In Summary
  • Influential. As society sees what women can do, more is being done to enable them.
  • Notable among those pushing the advancement of women are women who already have influence in society

A record number of women are taking on more leadership roles. But the gap is still huge. There are 20 female world leaders currently serving as Head of State or Head of Government. This represents only 6.3 per cent of the total number of global leaders. While we are making progress, more effort is still needed.
A number of women leaders are at the forefront of this effort by empowering others so they are able to take up leadership positions.
Last year, the Women4women Awards were launched by a team of some influential women to provide visibility to women making a difference in their communities.

Susan Eckey, the Norwegian Ambassador to Uganda

According to Susan Ecky, lack of visibility limits women’s accessibility to the social capital, leadership, and resources that are critical to their growth and transformation.
“The ultimate goal is equity, but the practical work has to start at the level where Uganda is right now. Many women are not yet proficient at entry level technical skills. Skills in energy, for instance; a sector in which we are involved. We are working to level that playing field through education partnerships with Makerere University, St. Peters Technical College and many other programmes,” she shares.
The ambassador notes that the objective of female leaders is to offer support and learning through networking and mentoring, especially when they are in positions to make things happen.
“We are all leaving soon but we hope that Ugandans will continue to reach out to women in many fields beyond after us thereby, continuing the tradition of giving to young women good ideas and examples for their economic, social and political empowerment. That is the whole point of diplomacy and development at its simplest level,” she urges.

Deborah Malac US Ambassador to Uganda

Deborah Malac is a career diplomat who was nominated Ambassador to Uganda by the former president of United States, Barrack Obama. She was confirmed by the senate on November 19, 2015. She has previously served in Liberia.
Her passion areas include women and children, as well as access to healthcare, justice and development. Malac is quick to admit that she is a product of all the 1960s and 70s renaissance and emancipation movement of women in the USA.
“Being in proximity of them inspired my aspiration as a career woman in international diplomacy and development,” Malac shares. She notes: “If, you are going to stand up for women, being there as a woman is critical.”
On June 30, 2018, Malac joined the One Million March called by the Women’s Protest Working Group (WPWG). The march was called to show displeasure against the rampant femicides since May 2017. Some of these femicides were popularly committed in Entebbe. It was also a call to action against gender-based violence and discrimination of women before the law or in accessing the law for their protection and justice.
“It felt like the right place to be and the right thing to do at the time,” she reveals. The police had initially refused the march as having insufficient cause but later relented under social and diplomatic pressure. During the march, Malac and Stephanie Rivoal (French ambassador) joined the procession and held placards on which the names of two of the deceased women, were written as a reminder that they were not just statistics.
“I am a product of the 1960s and 70s protest movements for equality in the United States of America. There is power in numbers and solidarity. I am less likely to influence much in a young woman out there. That woman, I mean; who is working towards becoming more than what she presently is in a rural Ugandan community. However, a community star is much more pitted to inspire these women and young girls. Her reality is more relatable and provides more accessible evidence of women rising to the top of their field and, leading a life that they desire and choose,” she adds.
Malac has over time become an influential voice on the Ugandan landscape and in the media for demanding liberties for freedom of expression, access to justice for victims of torture and abuse and the protection of human rights defenders.

Betty Oyela Bigombe
In 1992, at the height of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in northern Uganda, led by Joseph Kony, Betty Oyella Bigombe initiated village based, self-vigilante conflict response outfits, comprised of male villagers to protect and offer rapid response counter attacks on rebels to communities known as the Arrow Groups.
“I should have involved women in the Arrow Groups, as well as in the overall peace and reconciliation process, which I eventually over saw as the Minister for the pacification of northern Uganda. By the time I realised it, it was too late,” Betty Bigombe lamented.
The peace talks failed in 1994 when the government issued a seven-day ultimatum to the rebels instead of continuing with the imminent ceasefire.
“During a town hall meeting one day, a woman stood up and told me, I was going to fail in the peace negotiation because I was dealing with only men. She said that the men were only telling me what I wanted to hear but women were more effective since they understood and knew how to deliver peace. That submission by that woman stayed with me,” Bigombe recalls.
“In the end, I facilitated the arming of the Arrow Group. One of the biggest failures of the Arrow Group is that, they turned on the women and girls they were supposed to protect,” she adds.
Currently, Bigombe is the senior director in charge of fragility and conflict at the World Bank based in the United States of America and is a strong proponent of empowering women to influence change in their communities.

Stephanie Rivoal French Ambassador to Uganda

Stephanie Rivoal’s post to Uganda is her first political posting. She was doing humanitarian work before this in other countries of Africa. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Mathematics. The diplomat reveals that she is aware her position and stature give her an advantage in a continent where most women remain invisible.
“I am aware of my privilege as a six-foot tall, white woman in Africa with a powerful office. As such, I am using that privilege whenever I can to effect positive change for women such as the Women4womenAwards. I have, of course, stepped on quite a few toes in my short time here. I mean, I am tall and have longer feet that most women ordinarily have,” she shares lightly.
She revealed that the French embassy is invested in agriculture because more Ugandan women are employed in the sector.
“As such, investing in agriculture directly transforms a rural woman’s life in Uganda. I mean, we are here now, we are in a position of makings things happen,” she asserts.

Rosa Malango Undp Representative
As UN coordinator Rosa Malango oversees the coherence of programming under 17 agencies. She is the first woman from Equatorial Guinea to hold such a high position. She started her career as a volunteer within the UN in 1994. As a resident representative of the UNDP, Rosa Mlango supervises and supports the development aspirations of Uganda. “Through my office, we are helping the country to integrate its heritage through the Nabagereka Foundation in Buganda. I am dealing with the nation because we are not an electorate of the people. Our mandate is to support the government,” she explains. The UNDP Uganda focuses on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This, it does by integrating it into its key programme areas on Sustainable, Inclusive, Economic Development; (SIED) as well as Inclusive and Effective Governance(IEG).
“Look into your heritage as a nation. Gender responsive leadership is not an alien concept. Neither is female leadership,” she challenges.
A 2016 report by Africa Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) of media coverage of women between 2015 and 2016 indicates that women only made up 20 per cent of the respondents in election stories by media.
“We cannot, as women, continue to blame the media for our lack of visibility. The media is running the stories that we give them and allow them to run.
But first, we must increase the spaces from which these women will emerge or access promotion from. Things like gender benchmarking within our programme areas. How, will they see us if we do not show ourselves to them?” Malango challenges.

Sedef Yavuzalf Turkish Ambassador to Uganda
Ambassador Sedef Yavuzelf is a career diplomat who was posted in Uganda from Turkey for five years. She is a painter and golfer. Her passion and practice is centred on archeology and art history especially of Turkish civilization.
“A work of art will cause people to remember their female warriors and queens from before,” Sedef Yavuzelf reveals.
Beyond her political mandate, she eulogized the Amazonian queens of Uganda in her work.
“Without promoting the women of Uganda and their contributions, the development story of this nation will be incomplete. The world may reject politics but not art. Art always finds a way,” she states.
Her works include paintings of warrior queen Nabulya of Buganda who ruled and led Buganda in the 15th century. She has also painted Queen Kitami kya Nyamwera of Busongora whose most elite military units consisted entirely of female warriors.
Kitami-kya-Nyamwera inspired in the early 20th century the powerful politico-religious movement known as Nyabingyi that was important during the struggle against colonial occupation. “Maybe in renegotiating power roles in Uganda, we need to revisit our heritage through art and those mighty queens who led this great land before,” she advised.
In West Nile, Queen Nyilak formed the Alur Tribe after the 1365 split of the Atyak Dynasty. She split against Owing Ramogi who formed the Kenyan Luo people and Onongor Adhola who formed the Jo-Padhola.
“To be seen to be competent is a visual that promotes validation, accessibility as well as networking,” she notes.

Betty Oyela Bigombe
In 1992, at the height of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in northern Uganda, led by Joseph Kony, Betty Oyella Bigombe initiated village based, self-vigilante conflict response outfits, comprised of male villagers to protect and offer rapid response counter attacks on rebels to communities known as the Arrow Groups.
“I should have involved women in the Arrow Groups, as well as in the overall peace and reconciliation process, which I eventually over saw as the Minister for the pacification of northern Uganda. By the time I realised it, it was too late,” Betty Bigombe lamented.
The peace talks failed in 1994 when the government issued a seven-day ultimatum to the rebels instead of continuing with the imminent ceasefire.
“During a town hall meeting one day, a woman stood up and told me, I was going to fail in the peace negotiation because I was dealing with only men. She said that the men were only telling me what I wanted to hear but women were more effective since they understood and knew how to deliver peace. That submission by that woman stayed with me,” Bigombe recalls.
“In the end, I facilitated the arming of the Arrow Group. One of the biggest failures of the Arrow Group is that, they turned on the women and girls they were supposed to protect,” she adds.
Currently, Bigombe is the senior director in charge of fragility and conflict at the World Bank based in the United States of America and is a strong proponent of empowering women to influence change in their communities.