Inspired by the FOWODE 18th Alternative & Transformative Leadership Mentoring Camp

Forum for Women in Democracy recently closed her 2 week youth training/mentoring camp that saw 27 young women trained in all aspects of leadership. Throughout the training, the ladies were taken through mentorship courses including; Leadership in context, Gender and Governance, Gender and Development, Unity in Diversity, Gender, Culture and Sexuality, Gender Budgeting, African Women in History, Me and My Community, Social and Business Entrepreneurship, Feminism in Africa, Emotional Intelligence and Communication Skills.

All ladies trained were found to have an interest in leadership in one aspect or another and were seeking to improve more than just their leadership skills. They needed to grow as human beings and strong women. The stories you are about to read were written by the trainees themselves after the training camp was concluded.

FOWODE camp is an Inspiring, Challenging, Exciting and Hopeful experience. This is a special organization with a mission and vision I support and I am a lucky witness to have had this opportunity to undergo this leadership training.

Having finished university and joined the world of ?mess? as my professor called it, I thought I had it all to turn this mess into a bed of roses. Full of passion and wild dreams, I told myself, Gladys, U have it all?the knowledge from class. Two months down the road, the mess that I thought I had control over was exposed to me by FOWODE; I knew nothing and I really needed help to save my young brilliant mind from getting destroyed by the mess of bribery, procrastination, and all the inequalities that society considers as order of the day.

The FOWODE camp has exposed me to a side of life that is magical. It is where different people can come together and stand side by side as humans irrespective of where they come from, the life you have lived before or how you see yourself.

My attitude before the camp was instead blocking me from seeing the other side of the world, I believed I knew it all, I entirely relied on myself, I always felt like life is me, the other side of the world didn?t appear to me at any moment because Ibelieved in my brain as the ultimate object of life. I used not to share the knowledge I have and was very rigid to change.

FOWODE has exposed me to the other side of the world/life I realized that my knowledge, if not unlocked, relearned and put into practice is nothing because in every person there is a gift and the creator made it so, for us to share with one another.

I now also know that the power of change is found in our opinions and knowledge. If each and everybody is given an opportunity to express themselves freely/contribute to a just and fair society where all men and women, boys and girls are rendered equal to be heard and allowed to participate, we will benefit in all social, economic, political and cultural spheres of life.

I have also realized that a state where gender and governance are highly considered, we reap peaceful and patriotic citizens who respect their duties and obligations at all cost to defend their nation.

The camp further exposed me to the fact that culturally, we have a diverse and dynamic pattern/ way of life that we share as a group ofpeople and it is transmitted from one generation to another, so in whatever situation you find yourself, or whatever culture you havean encounter with, ?don?t judge but understand?.

Dr. Sylvia Tamale emphasized that we should know that each and everybody has their sexual differences, feelings and perceptions, therefore, objective thinking is key.

At the camp, I got to learn that first impressions make lasting impressions. I realized that in order to be a respected and presentable person, one has to be dressed appropriately at all times because as leaders, we are living examples.

The camp also made me realize that you cannot change what you don?t acknowledge, I need to be exposed, read widely to make me updated decisions and know what is going on in my society in order to demand accountability and benefit from resources I am entitled to.

The camp also acted as a mental challenge ground for me. During the African women in history session, I was challenged to name some prominent women who have contributed greatly to the development of our country and I realized I didn?t know any. It was quite shocking to the facilitator. At this point I realized that what I know in life is just a shadow of what the world is actually composed of. I have therefore decided to put myself to test to master at least 20 women who have made a contribution to the development of this nation.

Secondly, I have challenged myself to embark on a journey of inspiring other young able bodied men and women in my region to stand up and participate actively in our governance with all they have to bring about change in our country.

When tomorrow comes, I will be on my own, I am not going to be blocked by any obstacle be it money, police brutality, cultural difference or even my inner fear, because I have got all the knowledge and skills I need. FOWODE has got me from the dark, I can see light now and I feel stronger than ever before. I feel taller than before because I have my flash lights on?.

Uganda, here I come!!! For GOD and my Country! Long live FOWODE, long live Gender Equity and Equality!

It all seemed that this opportunity would never come to pass after I had to wait for a number of days before receiving an invitation for the interviews. Finally, I got an invitation for interviews and I immediately knew this was my golden opportunity.

Arriving at the camp, I had lots of mixed feelings but was also excited to meet and interact with new people. Well, this camp is one of the most historical and life changing moments in my life. I have never been in a situation/moment where I have to learn, unlearn and relearn so many things about life like at the camp.

Before I joined the camp I was a person who did not really believe in herself that much and always gave room for negativity and thus, always settled for less. However, all that has changed in these twelve days due to the knowledge, advice, encouragement and skills I have obtained.

First, my attitude towards myself and life at large has totally changed from being very negative to very positive. I now know that the best motivator is none other than me. Therefore, I now have a completely changed perspective about life and that is optimism and happiness.

I have also grown to be more confident than I was before joining the camp and know that public speaking and self-esteem all lie in the power of my psychological thoughts.

I have also learnt that as a transformative female leader, I must be aware of my dignity and that nothing can buy me.

Therefore, with the above in mind, I am now changing my circle of friends and remaining only with those that matter towards my goals and vision in life.

Sunday 28th August 2016 was one of the remarkable days of my life. This was the 8th day of my two week leadership training camp organized by Forum for Women in Democracy- FOWODE at Foyer de Charite, Namugongo. At some point I thought I was living a life that most successful entrepreneurs have gone through. Indeed it was a day of learning new entrepreneurship skills that will greatly change my life and other people interested in learning and implementing these skills when I go back to my peers and community.

It started with learning who an entrepreneur, social and business entrepreneur is. This was educative because most trainees, me inclusive didn?t know what these terms meant. Thankfully, Juliet Luttu the facilitator was elaborate enough while explaining the terms. She also taught us different characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. The most interesting part was when she told us to draw different animals, birds, insects among others that we thought had characteristics of an entrepreneur. This was amazing because who could have thought that ants, bees, pigs, cows, hens, lions among others had characteristics of an entrepreneur? To our surprise, it was true these species have them. You might be wondering what these characteristics are; they include commitment, hard work, persistence, teamwork and risk taking among others.

The facilitator further taught us how one can develop a good business idea which include identifying a need in one?s community, the type of product required to meet that need, the target customers/clients and how to deliver the service. In my mind I thought this was easy until we were assigned to come up with a business idea, with an initial capital of 1million shillings. This was very challenging because different individuals came up with different ideas (urban agriculture, garbage collection, piggery, poultry farming, catering services, an internet caf? that also offers other secretarial services, e.t.c?). We eventually agreed to do an internet caf? but we failed to budget appropriately. It is at this point that I realized that there was much more I needed to learn on implementing a business idea.

During the candle and liquid soap making session, I realized that our education system is indeed not as good as I thought. At this point I remembered the days I spent cramming theories of Karl Max at the university instead of learning practical skills like these that would easily generate an income faster and easily. I realized it took a short time coming up with a finished product called candles which were ready for sale shortly compared to the time I spent trying to understand classical sociology theories

I recommend that FOWODE adds more of these entrepreneurship sessions that equip young people with practical skills and knowledge to be able to earn their own income rather than wait for pay cheques which may never come.

I must say am grateful to the almighty GOD for having given me this opportunity to be part of the FOWODE family.

It has been an experience for people like me who had never left home/comfort zones to be part of a new different community.The 12 days at Foyer de Charite have been characterized with different sessions and facilitators who I must say have been very inspiring to me.

Before the transformative leadership camp, I used to think that I was a good reader and I knew enough. During the African women in history session, I and my colleagues were challenged to name/talk about some Ugandan outstanding women and Africa at large and we actually (struggled) failed to even name any. This made me yearn for more reading and particularly African history, since good leaders are good readers.

In addition to the above, the camp has given me an opportunity to learn skills like candle and soap making so that I can earn a living off white collar jobs. During the fashion for leaders session, I realized that there was need for wearing particular clothes for different occasions. I also got to know the dos and don?ts for fashion contrary to what I knew before.

?You know when a door has been opened to one person, that person must put her foot down and let the door remain open until all others are in?.to bring others forward?. ?Pumla Kisosonkole

In a nutshell however, the transformative leadership camp should continue so that many other aspiring leaders can get the same opportunity to acquire transformative skills for a better future.

Before I joined the camp, my mind was engrossed with a lot of virus in terms of attitude, perceptions, skills, knowledge and opinions. A case in point, is I was operating my auntie?s shop with the aim of making myself busy as I search for a white collar job where I would receive a monthly pay check. Little did I know it is another form of exploitation. I always consoled myself with saying/thoughts like ?my job is there only time will tell; I have to practice my field of training, why business? I didn?t study business??and many other thoughts, which kept me blindfolded. I always thought business was for the unschooled. In fact, I once tried venturing into it; started a micro enterprise but it failed because I put someone else to manage it for fear of being seen as a failure. This shows how ignorant I was. I even once had a chance to learn candle making but didn?t put the gained skill to use because I always thought ?it?s not for people like me?. As time went on without finding a job, I started hating my country for failure to address the unemployment issue.

After attending this camp, I can proudly say am a changed and more focused person.

FOWODE has planted a seed of patriotism in me and I now know that my culture is my identity. I have also broken the bondage of stereotypes that I had on personalities, clans, tribes, regions etc?and instead realized the unity in diversity. I have further learnt that as a leader I should aim at understanding the different situations of life and therefore be able to understand rather than pass judgment.

Through this camp, I got exposed to different practical skills like soap and candle making plus computer skills. I have therefore been inspired to work harder, stop despising income generating activities and utmost, develop passion for any business ideas that I may come across by considering them as priorities and not alternatives. FOWODE also exposed me to Ethan Musolin who inspired me to always say something whenever at a gathering (register my presence), which will help build my confidence in public speaking. I learn new words (and their meanings) like Patriarchy, Life world, Legitimacy and many others. The Gender budgeting session was so new to me and opened up my eyes and conscience in general budgeting.

Generally, I came to know that leadership starts with self-control and integrity; it is a service and sacrifice. Thank you FOWODE for scanning out the virus that had corrupted my mind.

I came into this camp as a leader (previously and currently) believing that I knew all there was to know about leadership, gender and feminism in general. I believed I was a feminist both in practice and spirit.

?If you knew all this and believed that you knew all this, why then did you come for the camp? One may wonder.

Networking! I came because I needed to meet some feminists (I knew majority of my icons would definitely be among the trainers). I needed to network. I ardently needed to know what drove these feminists into doing what they do. I was also driven by curiosity. I really needed to know what exactly takes place at the FOWODE camps.

However, I have been authentically humbled by the entire camp experience. The revelation of how little I knew, the misconceptions I had and the beliefs I held on too dearly were really humbling. Oh! How little I knew!!

The realization that I had been basking in ignorance etched through my heart like a double edged sword. The camp, through different trainers revealed to me how little I had read.

It is through this camp that I commenced a brand new journey of self-discovery, cultural diversity and a whole different view of the world.I have been introduced to a more comprehensive understanding of gender relations, feminism, sexuality, history, communication and actual transformational leadership. Above all, the need to read and read more deeply for days on end has been ingrained in me.

More interestingly, I have been able to build and strengthen my networks through the many young female leaders I met in the camp. Furthermore, meeting my childhood icons especially Dr. Sylvia Tamale, Patricia Munabi, Ethan Musolini and Keturah Kamugasa was a great highlight of the camp for me.

I depart as a fully transformed and empowered feminist as I look forward to continuing on this journey of further learning, unlearning and relearning.

Last week, I was honored to be part of the 27 young vibrant and energetic young women ladies from different regions selected to attend the transformative and alternative leadership camp organized by Forum for Women in Democracy a leading feminist and transformational leadership development organization with focus on gender equality and equity. The training started on 20th August-1st September 2016 at Foyer De Charite in Namugongo, Uganda.

It has been intense and powerful ? covering selection of a wide range of topics ranging from Gender and Development, Me and My Community, Gender and Governance, Gender, Culture and Sexuality, Gender, Conflict and Human Rights, Leadership and Fashion, Feminism in Africa, African women in History, SRHR, Entrepreneur, Gender budgeting, Emotional intelligence, Communication skills, Fashion for Leaders, to mention but a few. We also had extra curriculum activities such as Rise and Shine morning exercises because we believe that ?A healthy mind seats in a Healthy body?.

Distinguished trainers inspired and challenged us (me) to always have room ?to learn, to unlearn in order to re-learn?, so that we are able to think critically and effectively create impact in our communities. I enjoyed every session as different trainers conveyed information to us in various ways. Every session spoke directly to me, it seemed like the faculty had noticed some of my weaknesses in life and pinpointed at me for change. Oh? how I smiled in my ignorance asking myself, what do I know! When Ms. Lina Zedriga in the session of Gender, Conflict and HR asked about my roots and I couldn?t even mention just one proverb in my language, truly at that moment I ashamed my fore-mothers. Again, I realized, ?I need to learn, unlearn in order to relearn.? I ask myself, ?Who am I?? if I don?t know my culture, or the history of my community neither can I speak my language, ?Do I have originality??

I never thought I would look back now and read about the ancient history. During my stay at the camp, I have leant that I can only be a good leader if I can read and read more so I am informed of the past, present and expected future in order to have a sense of direction. I also learnt how to discover myself; by understanding myself better, I am able to make informed decisions and realistic goals within a given timeline.Be able to understand my weaknesses and most of all utilize my strengths for a greater purpose.

As few spaces privilege African women to express their intellectual knowledge production, the transformative and alternative leadership camp has indeed helped define me as an African woman and influenced me around the role of young women?s leadership in the women?s movement in my country. I am very glad to have been given this opportunity as a young feminist to discover my potential but also to meet with key figures in African women?s movement history. Not forgetting the peers I have met and made friends with while here at the camp and the network we have created as young leaders passionate about gender justice. I move out today feeling very confident, entrepreneurially empowered for I have gained hands on skills and never will again be apologetic for being a woman.

?Self-pity is key in your Destruction, Think, to unthink then rethink before you Act.?

Having attended the two weeks training camp on transformative leadership organized by FOWODE at Foyer de Charite, Namugongo as one of the lucky trainees, there is much impact on my life.

First and foremost, it was my first time to come to Kampala, so am very grateful that the first time I come to Kampala is because of FOWODE.

I have received tips/skills on public speaking, how to position myself before listeners (stand tall) while in a gathering, how to attract people?s attention while speaking to them. I also learnt that I must read and research widely to be a successful leader (this is very important to me and came in time considering that I have ambitions of standing for councilor in 2021)

I was further encouraged by sayings/statements like ?every big/respectable person you see or know on planet earth was once a baby?. This made me focus more on my dream as a politician.

I learnt many different entrepreneurship skills like making candles and liquid soap which encouraged me to venture into business.

The camp was very informative/educative, enjoyable and interesting, I interacted with many young people/ladies, the trainers were spot on and I made many friends. I learnt many things like fashion for leaders, patriarchy, feminism, emotional intelligence and many others and as I write this, am a different Sharon, ready to transform my community.

I came to realize that I had the dream but if it wasn?t for FOWODE, it would possibly have died within me because of fear. Thank you FOWODE!!!!

Forum for Women in Democracy would like to congratulate all participants for attending and completing this training / mentorship camp. We encourage you take all you have learned and put it in practice and not let your commitments to yourself and your communities down. We hope to see you aspire for positions in 2021.

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