Still thinking of the old war rampaged villages with a stench of hatred and pain stinging up your nostrils, guess you’re wrong. If you visited Gulu today, you would sure confirm Ms Stella Apyeto’s remarks that Gulu is indeed a “women-led district.” In a unique intervention by ACFODE and KAS in form of an exchange visit of women councillors in Apac to Gulu, the district council in Gulu explains why you would rather be under the duteous arm of the women in Gulu than anywhere else in Uganda.
As you traverse the district, you will be amazed at the sight of women hipped on their bicycles, going hither and thither about domestic work, market work, social work and off to their offices for council business. At the district you will be marvelled to discover that half of the district council in Gulu is comprised of women and so are the committee heads. Gulu women boosts of a strong women’s caucus that has managed to influence legislature that supports the rights and fair treatment of women and girls in the district. From the meticulousness and swift progress of work at the district, it is only squarely right to avow the fact that indeed Gulu women are not your conventional type of women, They are a people that have distinguished themselves as a pack of effective headship worth sharing their experiences and teaching others on best practices for women fronting women’s issues at district councils. This they have done by forming out into an indefatigable team of women leaders that combines synergies to front a common cause.
Speaking to the gathering during the learning visit, the secretary Health and Production Committee Ms/Hon………. said that apart from her inclusive approach and vigorous engagement of women in leadership and decision making, the district thrives on innovation. “The district leadership has fully embraced technology and this has helped especially in monitoring. There is a WhatsApp groups for every department, and everyone right up to the sub county is in the group. This helps us share information or fight misinformation,” she said. Furthermore, she highlighted an incident where publics complained that staff at one of the health centres had absconded from duty. This was quickly debunked when the iIn-charge of the health centre shared a photo of the attendance on WhatsApp, thus stopping the rumour.
Gulu is also currently in partnership with one of the telecom networks to provide over 300 handsets to the entire district and sub county staff, both political and technical. The handsets have airtime covered for the whole financial year, this way, the leadership is able to keep in touch and give regular updates hence improving efficiency in the district.
With regard to legislation, Gulu is also a model district to reckon with. She has managed to pass ordinances on critical matters that affect people’s lives. The district has rules on Gender Based Violence, Education and Alcoholic Beverages. Just this year, the district banned the sale of alcohol in sachets. This was done to prevent under-age drinking and the sale of substandard, poisonous alcohol.
Listening to presentations from Gulu district, the councillors from Apac were able to understand why Gulu was one of the prototypical districts on issues of governance. Their commitment to service delivery is notably impeccable and the resilience of the women quite a virtue to pick.
Another key learning area is the unity exhibited by the Gulu District Women’s Caucus is. Women leaders in Gulu discuss and agree on their position on an issue before they attend council. In turn, they present a united front and support each other at the district. One woman councillor told the meeting; “When we agree on an issue and you go to the council and divert the discussion, you face disciplinary measures from the caucus” this is how then they are able to push for gender responsive legislation forward.
When asked what they had gained from the visit, a councillor from Apac said,
“What I’ve learned is our women from Apac see women’s inclusion as a token, a gift; they see the few women on the council as an achievement; while in Gulu women see their inclusion as a right; and demand to participate in all the spaces. It is something our women leaders should pick”.
Human Rights Department