Namboowa overcomes society bias to take Butambala LC5 seat

What you need to know:

Politics is a rough, dicey and turbulent game. In Uganda, the caps imposed by patriarchy render a woman’s election for a direct competitive seat a tall order. Many survive on affirmative slots. In this fourth instalment of our new series, Women Breaking Barriers, Butambala District chairperson-elect Rashiida Namboowa, 37, tells Daily Monitor Reporter Irene Abalo Otto that women must be go-getters to succeed.

In many parts of central Uganda, candidates subscribing to the National Unity Platform (NUP) party won their seats in the January elections.

Despite having formed only a few months earlier, the Opposition party headed by Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, was heavily supported by most voters in the region, and its flag bearers at all positions easily swept to victory in what later came to be known as the NUP/People Power wave.

However, some of the party flag bearers believe that they had worked hard on their plans and strategies to win the election and only needed a party that bore their aspirations to further strengthen their bid.

One such person is Ms Rashiida Namboowa, the Butambala District chairperson-elect.

The 37-year-old says NUP supplemented her strong mobilisation and leadership skills to victory. The Butambala resident had to deal with her community belief that a woman cannot lead men.

“People always take women to be inferior and incompetent, which is not true. I was on the ground preparing for seven years to become the district chairperson,” Ms Namboowa tells Daily Monitor.

She adds: “Butambala is Muslim dominated. As I campaigned in 2021, people were saying, ‘how can a woman lead us? She cannot lead us.’ So whenever I stood up, I told them that this is not Islam or the mosque where men lead. It became a challenge for me to convince them that women can lead. I said, ‘the Constitution permits it. I am coming to lead you as the district chairperson,’” she says.

Influence

Ms Namboowa considers herself a liberated woman through mentorship from women leaders and organisations such as Network for Women in Politics and Forum for Women in Democracy, both based in Kampala.

These organisations train women leaders to be respectfully assertive while bringing their agenda to the people.

For Ms Namboowa, leadership threw her in an endless court battle post 2016 elections, a grey area for her skills at the time.

Trouble started immediately after the 2016 results for Butambaala chairperson seat were announced and Ms Namboowa lost by 143 votes to the incumbent, Mr Godfrey Babekumo.

She ran to the High Court sitting in Kampala, hoping the election results would be overturned, and the court granted her wish. But the court process lasted four and a half years and the judgement was delivered in August 2020, three months to the start of campaigns for a new term of office in November 2020. Mr Babekumo did not contest for the chairperson seat in 2021.

Despite the frustrating court process that went up to the Court of Appeal, Ms Namboowa says she took it as a learning opportunity to know how the judicial system in the country operates.

The learning experience also helped her to mobilise and strategise better to come back to the electorate and ask for a mandate to lead them for the 2021-2026 term.

In an ever changing world where women are finding their voices to speak up, the first timers are out to tell their stories of trials and tribulations.

Ms Namboowa tells Daily Monitor that she competed with seven men in the 2021 elections and defeated them to become the first woman to win the Butambala chairperson seat.

Harassment ordeal

Like many women in leadership, she says she cannot forget the sexual harassment she suffered during campaigns.

“Whenever you would stand to compete, people would say, ‘what does she have? Does she have a nice face? Is she beautiful and the like? Can I have her (sexual connotation)?’ Things of that kind,” she says.

“And you know politics; you always move at night and you become insecure. I had energetic youth who helped me challenge people who were standing in my way,” Ms Namboowa remembers.

The women who break the glass ceilings in their respective disciplines may have a long list of challenges to deal with but most have consistently had to deal with the fact that men will undermine them for being women.

But to determine women leaders, the fruits of their labour should benefit other women to rise up and speak for themselves to be heard.

Ms Namboowa says if there are no women first timers, then there never will be meaningful change in the position of women in society. She has always disrupted the status quo of men to become a leader even when some people thought another man or boy would be best suited  for that position.

At Mbulire Secondary School in Bukomansibi District where she studied Ordinary and Advanced Level from 2001 to 2007, Ms Namboowa was always a leader. She was the class monitor, sanitary prefect and eventually head prefect at Advanced Level.

Pioneer leader

When she joined Islamic University in Uganda from 2008 to 2011, she opted not to serve on the student guild but rather joined Nkobazambogo Students Council, an initiative for Baganda students. She pioneered the council as the chairperson, serving for three years while undergoing leadership and public speaking training. She graduated with a Bachelor of Human Resource Management.

She later joined the Lukiiko (legislative arm of Buganda Kingdom) in the Buganda Youth Council and represented her district, Butambala, from 2011 to 2014.

These roles, she says, gave her enough experience to learn people skills and how to solicit support from well-wishers and donors.

Perhaps this explains why she did not require NUP to fund her campaigns.

Ms Namboowa knows that striking a balance between leadership and family can be difficult for women. But she says with financial empowerment where a woman is able to provide and still perform her leadership roles, and good communication with her spouse, it is possible to have more women as leaders at whatever level their competence and capability allows.

As she prepares to be sworn into office, she says her priority will be to reach out to women and encourage them to rise up and be financially stable to enable them finance their dreams.

Ms Namboowa knows too well that her office will be required to serve all the people of Butambala but health and education are at the top of her to-do list when she finally settles in the office.

Key career moment

At Mbulire Secondary School in Bukomansibi District where she studied Ordinary and Advanced Level from 2001 to 2007, Ms Namboowa was always a leader. She was the class monitor, sanitary prefect and eventually head prefect at Advanced Level.

When she joined Islamic University in Uganda from 2008 to 2011, she opted not to serve on the student guild but rather joined Nkobazambogo Students Council, an initiative for Baganda students. She pioneered the council as the chairperson, serving for three years while undergoing leadership and public speaking training. She graduated with a Bachelor of Human Resource Management.

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