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Politics is a rough game marked by risks and uncertain outcome. The caps imposed by patriarchy render a woman’s election for a seat a tall order. In this fifth and final instalment of our series, Women Breaking Barriers, the new Bulambuli District chairperson, Ms Annet Nandudu, tells Micheal Woniala and Fred Wambedde that she was tailor-made by nature to be a leader.
On the outskirts of Soti Sub-county in Bulambuli District sits a remote village, Go-Down.This is the rural setting that the new and first female chairperson of Bulambuli, Ms Annet Nandudu, hails from.
Ms Nandudu, who was the NRM flag bearer, was voted as chairperson in the 2021 General Election after defeating three men.
Ms Nandudu, who is commonly known as Moyo Indagano (the heart is the agreement), garnered 35,246 votes, beating the incumbent and her main rival, Mr Simon Peter Wonazofu, who got 9,619 votes.
Mr Wonazofu, who contested as an independent after losing in the NRM primaries to Ms Nandudu, was also an MP in the 7th Parliament, representing Bulambuli County.
Others in the race were Moses Fupa, a former district councillor representing Kumu Sub-county, and Mr Robert Nakoko.
Ms Nandudu, born in 1980 to Mr Milton Nabukisa and the late Allen Nandede, acknowledges that she beat many odds as a woman in a male-dominated society to become district chairperson.
She says although leadership is about service delivery and integrity, most still underlook women in politics.
“Leadership is not about being a woman or man but service delivery, faithfulness and integrity and I ticked all boxes but I got discouraged on several occasions just because I am a woman,” the mother of five children says.
Ms Nandudu, who is married to Mr Ezra Gidongo Mwambu, a former district councillor of Simu Sub-county, says despite the hurdles, she remains focused. She formerly worked as parish chief and sub-county chief of Simu and Sisyi Sub-county until 2015, when she resigned.
“I was never derailed. I trusted myself and here I am today as LC5 chairperson, Bulambuli District,” Ms Nandudu said, shortly after she had been sworn into office amid cheers from her supporters at the district headquarters on Wednesday.
Since her childhood, Ms Nandudu says she has loved and treasured politics.
“Although I was born in a poor family of 15 and was the third born, we were all brought up to be leaders by our parents,” she says.
In 2015, Ms Nandudu contested on the NRM ticket for the Bulambuli Woman MP, but lost to the former Energy minister Ms Irene Muloni.
“I have loved politics since I was a child. I always wanted to be a leader, front and address issues affecting my people,” she says.
She credits her family for pulling resources together to raise her school fees despite being a girl-child.
“Mr father did a lot for me to get educated as a girl-child but I also remained focused and determined to attend school,’’ she says.
For her education, Ms Nandudu went to Buluganya Primary School, where she sat for Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) before joining Tunyi Girls for secondary education.
After her O-Level, Ms Nandudu joined Buginyanya Primary Teachers College before advancing to Makerere University for a certificate in Public Administration.
She later joined Uganda Christian University for both a diploma and degree in Social Works and Social Administration, and Law Development Centre for a law course.
“Most people who know me call me head girl because I was a leader throughout my education life cycle,” she says.
A lady, who many describe as assertive, ambitious, result-oriented, and hardworking, rode to fame after a landslide win in the NRM primaries.
“After winning in the party primaries, people realised that I had the potential and capacity to lead,” she says.
She attributes her election success to a strong relationship she has built with the locals and her campaign managers.
“I created a strong relationship with the locals and my campaign managers. That is why my candidature was so popular even when I was challenging men,” she says.
Ms Nandudu says her motivation to join politics was to try and put an end to poor service delivery and rampant corruption in the district.
“I saw the gaps in administration of the district, which were fixable but they were not being fixed by the leaders,” she says.
She claims the outgoing leadership had failed to tackle corruption despite complaints from the electorate. This, she says, had angered the voters. “It has been normal in Bulambuli to buy jobs. A parent who has no money, his or her children can’t get a job. But I said to myself, I cannot allow this to go on,” she says.
The bad roads, which make transportation of agricultural produce to the market difficult, was another issue, which worried Ms Nandudu.
“We are the biggest producer of tomatoes and onions but most of the time, farmers’ produce rot on the way because of bad roads,” she says.
Ms Nandudu says the district also performs poorly in education because of a shortage of classrooms and staff houses for the teachers, especially in schools located in hard-to-reach areas.
Such challenges, which the incumbent leaders had failed to address, also gave Ms Nandudu an upper hand in the race.
“The incumbent leaders had run out of favour with voters because they had failed to deliver and that gave me an advantage over my opponents,” she says.
She says she will use her position to inspire girls and women to join politics.
“I am going to advocate for girl-child education and also fight teenage pregnancies,” she says.
She says in order to create employment opportunities, the government should fulfil its pledge of constructing a tomato processing plant.
“I also want the government to fulfil it’s a pledge of a tomato processing plant so that there is value addition which will come with more money to our farmers,” she says.
She adds that several sub-counties don’t have health facilities, thus frustrating access to better healthcare.
“I will lobby for more facilities and also upgrade all health centre IIs to IV to improve access to healthcare,” she says.
Ms Nandudu says in her first 100 days, she wants to find out why the district performs poorly in national exams and health sector.
“I want to know the state of all schools and the reasons we perform poorly, so that we get medicine for the challenges,” she says.
She says her performance in the next five years will determine her course of action in 2026 General Election.
“For now I don’t have ambitions to join Parliament but my performance will determine my next course of action after five years,” she says.
Mr Denis Wanyoro, a former Bulambuli District youth chairperson, says Ms Nandudu is hardworking and a pro–people leader.
Mr Denis Namisi, another youth leader, says: “We pray she delivers, especially in the area of road network and education.”
Mr Rogers Magona, a businessman in Muyembe Town Council, says: “I love her because she is determined and has the will to deliver.”