Safia Nalule stands for gender and equity compliance

Safia Nalule Juuko is the chairperson Equal Opportunities Commission. PHOTO/COURTESY.

What you need to know:

  • Passionate about advocacy for gender and human rights, Safia Nalule Juuko believes in taking on leadership challenges . 

Safia Nalule Juuko, a legislator, has 15 years of leadership in various fields under her belt. Nalule was a Member of Parliament for 15 years since 2006, representing people with disabilities until she was appointed the chairperson of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) in 2021.

While Nalule has been more involved in human rights advocacy, she holds a bachelor’s degree in science specialising in ecology from Makerere University. She also holds a diploma in Law, a master’s in human rights, and has studied leadership courses in the US and Swaziland.

The legislator pursued law to bridge the gap from sciences to her Master’s. Also as executive director at Disabled Women’s Network and Resource Organisation and at the time she wanted to join parliament, Nalule felt the need to be knowledgeable about policy and law-making.

“When I was working with Disabled Women’s Network and Resource Organisation, we made tremendous innovations such as being the first people to do research on facts and figures on HIV/Aids among PWDs plus research on the education status of children with disabilities,” she shares.

As a councillor then representing PWDs at Kampala Capital City (KCC). She did this for two consecutive terms and joined parliament.

Her father, she says, contributed a lot to her success. Nalule was born normal but as a toddler she got malaria and was injected in the nerve which disabled her left leg. Despite this, her father ensured she attained an education, something exceptional because majority of children with disabilities by then were denied school. She attended Trinity College Nabbingo before joining Makerere University.

Starting the equity initiative

The journey has been long. The bid to have PWDs catered for, for Nalule, started during her term at KCC where she was a member of the finance committee. She started on the initiative of inclusive funding for PWDs which was managed by the social services department.
“At the time, PWDs were side-lined and I asked that they start budgeting and planning inclusively. All issues concerning marginalised people did not feature on the main menu which was unfair,” she says.

“When I realised that I was not making headway I was forced to join parliament. When I got there, I started advocating for inclusive budgeting and planning.”

The process was not easy. Nalule says she had to “start with amending the rules of procedure of parliament to say that every budget and plan cannot pass unless it has gender and equity issues addressed.” 

Not many appreciated her effort, but that changed when she met the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and explained that she wanted a law to be made to provide for equity budgeting.

“The Speaker was positive about gender responsive budgeting and directed me to work with legal officers to make sure the gender and equity initiative was in place. We worked with different stakeholders such as women leaders and Ministry of Finance and other human rights advocates,” she says.

She adds that the initiative was to ask parliament not to pass a budget of any Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) unless it was accompanied with a certificate of gender and equity compliance. Finally, Nalule triumphed. The initiative was taken on , an achievement she is proud of.

“It was assented into law and every institution of government is implementing that provision. I am grateful that the President appointed me to lead an institution whose role is assessing the gender and equity compliance,” she says.

Being in that position, Nalule says, means a lot to her because she worked had to ensure that marginalised people like her are not left behind when it comes to their  justice and rights.

As a leader, one of the things Nalule says she is happy to have done is to see women take up different top leadership positions to take part in decision-making.

“This affirmative action has helped the marginalised groups find space where they can share their issues. I am very happy because through that route, I have fought for people’s rights,” she says.
Key lessons

Nalule adds that as a leader she has learnt teamwork and patience because what she has achieved is a result of being tolerant with the situation.

“While dealing with gender and compliance you have to hear from all the stakeholders you are working with so that no one is left behind. With gender and equity everyone has their experience you must hear, and get the solution which benefits everyone,” she emphasises.
Further, the legislator encourages women to keep learning every day, stating that one cannot prosper when they do not renew their knowledge.

“You have to read more and be conversant with history and contemporary issues alike. This also involves keeping your ear to the ground to know what is happening because the world is dynamic,” she relates, continuing that the way one behaves in society also matters.

“You cannot inspire and empower others when you are not trustworthy and honest. You should avoid being money-minded but invest the little you have to support others.
The challenges have not been minimal for Nalule. She argues that people have different mindsets and when it comes to helping people understand what PWDs go through.

“Somebody who is not experiencing the situation does not feel the same as the one who is in it. We have to read people’s minds before we share ideas because people take long to understand equity issues,” she says.

“People think that when you are disabled even your brain has a problem. PWDs can do what the able-bodied people do. For instance, I have managed to take on different leadership positions,” she asserts.

She believes that one should keep pushing for what they desire because they will eventually get it.
“It was hard to change people’s mindsets. I had to involve several parties to push for it until I met former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and we pushed to the top,” she explains.

Traits of  a good leader
Nalule says a leader must be able to learn every day. 
“One of my hobbies is reading and every week I read something new. 
Also, leaders need to consult. 

“Whenever you face a challenge, you have to talk to different people who have been in the field for some time for advice,” she says adding that one must be in position to listen to others, especially when it comes to decision-making.

Nalule emphasizes that a good leader must be determined, exemplary and trustworthy. She notes that leaders must be ready to fulfill what they promise. This is because while most of the political positions are elective and a few are by appointment, they come if one is trustworthy and determined.

Finally, “Leaders are also human they have to be prayerful because with God everything is possible,” she says.

Typical day
“On Mondays and Tuesdays I prefer to work from home. I do not believe that going to office every day  makes one perform to their fullest.

“Since I like reading books and because I have a disability, I feel comfortable and I am more productive when I am home. Generally my life is in my work, I always plan my day ahead and prepare the books I am going to read.”

Asked if  she was not doing her current job where dould she be?
“I would be a good businesswoman because my family background is in business. I think I can do it better and earn money.”


Favourite meal is...
Matooke and chicken

Favourite day to celebrate...
Eid days (Eid Al-fitri and Eid al-Adha).
What is one thing that made you really happy recently?
My last born in Senior Six is God-fearing and likes his religion [Islam]. When we went for Umrah [visiting the holy city in Mecca] recently he helped several people, especially elderly persons. I was happy because I had prayed for it.