Friday March 9 2018

Why aren’t young women making mark in their fields?


By Rebecca Kabejja

On March 8 of every year, the International Women’s Day comes around and we look out for outstanding women in varied social, political and economic fields so that we can appreciate and celebrate them with the aim of inspiring others.

It is always a good thing, seeing how far the woman has come to equally compete with the men and claim her spot at the top. Amidst all this acknowledgement, one fact hit me: Why isn’t the younger generation of women making their mark in their fields receiving the credit they deserves?

Two weeks ago, I interacted with young people and adolescents as a build up to the launch of the ‘Live Your Dream’ campaign by the Government of Uganda and UNFPA together with other development partners.

I sought to find out from them about Ugandan women who they draw inspiration from. These young ladies were quick to give me names like Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Parliament and Dr Maggie Kigozi, a renown entrepreneur.

They went on to further add names like Sudhir Ruparelia, the head of the Ruparelia Group, and Tumusiime Mutebile, the Governor Bank of Uganda. Others cited Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton. I was keen to note that the names mentioned boasted of our usual women, men and non-Ugandans.
Not even once did I hear a name of one of the 35 and below game shakers in the different fields such as Information and Communication Technology, business, social entrepreneurship, sports, and creative arts among others yet there are scores of them!

The lack of significant acknowledgement of young women is reflected in the school generation such as the one I interacted with, because they are the ones seeking inspiration and motivation.
I remember asking them if they have any young women between the age of 25 and 35, who inspire them and would want to have as mentors and my question was met with puzzled faces.

In fact, they asked me whether there is any young woman in that age bracket doing an incredible job?!
There are young women changing the narrative in different professions that these young ladies from such an outstanding school ought to know. Names like Joanita Nvannungi, an emerging female innovator, Phiona Mutesi, a globally acclaimed Chess champion, and the subject of Hollywood sensational film Queen of Katwe, and radio superstar Malaika Nnyanzi, who should be in the headlines on a day like this.

Ladies like Zilla Mary Arach (who is merging technology with agriculture and overall winner of the 2017 Young Achievers Award presented by Reach A Hand Uganda), Esther Kalenzi (40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation) and Peace Kuteesa (co-founder of Zimba Women and a Young Achievers Awards 2017 finalist) have broken into the technology spaces and come up with innovations that have empowered many more women, and creatives like Kemiyondo Coutinho have had their works win big on the international scene.

These are names we have seen on international televisions like The CNN and Al Jazeera, and have carried such prestigious awards from reputed galas such as the Pan- African Film Festival, but when we come back home, to the people who should know them and be proud of them most, their names hardly ring a bell.

Dr Maggie Kigozi and Speaker Kadaga have done remarkably well in their careers. Therefore, it is no coincidence that they will sit on most of the panels on any typical Women’s Day panel. It is purely justified.

However, they are the people that have inspired the new generation, who now deserves a portion of that acclamation.

The women I have named here (and many more that are not on your TV, radio or newspaper everyday, refer to the brilliance of the likes of Dr Kigozi and Hon. Kadaga, but they have established enviable successes on their own, and it is very important that young girls, especially of school-going age, have these young women in their lives as role models and mentors.

They can be easily accessed, and will have more contemporary advice and solutions because they can relate more with the current trends and society demands.

If this year’s Women’s Day, for example, Maxima Nsimenta, a professional engineer-cum-business woman behind the outstanding Livara cosmetics brand is a headliner in one of the media stories, it will give me much joy and inspiration, as it will to Dr Kigozi or Speaker Kadaga, a young girl in school and in effect, the nation at large.

Ms Kabejja is communications and advocacy officer
at Reach A Hand Uganda