The Power of a Woman Leader: Meet Winifred Apiyo
Winifred Apiyo is a 29-year old farmer from Wang Labo village, in Koro sub-county. She is married with three children and cares for another two, while running a small business that continues to grow. Before her involvement in different GWED-G projects, Winifred admits that she lacked public speaking skills. She tells us:
“Expressing myself in general was difficult. I was so shy and fearful; I would find it hard to stand up in front of people. Even during the council meetings I was not confident enough to speak out or table anything and yet I had good opinions.”
Winifred always had a passion to lead and her leadership journey started when she was in primary school and was elected as the secretary for finance. She later became the Chairperson of the PTA for Labora Primary School. She participated in the Government of Uganda’s Operation Wealth Creation where she was selected as a market-oriented farmer to lead other small-scale farmers. There, she engaged in buying and selling produce from other farmers.
Winifred is one of GWED-G’s beneficiaries of the VOICE Project looking to amplify women’s voices and enhance women’s engagement and participation in governance issues and leadership. The project’s leadership training built women leaders’ skills in public speaking, gender-responsive budgeting, caucusing legislative policies and Gender Based Violence (GBV). Winifred believes she has gained confidence and practical skills through her participation in VOICE:
Over time I have gained confidence and realized my ability to take on my leadership responsibilities. VOICE has provided activities where women councillors and other women leaders can benefit. The trainings are very practical to ensure we are in position to influence the leadership and decision-making processes at the local government level. Now I feel very confident and comfortable when speaking in council meetings. I can also move a motion when in council.
Winifred was recently elected as the new Chairperson for Labora sub-county, Omoro District. She reflects that women as leaders need to push against the issue of violence against women (VAW). She believes that although cases of VAW are criminal, there continues to exist massive hurdles for victims to come forward. For Winifred, this means doing more community sensitizations for women and girls in the villages. She believes victims continue to be too afraid to come forward, while others feel like they don’t have any choice and there is nothing they can do about it.
From the VOICE Project, Winifred has formed a women’s caucus group to prioritize a common agenda for women in her sub-county. The caucus has meant that women have come together to identify women’s issues to bring to council. They sit regularly together and focus on representing women as women, as opposed to party loyalists, with a unified agenda. Such a responsibility requires strengthening connections to the women in the village:
Although some of us as women leaders are empowered, we need to empower the lower grassroots with interventions such as psychosocial support services for women suffering from violence within their own homes. They need to know their rights. Most of the women in the villages are illiterate. They believe that women are property of men and that everything which a man says is right and should be followed. And this is a big problem.
Her caucus group moved a motion in council to allocate money to the CDO’s office to ensure that police forms are readily available and accessible to community members for reporting GBV cases. This will enhance access to justice for survivors. Her caucus has joined together to monitor health centres and schools throughout the sub-county, as well. She believes that jointly monitoring community services better helps women councillors do their work because they can combine their limited resources.
Winifred’s caucus group also unites to engage communities in soliciting better information about the issues they are struggling with and to work hand-in-hand with them to come up with solutions that work for them. Last year, they started mobilizing and sensitizing in primary schools and discovered that there were high dropout rates and early pregnancies. Pregnant schoolgirls were forced to drop out to start raising their families.
The caucus group members gathered all the pupils and talked to them about the importance and benefits of completing education and sensitized them on dangers of early marriages/pregnancies. We encouraged them to avoid high-risk behaviours such as premature sexual activity that often leads to early childbearing and dropping out of school.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual, focusing on a movement where everyone has a role in reinforcing and igniting collective action to share responsibility to make progress towards Gender Equality. Winifred is a great example of a woman leader who is supporting the empowerment of other women and fighting for women’s issues. We are excited to see what comes next for this admirable woman leader! Happy International Women’s Day to Winifred and to all women and girls across the globe!
International Women’s Day takes place on Sunday, March 8, 2020.