We are delighted to share with you an inspirational leadership experience of Ms. Regina Bafaki, the Executive Director of Action for Development (ACFODE), an active member of the Uganda Women’s Movement, and an alumni of African Women leadership Institute (AWLI). In this exclusive interview Ms. Regina narrates the impact of the AWLI on her leadership journey, highlighting how she connected with amazing sisters, honed her feminist skills and thoughts on women’s empowerment and rights.
AMwA: Kindly tell us about yourself
Regina: My name is Regina Bafaki and I am the Executive Director of Action for Development, a women’s rights advocacy organization. I am a humble person though capable of being dangerous, just like a tiger.
AMwA: When did you join the AWLI and what inspired you to attend this training?
Regina: I joined AWLI 2008 after hearing about it for quite some time from fellow women leaders and Ms. Solome Kimbugwe, the Executive Director, of AMwA then. Solome kept talking about the AWLI and somehow this aroused my interest to attend the training that had for so long been perceived by many as a life changing experience
AMwA: Would you say the AWLI met your expectations & to what extent did it impact your personal and /or career path
Regina: I expected to enhance my skill as leader having been already in a position of leadership, I knew that I would meet inspirational women leaders and strong activists and; I was not disappointed in this front. The AWLI was indeed what many had claimed it to be, I interacted with women from all walks of life, It was at the AWLI that I got introduced to feminism, and for the first time challenged to deal with issues of diversity in its real terms and inspired to truly take care for my learnt care for myself as a woman leader. Perhaps the most yet outstanding achievement that I accrued from the training was promotion of women’s rights without discrimination and appreciation of women in all their diversity. Through the years this experience has, enabled me meaningfully contribute to the development of the National Association of Women in Uganda (NAWOU) an independent umbrella body for all women NGO’s in Uganda. I have developed and implemented link programs, the most comprehensive being the civic awareness which was instituted to facilitate and maintain public interest in the Constituent Assembly (CA) debates. This process contributed significantly to the nurturing women’s participation in civil issues confirming their capability and enhancing their agency at national, regional and international levels.
Looking back, I vividly remember how I we interacted with renown feminist leaders, the likes of the Late Anne Mbanga, Atsango Chesoni, who to a certain extent made me uncomfortable at first because they brought new concepts to my attention but I was quite open minded. Together with other equally naïve people like me, we shared the surprises and new knowledge that we learnt from interacting with people with different orientations, backgrounds and perceptions. The AWLI which was themed on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights helped me to unlearn my perceptions and be open to new insights, be more tolerant which was very instrumental in enabling me embrace diversity without reservations.
What was that one unique aspect of the AWLI that stood out for you through this training and beyond? I appreciated the importance of sisterhood in the journey of a feminist leader. I am a widow and a leader at the same time which makes it quite challenging for one to attain much alone. The journey of a feminist requires one to have support from other people on the same journey and the AWLI networks developed this sisterhood for me. I have explored, accessed and utilized opportunities as a result of the different AWLI networks and sisterhood opportunities that the AWLI availed us. As a result I have continued to recommend other women to apply for AWLI because I appreciate its power in enhancing young women’s leadership capacities and sisterhood.
AMwA: 2017 marks 20 years since the formation of the African Women Leadership Institute in 1997. What are some of your thoughts on feminist leadership?
Regina: Reflecting on the 20 years of the AWLI I am drawn to state that as women we should learn to reflect and appreciate ourselves as women. We should desist from seeking approval from anyone. Each one of us is created uniquely and that is what we contribute to feminist leadership.
As a result, young women need to be mentored to become feminist leaders. This can be done through capacity building for instance the AWLI, orientation about feminism, placement in feminist led organizations, to mention but a few. They should also be encouraged and supported to attend feminism forums such as the African feminist forum, they could utilize other spaces like the youth organizations and institutions of learning to further the agenda. Personally, I have continued to belong to the women’s movement, where sometimes we challenge ourselves over the kind of feminist leaders we are and desire to be. I am also part of AMWA’s interventions because I owe them a lot.
AMwA: Last but not least, how have managed to retain this powerful smile and passion for your work amidst life’s challenges?
Regina: Life has been a mix of fortunes and misfortunes with former being more and so I have used those as a spring board to overcome adversaries’ key being the loss of my dear husband Dr Bafaki and my mother. My passion for feminist leadership stems from different role models like Hope Chigudu, Solome Kimbugwe, Stella Mukasa, Sarah Mukasa, Dr Hilda Tadria among others. I also like reading and so I have read amazing stories of strong Feminist women leaders.
Thank you Regina for choosing to share with us your AWLI experience; we hope that experience inspires you too to undertake the AWLI if you have not done so. For our esteemed alumni we encourage to share your AWLI experience and inspire other young women to leadership