How the She Leads programme is empowering girls in local communities

She Leads girls and young women advocates pose for a photo during one of the mentorship sessions in Kampala. Photo | Roland D. Nasasira

What you need to know:

  • The programme focuses on strengthening capacity of civil society organisations in the field of lobby and advocacy, with a specific focus on strengthening lobby capacity of girls and young women (GYW) and the civic space wherein they operate. In total 3,000 girls and young women to benefit.

Betty Habene, 24, grew up in Katenga Sub-county in Bugiri District.

Born in a family of nine children, her school journey ended in Senior Four to allow her younger siblings in lower classes also get a chance to progress in their education. While she was in her community, most, if not all locals, treated her as an adult because she was not in school. This led to depression.

As she pondered on her next step in life, Habene learnt of a programme through a friend that empowered girls and young women  to not only know and fight for their rights and responsibilities, but also challenge the negative social norms that affect girls and young women through education.

This was her turning point. 

“I have been engaged in different platforms through training and mentorship to empower other girls and young women with leadership skills to build confidence and self-esteem to rise and fight for their rights. This has given me the confidence to participate in different leadership spaces even though I had been in the programme for three months,” she says.

Habene went on and contested as a Ugandan representative at the Pan-African Board where she emerged victorious.

“The leadership position gave me a greater opportunity to advance the voices of fellow girls from their local communities to the district, national and pan-African level. It was a blessing because I took on other leadership positions such as the club president for the Rotaract Club of Bugiri,” Habene adds.  

A second chance at life

Like Habene, Nadine Ingabire is a young girl who believes that life always gives someone a second chance.

Having been a forced migrant who settled in Kisenyi - Kampala, this was her worst life experience .

In the new community, Ingabire faced neglect and was seen as an outcast, to a point of not being appreciated. This left her lonely, depressed with unattended dreams ,  some of  which included being an inspiration to her peers. 

With no one to share her story with, coupled with persistent  sadness, Ingabire got a second chance to better her life through the She Leads programme after she was invited for a meeting.

“Regardless of my past, I was welcomed with love. It brought peace to my heart. I was also selected to represent my peers and young women on different platforms such as the She Leads girls and young women National Advocacy Desk, National Girls’ Symposium and bi-annual meetings which resurrected my self-worth and self-love,” she says. 

Her confidence pushed her to impact many lives through life-positive talks with girls in the same community she had come from.

Despite her past, Ingabire was selected to mobilise a group of 15 girls from her community who could share similar life experiences  and use them to impact their lives.

This, she says, gave her a chance to work with one of the organisations that work around refugee matters. She is optimistic about the future.

What She Leads is about

Paul Mudoba is the project manager at the Multi-community Based Development Initiative (Mucobadi) that leads the implementation process of the She Leads programme in Bugiri District.

The objective of the She Leads programme, like in other areas where it is implemented, Mudoba explains, is to increase the sustained influence of girls and young women in decision-making processes and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions.

The programme is implemented by seven local-based organisations working directly under three alliance partners of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Plan International and FEMNET.

Spread in eight districts of Kampala, Wakiso, Bugiri, Buyende, Iganga, Kamuli, Napak and Moroto, the project is built upon political/institutional domains, social and civil society organisations/GYW-led group domains.

The project is designed to have girls and young women at the centre of its implementation and programming.

 “She Leads programme empowers young girls and women to stand up for their rights and say no to discriminatory negative social norms that bar them from getting involved in decision-making processes right from home to the community, district and national level platforms,” Mudoba says.

To determine the impact of the programme on communities, Mudoba says Terre des Hommes Netherlands supports its three partners to organise occasional reflection meetings with girls and young women under the mentorship of Girl Up Initiative Uganda, Multi Community Development Initiative and Karamoja Women Umbrella organisations from the implementing districts of Kampala, Bugiri, Napak and Moroto to share achievements, learning and recommendations to inform implementation strategy for the following years.


“We have been reflecting on what the project has done to uplift girls and young women to the current status against how we started because we see them appreciating the journey we took since 2021 to date,” Mudoba says.

“We are seeing them take leadership positions from the time when some of them were in kitchens but emerging to take up leadership positions at different levels. Some of them have been supported to get employment opportunities and some are speaking on behalf of other young girls and women who are vulnerable in their respective communities.”

According to Mudoba, some girls and young women are now role models to their peers as the programme continues pushing for a transformative cause to ensure that they are involved and participate meaningfully in key decision-making spaces. 

Paul Mudoba, project manager Mucobadi. Photo | Roland D. Nasasira

The first born in a family of four children, being the only girl has always been Joan Atuhairwe Mugasa’s greatest pushing factor to being a go-getter.

Aged 21 years, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Community Development and Social Justice at Kyambogo University in Kampala, one of Atuhairwe’s character traits is the urge to always find and take on new challenges.

This trait led her to learning about the She Leads programme that has enabled her to explore her leadership skills, earning her the position as the first coordinator of the Nakawa safe space in Kampala.


“I am the key leader for the skills sharing cluster of writing and poetry. I have taken the lead in writing some of the articles such as the mental health vis-à-vis gender equality and online poems,” Atuhairwe explains.

“I had given up on exploring my  passion for writing and poetry but it was rejuvenated through this programme. I am using it to speak out and give a voice to the voiceless but also break  the negative social norms that hinder the rights of girls and young women in society.”

She looks forward to taking up bigger spaces at national and regional level and eager to occupy a public office where  she can enhance the rights and implement policies that are in place to empower girls.

“This will be possible because I have received the best mentorship and training with the right mindset from the programme,” Atuhairwe adds.

Like Atuhairwe, Esther Awas, born in Loli Village, Napak District in Karamoja sub-region, is also a beneficiary of the She Leads programme.

Having lost  her parents at the age of 13,  Awas’ grandmother who took her in wanted to marry her off to a man who she says was old enough to be her father.

“I escaped from home and went to stay at my late parents’ home and fend for myself.  While there, I managed to secure a scholarship that saw me study up to Senior Four. In vacation, I got pregnant and life became hard because I was not staying with the father of the unborn child. I opted  to go to the streets of Nairobi after giving birth to make ends meet because Napak is at the border of Kenya,” Awas recalls.

Two days before she could travel,  Awas was referred by a sub-county official who knew of her ordeal to attend a meeting at the sub-county headquarters.

“During the meeting, I changed my mind against travelling to Nairobi. Together with other girls, I was trained on leadership and business skills during  the meeting. I used the money I had saved to travel to Nairobi to start a groceries business and used the knowledge I acquired to work hard and see it grow.”

Awas says she used the profits made to invest in selling fuel to local motorists because there are no fuel stations in Napak.

“I am proud to have benefited from the project. I am a proud empowered business lady as well as a role model for the young girls in my community. I am willing to enroll back in school in 2023 to pursue a nursing course which is what I have always desired,” Awas says.


The programme is implemented by seven local-based organisations working directly under three alliance partners of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Plan International and FEMNET.

It is in eight districts Kampala, Wakiso, Bugiri, Buyende, Iganga, Kamuli, Napak and Moroto. The project is built upon political/institutional domains, social and civil society organisations/GYW-led group domains.


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