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Tell us about yourself
I am the founder and director of Women In Leadership, Uganda. Our aim is to empower women and girls in Uganda where there are a lot of girls who have a lack of access to information about their human rights and sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR). I saw an opening for us as an organization to make an impact by educating women and girls on their rights.
Professionally, I’m a family lawyer. Prior to that I worked in domestic violence organizations my main focus being protecting women and children from the effects of domestic violence. Through that work, as a caseworker, I realized that in order to help the women you need to apply the law to protect them. Working with domestic violence agencies showed me that the law is important.
My background in the UK was working with women protection agencies and that was through my mum who was the director of a charity organization. She got my brother and I involved in volunteering from a young age; it was a very big part of my family life to volunteer for charity organizations. I volunteered all through to university and so I watched the impact you can have from working with such organizations, working alongside women and women led organizations which was fantastic to see because it was women helping women. I thought there are so many strong women out there, so many things we could do if we help each other. That really inspired and motivated me in the direction I went with my work.
What do you like most about your work?
I like the hands on grassroots work, working directly with the community. I did a lot of work as a lawyer where I was in the office a lot with a lot of paperwork whereas now I can sit with someone from the community and speak to them about their experiences without being time-barred and I find or try to find a solution without thinking, is this making me money? It’s more about the person. So the thing I like most is the personal connection, listening to people’s experiences, trying to find solutions, trying to get them onto programs that could help them, seeing the impact.
Tell us about Women in Leadership and your work.
The work that we do is community led workshops, which, number one educates women on their rights - both their human rights, their sexual reproductive health rights and number two empowers women to be literate. We are also bringing workshops that help women gain income generating skills, like our crafts program.
Women In Leadership was started because we saw a need in the community for an organization that addresses gender equality. In Uganda it’s quite clear that women and men are not seen as equal. We envisage a Uganda where women and girls know their rights, are able to access information, be on an equal footing to men and that’s not the case currently. We are here to try and empower the women to be in that position, to be able to stand for themselves, be in positions of leadership and to be able to act as role models once in those positions. We are looking for that ripple effect that if you empower the mother you're empowering the girls as well and the children. If the mum is strong and giving opinions on equality from the beginning, not only will the girls follow that lead but even the boys will aspire to have a woman like that in their lives.
How do you work with Irise?
Currently, we’re partnering with Irise on Menstrual Health Education. Irise will be coming into schools to do menstrual health education training which is something that’s actually missing from our target area in Busembatia. It doesn’t appear to be in the curriculum so we’ve formed a partnership where they are able to impart that knowledge in the schools that we’re already working with and targeting.
How would you define your personal everyday feminism?
For me I’ve always believed I can do anything that men can. There is no differentiation, I am a strong independent woman, that’s how I’ve been brought up. My everyday contribution to feminism is to ensure that the people around me and the women around me are boosted. I want them to believe that they can do anything they’re not limited by their gender at all and essentially, we can do anything a man can do. We have a right to do anything a man can do. I hope that everyday I’m able to impart that to the women and girls I work with and even show them as an example, this is what I believe in and this is what I’m doing.
Why do you think it is important to make clean and safe sanitary products accessible to girls everywhere?
When we did our needs assessment one of the biggest reasons for girls not attending school was they did not have access to sanitary towels. It’s important that girls are able to access what you would think is a basic need for women, it’s not a luxury item it’s a basic need. Every month we’re on our periods, we need sanitary towels, we should be able to access them. The issue of accessible sanitary towels is not being dealt with, on a local level, national level, no one cares. I feel like if it was something that affected men it would be an issue but because it’s something that happens to women and girls, it’s being brushed under the carpet.
What do you think stakeholders involved in menstrual health management can do to make this possible?
I think in the lines of what Irise are doing, looking at making sanitary products affordable and accessible because that’s a huge reason why women and girls are not able to get them. If girls were to need sanitary products there are not many outlets in the village that sell them. Advertising, marketing, to make sure women and girls are aware of and creating affordable sanitary towels like Easy Pad. Education, because most of the girls are not educated in terms of their menstrual health, there should be more emphasis on that in schools.
What advice would you give to young girls who have just started their periods and do not understand what is happening to their bodies?
Girls need to ask questions, find out what’s happening rather than girls having their periods and feeling like they’re dying, they don’t want to go to school or anywhere else. They need to ask, speak to their parents, their teachers if they have a health educator approach them. Don’t feel scared about these things, periods are a natural thing, it’s not unclean. It’s something that happens to women on a monthly basis. They need to understand that this is a natural thing, it's nothing to be scared of. They need to get information, don’t stay at home don’t be scared about it. Ask and get that information.
The content of this blog may contain personal views which are not the views of Irise International unless specifically stated. This blog is part of a series of blogs used to promote awareness of menstrual hygiene and gender equality.