When I left the TuWezeshe Leadership Training I was nicknamed ‘TuWezeshe’ because of the many ideas I suggested at the training, to my organisation Building Tomorrow. I was filled with enthusiasm from meeting young women that were, like myself, willing against all odds to fight for women’s rights unapologetically and to stop the high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence. I am encouraged that the world consists of safe spaces such as the TuWezeshe Fellowship which I had the chance to occupy. Here is my story.
The moment that I entered the room at Garuga Beach Resort, I met women with different stories and from all walks of life – women that worked with sex workers, marginalized sexualities, young mothers and girls. These women were social workers, lawyers, IT specialists and journalists like myself. To me that is when transformation began. It became very clear that there was nothing else to be but an activist in the places I worked and lived. I was trained to provide mentorship and a social structure for the sisters (as indeed we are) and not judgement.
Prior to my joining the Fellowship, I had an idea to drive an initiative that addressed the needs of young mothers in schools and empowered them financially and socially. I had no clear idea however, how I was going to implement such an initiative. The guidance, resources and confidence given by the TuWezeshe Fellowship allowed me to target and collaborate with three school communities that were interested and had the capacity to build a force against SGBV and gender violations.
I started at Kibaale East. Even though the school had no electricity the teachers were very interested in computer lessons. Using my own laptop, a colleague and I were able to deliver these lessons on the condition that each teacher attended a session on how to promote inclusive learning environments and ensure that all students learnt in positive surroundings.
For the pupils, we started the Girls Sisterhood Club at New Eden Primary school. The club builds on themes such as gender fluidity and gender roles. It facilitates: discussions, debates, reading, watching movies, and farming. Each of these activities has a lesson learning outcome that empowers confidence and power in being a girl.
For the community, the Fellowship has enabled me to build the Embibo Gender Based Initiative, which is aimed at young mothers aged of 15-20; we empower them with employability and life skills such as CV writing, health talks, nutrition talks. We’ve even rolled out a bar soap making session through which we hope to intensify financial opportunities through the inclusion and provision of grants.
Personally, I have been able to write a pro women’s blog, email@example.com that gives a friendly narrative to bottled-up feelings that African women may have and serves as training for my own journey toward novel writing. The events that we have attended as part of the Fellowship have broadened our network and exposed us to more complex theories of power which impact our capacity as activists and feminists. The old perception of mentorship is that the mentor has the authority and teaches while the mentee simply learns; a unilateral flow of information. However through the mentorship scheme offered by the Fellowship, I have found that mentorship is based on shared power, learning and mutual improvement; this has been instrumental in the viewing of myself as a leader. My mentor works at Land Net and is an endless fountain of knowledge. During our meetings and catch-ups, she has equipped me with a spirit that refuses to give up and work hard even where I may not have the necessary funds or resources.
The TuWezeshe Akina Dada Fellowship continues to be an incredibly insightful and wonderful movement to be a part of. It’s great to be working in something I’m, so passionate about. One of the questions we were asked at training was:
“What is leadership?”
My answer: “it is the ability to use hard work to influence and inspire positive change for the greater good of others around you”. That definition is my guiding light every day toward sisterhood, mentorship and transformation.
Words by Tendo