Tuesday, May 26, 2015

#whySHEmatters

Lack of SRHR services and information continue taking lives of young women and girls in Kenya
 By Esther W. Kimani  - Executive Director YWLI 


“I am so afraid I do not know what to do, I wish I was more careful, what got into me really?”  troubled young woman in Kenya.

The other night I went to visit my friend who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Since the hospital was on the other side of the town, the bus took a long time to get to the central business district. It had rained heavily, flooding parts of town. Despite getting drenched, or perhaps because of, my small umbrella, I decided to go to a nearby fast food restaurant to eat. I was sure I wanted take away to go eat from home but when I found an empty table upstairs I begun eating my garden salad with grilled chicken. Sitting beside my table were two young women in their early twenties. They were excited and speaking in high tones, having fun. Sitting there alone munching my food I could not help but overhear their juicy conversation.  It felt bad to know that I was eavesdropping on their discussion, however I kept listening.

They are both local university students. One is dating a rich man who has decided to buy her a car and she is very excited about it. In the middle of the conversation, she whispered, “What do you think I should do about the pregnancy?”.  Let’s call them Abby and Ally. Abby is pregnant and about to receive a car from this man. She is excited but at the same time afraid because she is not sure what to do with her unplanned pregnancy. Ally told her, “I know that nurse in Kariobangi (one of Kenya’s urban informal settlements) who will help us. She helped so many other girls.”
“Is it safe?” Abby asked. “I am not sure,” says Ally, “however it is the best option since we cannot go to other hospitals. If you tell Abel (Abby’s rich male friend) he will not accept responsibility and will not buy you the car.” From the side of my eye I could see how afraid and shaken Abby was. In a low tone she asks, “What if I die in the process? What will happen to me? Do I have any options? Why wasn’t I careful? How can I continue with my studies? Am I a bad person? What will happen to me if I decide to keep it?”

Sitting there I thought to myself, this is one of the many lived realities of young women and girls in Kenya. With lack of access to information and services about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, many of them make bad choices in such circumstances and end up losing their lives from unsafe abortions.

Statistics indicate that 29,000 abortions happen every year in Sub-Saharan Africa - translating to over 79 deaths every day. These lives can be saved. According to a 2012 study by the African Population and Health Research Center and its partners, in collaboration with  Ipas and the Guttmacher Institute, found that nearly 465,000 induced abortions occurred in Kenya in 2012 - translating to a high national abortion rate of 48 a per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15-49 years). The findings also revealed that complications from unsafe abortions continue to pose a serious threat to womens health: nearly 120,000 women received care in health facilities for complications resulting from unsafe abortions in 2012. More shocking is that, young women suffered disproportionately, 45 percent of women aged 19 and younger who went to a health facility for post-abortion care had experienced severe complications.

With a constitution that allows abortion only to save a woman’s life, and when performed by a health professional, many young women still lack access to comprehensive safe abortion care services and information. If people do not start speaking out about these issues, many young women and girls like Abby will continue losing their lives. If we do not demand action from the duty bearers, then we will continue having these gruesome statistics. The journey to change these realities and findings needs to start early, during adolescence. Abby’s life and many other women and girls in the same situation need to be saved, that is #whySHEmatters #WhatNereaShouldKnow.


Imagine Abby, Ally and all young women in their early teens, Imagine if they had all the information needed in regards to their sexuality; Imagine them living in a country that has safe abortion services; Imagine them not worrying about unplanned pregnancies because they are empowered with information and have access to contraceptives; Imagine them actualizing their dreams. Wouldn't this be a safe space and country for them? Wouldn't they participate fully in development of the country? Wouldn't they make informed choices about their sexuality? The answer is Yes they Will and this is #TheKenyaWeWant #TheAfricaWeWant #The WorldWeWant.



 Young Women's Leadership Institute (YWLI) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or YWLI please follow the links below.
www.iie.org/
www.iie.org/en/Programs/ACE-for-Womens-Leadership
www.ywli.org  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Join WISE, Work Hard and Change your Life

I was born in Wollo, a town located in the North Eastern part of the country in a village called ‘Kallem’. Even though it is a rural area, I had a pleasant upbringing since my parents had a good financial status. However, I dropped out of school at the age of 13 on fourth grade and went to Arsi (Central Ethiopia) to take care of my sister during her maternity where I stayed for four years. I then came to Addis Ababa, got married and became a mother of five.

I found married life to be very difficult. My husband used to work in construction and our life was hand to mouth. I am a hard working woman from early age and have been engaged in selling different goods moving from place to place and Injera (local bread) at home to be able to send my children to school. But, I was not able to ease the financial burden; life was very difficult.

At one point, I was able to borrow $3,000 (~$200) to start a business to prepare and sell red pepper (“Berbere”) in a small shop and that was when my neighbors for the first time told me about Women in Self Employment (WISE). I joined one of the saving and credit associations (SACCO’s) named ‘Tinsae’ in the year 2012. After I took the Basic Business Skills training offered at WISE, I took the first round of Birr 1000 (~$66) loan and bought various goods for my shop. Using the second round loan, I reconstructed my shop and enlarged the window to fit the business purpose. A little while later, I took Birr 5,000 (~$330) loan and expanded my business to avail more goods. I was able to pay back each loan in a short period of time and took advantage of subsequent rounds of loans.

Besides the Basic Business Skills training, I took Leadership, Health and other trainings. The trainings helped me a lot in terms of enabling me to critically evaluate my life. The trainings helped me understand that I waste my time unnecessarily doing staff not worthy wasting my time over. Hence after the trainings, I started using my time consciously, started saving and was able to manage my income and handle my customers properly. I realized that customer handling has its own contribution to the success of any business. I also acquired knowledge that health is an asset for any business woman thus I started taking care of myself.

Currently, I borrowed Birr 12,000 ($600) and my saving has reached Birr 8,000 ($400). Additionally, I am able to save Birr 200 birr ($10) every month for a condominium house to be allotted by the government and Birr 200 ($10) per week in my Ikub (a traditional rotating saving).

I have a plan to expand my business and to change myself even better and more rapidly. Thus, I am saving more amount of money in my cooperative than is expected of me. I have remarkable changes in my life. My shop was very small and I started my pity- trade long ago selling charcoal. Now, I have expanded the business availing more goods and have many customers. I renovated my house with material worth Birr 4,000 ($200). The loan I took is now fully paid back, I even am serving in the leadership committee in my SACCO and all of my children are employed. I also have a business license and I am a legal tax payer!

From the changes in my life, the one thing that gives me the most satisfaction is that I am not dependent on my now grown up children for support and that I will be independent even at an old age. This is due to WISE and the trainings it offers. I love those trainings and would even like to get more in the future as well.

My future plan is to be a wholesaler; to open a big shop operated with additional employees. I want to continue sharing my story to others. Once, I was destitute to the point where I was forced to sell my gold earrings. For stay at home women, the advice I want to give is ‘Join WISE, Work Hard and Change Your Life!’

Almaz Messele
 From Tinsae Saving and Credit cooperative


Women in Self Employment (WISE) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership Program run by the Institute of Intenrational Education (IIE), Ethiopia Office 

For more on IIE , ACE or WISE please follow the links below.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


AMwA's Alumni of the Month 

An African Feminist Inspiring African Women

I invite you to journey with us today in this exclusive interview as we learn about Nana’s leadership journey since the African Women’s Leadership Institute of 2002. You will not only be inspired but also challenged discover yourself and lead.

Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

One of the ways in which I routinely describe myself is as an African feminist. I am also a writer, blogger, entrepreneur and a communications specialist. I love to read, and feel that I ought to read in order to nourish my writing, and in recent years I feel saddened that I’ve read less than I would like. For that reason one of my goals this year is to read a book a month – a goal that I thought was realistic but so far I have only finished, “How long has the train been gone’ by one of my favorite writers of all time, James Baldwin. I have started reading ‘My First Coup D’Etat’ by John Dramani Mahami, Ghana’s current President although I feel the need to add that he is far from my favorite person because of Ghana’s current energy crisis. I have also started ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande and whilst killing time at Arland Airport in Stockholm picked up ‘Not That Kind Of Girl’ by Lena Dunham which I am really enjoying although I am still waiting to come across the part of the book which had all of Twitter in a storm because she wrote about touching her younger sister’s vagina. 

What would consider as some of the unique qualities that define your personality as an African woman of strength

I don’t know if I see myself as a woman of strength, although I am an African woman who juggles a lot of roles like many who have come before me. Some of my more positive qualities include my ability to multi-task, and build relationships easily. Some people describe me as “strong”, it’s not a word I would use to describe myself. Hardworking? Yes. Determined? Yes. A Go Getter? An absolute yes.

 Kindly share with us your AWLI experience like? What was it like to be part of this institute and how has it impacted on your life and career development over the years?

I attended AWLI whilst interning with Akina Mama wa Afrika in London. The AWLI that I took part in was held in Scotland. I think the year was 2002 because I had just finished my Masters in Gender and Development. I met a lot of amazing African women at the AWLI I attended. Some like Thandi Haruperi I worked with, and many other became close friends like Elvina Quaison with whom I currently house share. So in my personal life the impact was great and in my career too. One of the women who became my friends at the AWLI Bisi Olonisakin was able to give me the number for Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi when I was looking to move to Ghana and wanted a job with the African Women’s Development Fund. I sent in my C.V., followed up with a phone call to ‘Big Bisi’, and underwent one of the toughest interviews of my life but eventually got offered a job as a Fundraising & Communications Officer. I ended up working at AWDF for 7 years with my final post being that of a Communications Specialist.

What were the unique aspects of the AWLI training that stood out for you? Are there some lessons you got from AWLI that have proved particularly effective in your work?

I remember that lots of people cried during the session on sex and gender. The consequences of being treated differently, in many cases from brothers had hurt people deeply. That session underscored to me the importance of treating people fairly.

Would you recommend any young woman to undertake the AWLI training?

Yes, the AWLI training is grounded in African feminist theory which is critical especially as so few spaces privilege African women’s intellectual knowledge production. The AWLI was also an opportunity for younger feminists to meet and interact with key figures in the African women’s movement. Perhaps most importantly of all, the AWLI is an opportunity to meet peers, African women like yourself, passionate about gender justice.

The women’s movement in Africa is said to have lost its vibrancy. What do you think has led to this and how can the women’s movement shift from this phase to the apex of activism for women’s rights?

I don’t believe that the women’s movement in Africa has lost its vibrancy. I think the African women’s movement, like many other movements around the world is under resourced although the evidence shows clearly that all significant changes for gender justice has been led by women’s movement. For a movement to grow, it needs resources to meet, time to reflect, and strategise. In this current era most donors are unwilling to fund movement building work as the impact of this work takes years, sometimes decades to show.

As we draw close to the declaration of the post 2015 development framework and beyond what would you like to see African governments commit to?

I would like to see African governments move beyond commitments to action. Many of our governments have committed to progressive conventions and protocols like the ‘Maputo protocol’ yet they fail to act on the very issues they have said they will prioritize.

What is your message for any young women interested in political leadership?

I would like to encourage all young women interested in political leadership to aim for the highest office in the land and not allow themselves to be limited to offices that are chronically underfunded, and a tokenistic effort to increase the number of women in public office – saying this, even if you find yourself in such an office I urge you to work to the best of your ability, and to work actively with women’s movements, organisations and activists. I urge all women political leaders to make a stand for women’s rights and to push for progressive laws that benefit women, men and the society at large. When there is an issue that affects women it is important that women political leaders speak up for women’s rights and are seen to do so.

Which one thing would you want the world to remember you for?


I would like the world to remember me as a passionate African woman who inspired other African women to live their best possible lives.

AKina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Sub Saharan Africa- Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or AMwA please follow the links below.

www.iie.org/
www.iie.org/en/Programs/ACE-for-Womens-Leadership

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Women, Don't Undermine your Potential"

My name is Zenebech Ezezew. I was born in 1958 E.C in Debre Tabor town, Gondar. My parents were in good economic situation. However, they got divorced while I was a child and that was bad for my upbringing. I stayed with my father and joined church education but couldn't continue further due to a problem I had with my step-mother. Later, I escaped  an arranged marriage and ran away to Gondar city where I started working as a domestic worker with a salary of six birr ( around $3 at the time) per month.

In the meantime, a woman who knew my strengths and the meager payment brought me to Addis Ababa. I was hired as a domestic worker and continued my education in the evening until I reached tenth grade. Grade eleven was difficult for me, hence I dropped out from school, got married and gave birth to three children.

To support my husband, I brought cheese, butter and egg from Sebeta and Sululta (small semi-urban villages on the outskirt of Addis) and started selling injera too. But life was very difficult. While I was in such a difficult situation, my friend who is a member of Women in Self Employment (WISE) saving and credit association (SACCO) advised me about the benefits of becoming a member of WISE and the various services of the organization. Thus, I joined 'Tinsae' Saving and Credit Cooperative in 1999 E.C. By that time, I was struggling to work in a small shop. I took the Basic Business Skills training and the first round loan of 500 birr (around $40) that helped me expand my business.

The training brought me tremendous attitudinal change within a very short period of time. Before I tool the training, even if I was working hardly day and night, I was unable to fulfill the minimum subsistence needs. The training helped me understand the meaning of profit and loss, efficient time and money utilization and income and profit calculation. The Health training helped me improve my personal and environmental hygiene. By taking different rounds of loans, my business expanded and I was able to buy the necessary household utilities like refrigerator for my house.

Currently, I have taken Birr 15,000 ($750) loan and my saving has reached Birr 12,000 ($600). I have two savings, for me and my children and for condominium being constructed by the government. I am helping relatives besides myself.  Two of my children have graduated from colleges. The first one is to soon start working in Ethiopian Airlines as a mechanic soon and the second one will get his driving license within a short time. My last child is a girl. She withdrew from a public school and joined a private one for which I am paying 500 birr ($25) per month. I used to spend my time and money to fulfill other people’s expectations; serve meal followed by coffee ceremony, etc. I and my family are no more wasting time in serving coffee.

My life has changed tremendously. I now have all the necessary household equipment for my house and I am able to visit my relatives in rural areas.

I have a plan to expand my business in the near future. Thus, I am planning to buy a car for transporting the goods. Since I have a driver and mechanic at home, the car will be easily manageable at my household level.

I want to send a message, to all Women - you shouldn't depend on the income your husbands bring home.  You have to be strong enough and shouldn't undermine your potential since every household needs a woman.           

Zenebech Ezezew

Women in Self Employment (WISE) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership Program run by the Institute of Intenrational Education (IIE), Ethiopia Office 

For more on IIE , ACE or WISE please follow the links below.




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)-The African Agenda   

   by Esther Kimani (Executive Director -Young Women's Leadership Institute)

“When we allow Sexual and Reproductive Health to include Rights, as Africans we are accepting to be influenced by western culture that of accepting persons with different sexual orientations which is not in line with our African culture”. African Leader

These were the sentiments of an African leader negotiating on behalf of Africans at the global level at the Commission on Status of Women 58th Session 2014. It has been one year ever since the Agreed Conclusions were adopted and these sentiments are stuck in my head and I wonder when was SRHR narrowed down to promotion of persons with different sexual orientation (LGBTI). At the CSW59 session the sentiments from the African Group were still the same. That SRHR is a western influenced ideology and not an African Agenda. It was bad as even the Government delegation got a memo from one of the African Countries to not even mention the words SRHR anywhere. Are some of our African leaders that narrow minded? Do they really understand the issues of Africans and are they burying their head in the sand by not recognizing the existence of persons of different sexual orientations in Africa? Are they fit to negotiate on our behalf if some of them do not understand the issues well? These are some of the many questions that have been lingering in my mind for some time now. I believe that universal access to SRHR for all encompasses the rights of women with regards to their sexuality. The right of women in regards to sexuality as in accordance to Beijing PFA (1994), para 96 includes, their right to have and to control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to the sexuality. These rights have numerously been recognized a number of times by the African governments in different declarations and commitments at the Global level such as the Rio +20 (para 146) which states that “We commit to reduce maternal and child mortality, and to improve the health of women, men, youth and children. We reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and to protect the rights of women, men and youth to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. We will work actively to ensure that health systems provide the necessary information and health services addressing the sexual and reproductive health of women, including working towards universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning, as this is essential for women's health and advancing gender equality” This is not new to Africans and the #TheAfricaWeWant is where all women have full control over their bodies and sexuality.

In 1995, 189 states committed to Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) and its 12 critical areas of concern for women which includes universal access to quality health care for all women at all ages. Over the years the review process of BPFA has been cognizant of the language of SRHR and African states have committed to this language in all the Global policy making processes. I fail to understand their sentiments about this foreign language (SRHR) that is not part of African Agenda according to them.

Statistics show that every year at least 36,000 African women and girls die from unsafe abortion, accounting for 14 percent of all maternal deaths in the region. 287,000 women, most of them in Africa and Southeast Asia, died from preventable complications of pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion (13% of maternal deaths). In other words we can say that in Africa, women’s death results from complications related to giving life. African leaders are aware of these phenomena, they cannot afford to say that access to SRHR services and needs for women is not an African agenda. African women need leaders who understand the issues and can negotiate on a language that will ensure every woman, throughout her life, have access to; a comprehensive, accessible, and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services of high quality that fully respect and protect her sexual and reproductive rights.

Are we going to sit back and relax as our sisters, daughters, cousins, nieces, friends and neighbors die every year due preventable deaths as they bring forth life? It is My, Yours, Our responsibility and that of our leaders to protect women and girls of Africa. We need to hold our leaders to account as they make decisions about women’s bodies at the global level, we must ensure they are aware of the issues and are passionate about emancipation of women and full realizations of women’s rights. Take action today by joining in the women agenda in your country. It is our collective action that will bring forth change in Africa.

“You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And Reproductive Health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal and safe abortion” Hillary Clinton



Young Women's Leadership Institute (YWLI) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or YWLI please follow the links below.
www.iie.org/
www.iie.org/en/Programs/ACE-for-Womens-Leadership
www.ywli.org  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Olive Uwamariya: Extending the reach

Olive Uwamariya is an empowered woman of the feminist mold. She was amongst the first women to be trained under the Rwanda Women Leadership Institute (RWLI) as a facilitator to empower women leaders with relevant leadership skills. RWLI is a project of the Rwanda Women’s Network in collaboration with the African Centers of Excellence for Women’s Leadership (ACE).

Describing herself as an unapologetic feminist, Uwamariya was recently featured in a talk show on Contact FM, one of the popular radio stations in Rwanda, where she discussed feminism and its positive place in society. Uwamariya embodies the RWLI aim to empower and reach women and girls as widely as possible with leadership ideals, especially through women like. She knowledgeably speaks out, as well as describes how she amiably asserts her rights at home with her spouse and in the society at large. While Rwanda has made some strides with gender friendly policies, Uwamariya observes that there are those who would like to think that “women have reached,” for instance, by being a majority at 64 percent in the Rwandan parliament. She asserts that it is not true the women “have reached.” There’s still some way to go.   

Follow the discussion here:



Established in September 2012, the RWLI aims to expand and improve delivery of new skills and tools for women’s effective leadership; provide a space for sharing experiences and for networking to mobilize women for change; and offer state-of-the-art leadership training for the empowerment of young Rwandan women.


Rwanda Women's Network (RWN) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.
For more on IIE , ACE or RWN please follow the links below.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015


A Voice for the Voiceless 

Describing herself

I am Christine Adokorach, 33 years old; I am also a mother of one son and two daughters. I am a Lawyer by profession and I define myself as a feminist.

Qualities that define me as an African woman of strength

There are many qualities that define me as an African woman of strength including but not limited to courage, braveness, calmness, intelligence, friendliness, honesty, empathy, quick to action, a self starter, persuasive and charismatic.

My AWLI Experience 

My experience involved learning, unlearning and relearning. For example under the personal empowerment, organization development, transfer of skills and knowledge, I learnt that women are judged in respect of their private/personal issues because of the patriarchal mind set to limit women participation in the public sphere. During this time we interrogated the institutions of marriage, family and religion and discovered that our attitudes had been shaped by them. It was from here that I committed to undo all the aspects geared at limiting/blocking me and fellow women’s participation in the private and public sphere.
In my work after the AWLI, I was able to reach out to women groups in West Nile and in Kampala among refugees; sensitized them around self-care and care for each other as a therapeutic aspect of leadership. This is because I further learned that you cannot give what you do not have.

Unique aspects of the AWLI training that stood out for me and lessons learned

One of the key aspects of the training was the topic on taking care of ourselves and each other. I have shared it extensively with several individual women, women groups during talks and in counseling, who have reported increased self-esteem and confidence including ability to share their story.
I got a new experience of knowing my person, body and taking care of myself; it was very empowering.

Reasons for every young woman to undertake the AWLI training

The training stimulates and prepares any woman to stand out of her private and public life with confidence and self-esteem. She becomes hungrier for knowledge and hence sharpens her articulacy and consistence. The training acts as a catalyst /stimulant for women of all ages to begin thinking. By the time one is out, they only want to do something to advance justice for women where ever they are.

Message to AMwA at 30 years

I first would like to congratulate AMwA for marking 30 years of advancing African women’s voices. I trust that you will continue to strengthen women’s voices on the continent and beyond. My message to AMwA is that although the feminist movement has focused on the regional and international spaces, there is need to consolidate the women movement at the grassroots for both the illiterate and literate, generate resources from within the movement for ownership, continue to identify, develop, empower mentor and facilitate young feminists to take up public offices as an activity towards achieving transformed societies.

Transforming the women’s movement from “NGOlisation” to Activism.

I believe the women’s movement continues to be challenged because it lacks its own resources ( funds, we the women should fund the movement to advance our interests and be accountable to us) and is always run on donor terms and deadlines hence change of goal posts depending on the interests of the donors, the women’s constituency is very large and needs to be reached and liberated, we have not yet attained solidarity and ownership of the movement as a women’s body with women from all walks of life. Many women have fallen out of the movement for various reasons hence need for constant refreshers and renewal of solidarity.
The women’s movement needs to have consensus, solidarity and unity; bringing together women from all walks of life. Facilitate members to participate in political leadership. Engage with religious and cultural institutions. Women have been relied on throughout time immemorial to sensitize and train children and fellow women (young women/girls) hence have played a paramount role of ensuring the continuity of patriarchy. Women are responsible for bringing up children, hospitality; teaching fellow women being married in the family/clan/tribe hence are responsible for training and sensitization on matters of custom/ tradition. Women of all walks of life should be targeted to facilitate attitude change and establish acceptable traditions and customs through the young generation

Views on the Post 2015 development framework and what I would like to see African governments commit

End armed conflict, safeguard borders against arms and human trafficking as these continue to jeopardize/thwart all efforts towards ending all forms of violence against women.

Advise to young women interested in political leadership

Have a clear understanding of women’s political, social, economic and cultural environment. You ought to be a feminist and identify with the women’s movement this will keep you on track have a personal agenda and align it with in the right political group where your interests have the possibility of being achieved. Assertiveness and confidence will be sharpened with continued interaction within the women’s movement; always consult your constituency and the women movement.

Remembering Christine

When I am long gone, I would like this world to remember me for having been a friend of women and bringing out the best out of every women and girl I got in contact with.

Learning more about Christine;

My life’s philosophy is that I do not need to have a title to be a leader, but simply identify a need and avail myself as a change agent. I was born into a polygamous family, an elder of eight siblings; leadership came in naturally for me at a tender age providing and protecting my siblings.
After my Law degree in 2006 I headed north to Adjumani district and began interning at the districts natural resources department. My stay exposed me to gross human rights abuse through courts and local government structures against the weak and ignorant communities including high prevalence of GBV hence I founded the first legal aid clinic in African Development and Peace Initiatives a local CBO. I further networked with the Legal Aid Project of Uganda Law society in Gulu to represent Clients in court at no cost which had never been in place before. It was a common occurrence for court clerks to draft both plaints and statements of defense hence for parties to a suit at a cost thwarting justice for those in the favor of the clerks and magistrate, no written judgments etc. I am grateful that I laid a foundation for increased information on rights and procedures for claiming. I also worked extensively at the early stages of the transitional justice discourse in northern Uganda where my organization was branded a rebel collaborator in a bid to shut up our voice concerning victims’ rights by the local government and district intelligence officers. Am happy I gracefully took on the conflict and with the support of OHCHR the president’s office concluded the matter clarified and apologized for the acts of their errant officer.
In 2007 I met two wonderful women in the Hague while attending a working seminar on SGBV before the ICC for countries being investigated by the court. When we returned we founded an organization in Gulu called Centre for Reparation and Rehabilitation to provide legal Aid services, advocacy for reparation and rehabilitation for victims/survivors of the LRA conflict, provision of psycho-social support. Our target beneficiaries were women and children who are the most affected. We were very active transitional justice activists, raising the voice of women survivors of the conflict.
I am currently the chairperson of a grassroots women’s organization called Rural Women’s Action to participate and decide. I founded it immediately after the AWLI in 2012; its purpose is to mobilize grassroots and rural women and women groups into a movement, provide a secretariat and training facility for the movement. I have not yet achieved this due lack of funding but I have determined to persuade the women to fund the activities through donations, subscription and membership and they are interested. My biggest challenge is time due to pursuit for personal development being a young woman; I have not yet attained financial independence. I find myself torn between working for a salary which keeps me out of action against doing what I love the most - Women Activism.

AKina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Sub Saharan Africa- Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or AMwA please follow the links below.

www.iie.org/
www.iie.org/en/Programs/ACE-for-Womens-Leadership