Strengthening Young Women’s Leadership Skills for Full and Effective Participation At All Levels of Decision-Making in Political Life

The individual and collective leadership capacities of over 27 young women in Uganda were strengthened at the African Women Leadership Institute (AWLI) supported by UN Women Uganda held from 1st to 6th September 2019. The residential Feminist and Transformational Leadership training attracted participants from various diversities including differently abled women, LBQ women and women with or affected by HIV/AIDS that were interested in strengthening their leadership capabilities, feminist analysis and movement building skills to enable them transform power relations between women and men by addressing the root causes of gender inequality. The AWLI was organised under the broader theme of Leadership and Governance and more specifically: “Women’s full and effective participation at all levels of decision-making in political life”

A section of participants during a training session

The AWLI commenced with opening remarks from AMwA’s Executive Director, Ms. Eunice Musiime who encouraged participants to utilize the space for learning and changing their lives. Facilitators and speakers from various fields in the Uganda women’s movement were invited to share their experiences around feminist and transformational leadership. During an intergenerational panel discussion on feminism with Hon Miria Matembe, Ms. Rita Aciro, the Executive Director of Uganda Women’s Network and Ms. Patricia Humura, both Rita and Patricia being alumnae of the African Women’s Leadership Institute and feminist SRHR activist who represents the youth constituency at the Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism shared their experiences. According to Hon Miria Matembe, patriarchy uses women and throws them out of leadership spaces; however women can be able to lead in the different spaces they influence because leadership is beyond position. Women should clearly understand their rights, support each other through mentorship to dismantle the patriarchy syndrome in political spaces.

Ms. Rita Aciro narrated the importance of feminism and her personal life experiences and why she is a feminist attributing that feminism is political. So many people say they fear politics but the personal is political. If young women do not take up political spaces, then their issues cannot be heard. The road to feminism is an uncomfortable journey that critically opens your mind to learning, unlearning and relearning everything that revolves around human rights especially women’s rights. It is a brave step that enables one to grow at a personal, professional and way of living within the community; I have lived in a peaceful marriage because I am a feminist. The journey is difficult although the benefits are worth it. Ms. Patricia Humura a young feminist on the panel shared her experiences on taking up higher leadership positions and the challenges she experienced because of her feminist ideals and encouraging the young women at the institute to be ambitious and stand on their ground to claim to be meaningful engaged at all leadership spaces.

The road to feminism is an uncomfortable journey that critically opens your mind to learning, unlearning and relearning everything that revolves around human rights especially women’s rights. Rita Aciro

Using the river of life tool, participants were engaged in discussions on deepening their reflections around life’s experiences on childhood, adolescence and adulthood stages focusing on both positive and negative.  It was a deep reflection session, where participants got to understand, relate and reflect on their journeys. They were also given guardian angels to connect and share sisterhood love during the week long training. On the last day, they were revealed to their guardian Angels who had secretly shared love through gifts, service and notes throughout the week which created unity and boosted their self-esteem.

So many people have changed the way I think about myself yet I feel I am a good public speaker. I have never spoken in public or even to a group of people because I was not confident. I feel challenged to be a change maker through speaking to women about good things I notice about them. AWLI has enabled me to build my talent of being a confident public speaker. Ruth Kitamirike, Miss Tourism Busoga Region.

Ms. Solome Nakawesi-Kimbugwe, a member of AMwA’s faculty enlightened the participants around the six core feminist principles and values and how they intersect with an aim of promoting human rights, justice and end all forms of discrimination against women. For principle six on sisterhood and solidarity, Feminism is fun and each woman should be her sister’s keeper. There is reconnection for situations where there are misunderstandings because we stand in solidarity to transform power relations and shatter patriarchy. Today, language has been used to decriminalize women and normalize violence against women. She also said patriarchy has been used to split women between good and bad. Feminism has no space for enmity but unity.  Participants delved into the African Feminist Charter that guides the work of African feminists. It created a broader concept of feminism.

I studied law and have always wanted to identify a path that can boost my career and support women. I thought I had mastered women’s rights at school but today I have been challenged, I did not know some women’s rights. I now understand that they are broad and intersectional and most importantly they are human rights. Naima Issa, Lawyer

Ms. Naima, a participant, sharing about the African Feminists who have inspired her

Participants were trained on movement building by Ms. Helenah Okiring who encouraged young women to feed their Community Action Projects into the women’s movement. They were taken through practical activities on how to dismantle patriarchy and grow their muscle in the women’s movement. They built networks with different mentors that guide them on their community action projects and mentor them for one year.

In the closing remarks, Dr. Maggie Kigozi, AMwA’s Board Chairperson asked participants to share the knowledge and skills that they acquired with people in their communities. At the close of the African Women’s Leadership Institute, the programme specialist at UN Women Uganda Ms. Agripinner Nandhego encouraged young women to shine to their fullest potentials and awarded them with certificates upon their successful completion.

I hesitantly applied for AWLI because I am a transwoman. I was very surprised to receive the success letter from AMwA as I thought it was a mistake. The Feminist and Transformational Leadership Department kept calling me to find out whether I was attending. I was warmly welcomed, AWLI has been the safest space where I have felt loved and accepted the way I am.

Kamanda Bosco, Trans woman

Compiled by Patricia Humura