenze is a queer woman, a mother, and an unapologetic queer feminist. She is an LGBTQI+ activist, human rights activist, and a transformative leader. Carol holds a degree in Counselling Psychology, a Diploma in Crisis Management, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Programs Management. She is currently the Programs Manager at Fem Alliance (FEMA) Uganda and the Co-founder of Queer Women Leaders Uganda. Carol is passionate about leadership, mental wellness, and building the queer feminist movement.
What office are you running for and what change would you like to achieve?
I am running for the post of Woman Councilor LC3 Kiira-Kito zone found in Kira sub-county, in Wakiso district. The reason I am running for this position is to dare patriarchy in Uganda. I want to amplify the voices and concerns of grassroots women, like market vendors, hawkers, and women running small businesses.
Despite the efforts that have been made to advance women’s issues at all levels in Uganda, there is still a gap in the realization of a gender-just society where women’s rights are promoted and protected. Issues affecting women are rarely addressed by the Local Council due to a number of reasons such as the under-representation of women in decision-making spaces and for those that represent us, they are silenced by patriarchy. They rarely make personal decisions and are threatened when they do.
I want to create community networks of women who support and transform each other’s lives. I also want to provide legal sensitization to women who own property or want to own property.
I intend to lead with a high level of transparency, accountability, and result-oriented service delivery. My priority is to ensure there’s easy access to general health and sexual and reproductive health services. I will create response units on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and establish proper Sexual and Reproductive Health programming for my community.
Why should people trust you to lead them?
I want to fight for inclusion and better representation of women. I am for accountable transformative leadership that brings results to all women. My slogan is, “NO WOMAN LEFT BEHIND” and my goal is to transform the lives of women in my community so they can also transform the lives of other women in their immediate communities and resulting in the growth of every woman.
What do you think are the most significant barriers to female leadership? Have you personally experienced any of these challenges?
Campaigning is expensive and communities expect incentives in the form of money. This creates financial constraints yet women standing for leadership are often not as economically and financially privileged as their male counterparts. I am currently supporting 67 young women on their local council journeys by providing them with printed posters and transport facilitation so I can testify to the financial challenges faced by women. Power dynamics are also a challenge as some women already in the political space exert power over young women leaders especially joining the political movement.
I have faced threats from bigger political figures in the community. False rumors against me and hateful language have also affected my self-esteem. As a queer woman running for a political office, I am scared of meeting electorates who have been in my space of LGBTQI activism. Opponents have also used my children as a vulnerability. For example, a male aspirant once said to me, “You woman, go home and cook for your children instead of making for us noise.”
How do you overcome these challenges?
I have trained in digital and security so I am careful about who and how I interact on social media. Although I would love to rest and relax, my finances are strained and I cannot afford to do certain things; so I focus on self-care and self-love for my mental wellness. My children are surrounded by immediate relatives I trust although I would love extra security for them since they are still very young. I ignore most of the political statements said to me because deep down, I know who l am and l am perfect.
Has anyone had an impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?
I am lucky to have many women in my life who inspire me. My mother, Sarah Kaige Nabigumba has seen me through it all and she still does. She is my biggest fan. Isabella Akiteng, the Co-founder of Femme Forte Uganda, inspires me to aim for better and dream bigger. She has been a sister and a friend at every step of my journey and is always there to cheer me on. Eunice Musiime, the Executive Director, Akina Mama wa Afrika is my mentor, role model, sister, and challenger. She makes me believe in myself every day, listens, and makes me dare myself more. I love and celebrate all of them.
How did the African Women Leadership Institute (AWLI) influence your drive to run for elective office?
After the AWLI, I chose better friends by reaching out to more feminist and sisterly spaces. I grew as a leader and became more visible in political spaces. My goals changed and I became a fully transformed woman. The movement-building session in the Institute put me on the road of women’s rights activism and helped me reflect on and reset my goals as a young leader.
After the AWLI, I was able to fundraise and set up the first-ever queer feminist Art studio at FEMA Uganda; a safe space for queer feminists to start, support or grow their feminist journeys, share stories and experiences through sisterhood and solidarity and build the queer feminist movement.
The AWLI also helped me start my own Organization, ‘Queer women Leaders Uganda’ whose aim is to support and mentor young queer women leaders to take up political, economic, and social leadership spaces while putting feminism at the center of their leadership journeys. The organization also serves minority women’s concerns on HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and mental health, especially among grassroots women.
The African Women’s Leadership Institute was a rich experience. I am really grateful to Akina Mama wa Afrika for the consideration and support.