To celebrate this day of awareness, which is also a national holiday in Uganda, The Busoga Trust would like to show our support for the #BalanceforBetter campaign, which is advocating for a gender-balanced world.
The Busoga Trust is very proud to have incredibly talented and committed staff. It would be great if we could share the stories of all of the fantastic women we have working with us, but sadly that would require this to be more of a book than a blog post! So as a window into the world as a senior female employee working in rural Uganda we decided we would share the story of Immaculate Nanyunja.
Immaculate Nanyunja, or ‘Immy’ as she’s known around the office, is one of our Mobile Community Development Officer (MCDO) here at The Busoga Trust.
Since joining The Busoga Trust nearly 10 years ago as a Community Development Officer, Immy told us how her role has evolved and now covers a range of tasks that include conducting surveys, collecting water samples and performing minor rehabilitations on rural water sources to ensure they are fully functional. She relishes the fact that her role as a MCDO involves working closely with a diverse range of communities across Uganda. She says, “I now teach and develop each community’s sanitation and hygiene, as well as training Water User Committees on how to sustain their water source”.
Immy’s role is not a straight forward one as she has to work alongside such a varied range of people from different tribes, castes and beliefs. Being female often creates complications that do not exist for men in the same role. Immy must overcome common social and cultural barriers faced by women in the highly traditional communities of rural Uganda.
Immy gave us some everyday examples of these barriers; “I receive judgment for wearing trousers in the field”. Traditionally, Trousers are seen as a male garment, but they are a necessity for Immy as she commutes to different villages using a motorcycle and skirts and dresses are not practical for this. She continued by saying that the criticism she has received from older members in the communities has led them to “dismiss what I have come to say, just because I am wearing trousers”. Other obstacles she mentioned facing included men trying to confuse and disrupt her during minor rehabilitations of water sources. “I think they try this so they can reinforce what they already believe” that is, women are not able to perform technical tasks as these should be undertaken by men, and women should only be responsible for tasks within the family environment like cooking, cleaning and fetching water.
As well as this, Immy revealed that she has often found that some men will not ride on the back of her motorbike. She stated that it is because “it offends their pride” and jokingly revealed that it “is funny though, as some of them are not very good riders at all.”
I asked Immy if she ever felt held back and disrespected due to these ingrained patriarchal perceptions found in in rural Ugandan society. Immy replied “At first it was difficult” but she went on to say how she has been able to make tremendous breakthroughs by learning how to adapt to each situation where she faces discrimination. “I have formed relationships with these communities” she tells us, and this is evident from the great work she performs on a daily basis. Her strong will has enabled Immy to overcome many barriers. This has allowed people to look past the preconceptions they initially had of her. “I now can sit down and talk with these communities and complete the work I came here to do”.
There is still a long way to go for gender equality in Uganda. Nonetheless, The Busoga Trust is lucky to have such courageous employees like Immy. People like her, and indeed all of our female employees are inspiring a new generation of Ugandan women to pursue their dreams and to become successful in a world that needs as many strong and intelligent women as possible who are free to achieve and lead. Immy says she is “proud” of the work she does, as it enables her to “travel” and “meet the broad range of different communities and different cultures found in Uganda.”