A recent winner of the World Bank's #Blog4Dev Contest and founder of the Embibo Gender Based Initiative, Tendo Namata is not your every day activist. One year into her Tuwezeshe Akina Dada leadership journey, Edna Ninsiima caught up with her, listening in on her successes and challenges thus far. Now we bring you her story!
Kamwenge district in Western Uganda is about 400 kilometers outside the city where 25 year old Tendo Namata was born and went to school. Yet this has become her home. Today she only spends one week a month in Kampala. The rest of the time she is down there doing work under an education fellowship and implementing her Tuwezeshe project. She has gender parity sensitization. She says that she likes to find solutions to human challenges. “When I see something going wrong, I work hard to make sure I change that.” She has gotten close to the women and children in Kamwenge and their stories. A connection that always draws her back.
Applying for the Tuwezeshe fellowship, Tendo was not certain she would have a chance. “I knew that so many people were applying and I might not qualify.“ She still got the link off a website called “Opportunity Desk,” wrote her proposal and applied. One time she found the Tuwezeshe Fellowship and knew there and then that this is something she wanted. She wrote her proposal and sent it. One day while she prepared to go to the borehole in Kamwenge, she got the confirmation call. She had qualified.
Tendo reminisces about how Tuwezeshe validated her in so many ways. Past doing the project, she intimates that being part had a personal impact on her especially because she finally found people who identified with her feminism instead of shooting it down. “People always said that I could never change the things that I felt were unfair and spoke so strongly about.” In the fellowship, other fellows got her and now hold her accountable too. Something she is grateful though. “It started a journey and a spark. A place where my views were valid.”
After the fellowship, Tendo and her team created village gender sensitization teams and entered a Gender based Violence themed blogging competition by the World Bank – a competition from which she emerged as one of the winners. She has received funding from a program which she has supported sensitization of the community on sexual reproductive health with the help of Baylor Uganda. She is also working with the teachers in Kamwenge schools around changing the content in the learning material with which children are taught. “Most of the current text books are deeply patriarchal and reinforce the status quo,” she says. Tendo hopes to, through trainings, empower the educators to take a more progressive approach in teaching.
The main challenges that Tendo and her team have been presented with in implementing this project low access to information on rights, social conditioning and justice both of which require a lot of financing and education. She is looking to start a social enterprise which will help run the programs that support information dissemination; both in schools and families; as well as sensitization on what justice looks like especially for gender-based violence victims. “It is a journey, it cannot happen in one day. But we are making progress. We have a village leader heading one of the sensitization programs and teachers participating often which we are proud of.”