World Refugee Day: ‘’Now that I am a leader, I can raise my voice’’

Women Lead in Uganda

20 June 2023


Women and girls are hardest hit when conflict and disaster strike, but often the last to have their voices heard in decision making in the humanitarian system.

To counter this, CARE’s Women Lead in Emergencies (Women Lead) approach shifts power and resources directly to women in communities affected by crisis. When Women Lead activities started in Omugo refugee settlement in Uganda, 33 group members decided they wanted to stand for election on the influential - and traditionally male dominated - Refugee Welfare Council. Now, the successful candidates are helping to ensure the voice of women and girls are heard in Omugo’s decision-making structures.

The Refugee Welfare Council is one of the main decision-making structures in Omugo settlement, and representatives play a lead role in identifying the camp’s critical needs relating to health, sanitation, education and security. The Council also represents the refugee community in decision-making with the Ugandan government and other humanitarian actors. As such, it is an influential voice for the community and seats on the Council are highly contested.

Women Lead participants step forward

The Women Lead approach asks women how they want to participate in humanitarian action, what the barriers are and what support CARE and partners can provide to overcome them. Women Lead members in Omugo decided they wanted to play an active role in the camp’s decision-making by running for election on the Refugee Welfare Council. One of the biggest barriers they identified was a lack of confidence in public speaking, which became a major focus for Women Lead mentorship sessions.

For candidates such as Selwa Alice, this focus on public speaking was an important factor in standing for election. In the video below, hear from Selwa Alice and other candidates about why they wanted to stand for election, and the change they wanted to see as a result.

The refugee women campaigning to be heard in humanitarian decision making

Omugo’s women leaders are now tasked with bringing issues impacting women, girls and the community as a whole to the table and challenging deep-rooted ideas around the role of women as leaders and problem solvers. And whether candidates were successful or not, the confidence, skills and visibility of women as role models will be felt by Women Lead members, and the community as a whole, for years to come.

Find out more about Women Lead in Emergencies

This content was developed in partnership with colleagues from CARE Uganda, with funding from Global Affairs Canada.

Image © Ekinu Robert/CARE

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