Prof. Okwakol Calls For Transformational Leadership at HERS-EA Second Academy

Prof. Mary Okwakol (7th L) flanked by Director DRGT-Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi (8th L), University Librarian-Dr. Hellen Byamugisha (6th L) Ag. Director GMD-Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine (5th L), Director HRD-Mr. Andrew Abunyang (4th L), Ms. Frances Nyachwo-GMD (3rd L), facilitators and participants of the HERS-EA Second Academy at the opening ceremony, 2nd July 2018, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

The HERS-EA Second Academy is a follow-up of the Inaugural Leadership Academy held from 2nd to 7th July 2017. Higher Education Resource Services, East Africa (HERS-EA), is an educational non-profit organization advancing women leadership and management in the East African Community (EAC) member countries. Established in 2014, HERS-EA is an affiliate of HERS based in Denver, Colorado, USA, and established in 1972.

The HERS-EA Second Academy set to be held from 1st to 6th July 2018 will accord participants the opportunity to meet their unique professional needs through sessions on Grant Writing, Institutional Budgeting, Navigating the Political Environment, Professional Women’s Economic Empowerment and Institutional Leadership. Other topics to be covered include; tips for Research and Publishing, Family Responsibilities versus Career Development among others, not to mention, a host of guest lectures.

Welcoming facilitators and participants to the opening ceremony in the Main Hall on Monday, 2nd July 2018, the HERS-EA Coordinator-Ms. Naomi Lumutenga thanked the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for believing in HERS-EA’s Vision while still serving as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) and supporting Makerere University female staff to participate in the Inaugural Academy. She also thanked the Director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT)-Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi for endorsing the participation of female PhD students under Sida sponsorship.

“We also thank the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD) for hosting our secretariat and the Directorate of Legal Affairs (DLA) for the priceless advice. Outside Makerere University, we thank all the Vice Chancellors who have nominated participants to the academy” remarked Ms. Lumutenga.

She thereafter paid special tribute to volunteer facilitators from the United States of America namely; Prof. Catherine Hawkins from Texas State University, Dr. Meghan Millea from East Carolina University and Ms. Shauncey Hill from Mississippi State University, for sacrificing their time and resources to share their skills with academy participants.

Prof. Mary Okwakol on top of being the Vice Chancellor of Busitema University and Chairperson of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) is also Member of the RUFORUM Committee representing East African Countries and member of the World Women University Presidents Forum Organising Committee representing Africa. Despite the aforementioned commitments and more, she is still a wife, mother of three, and grandmother of five.

HERS-EA Coordinator-Ms. Naomi Lumutenga (2nd R), Prof. Catherine Hawkins-TXSTATE and other participants upon arrival to deliver the keynote address
Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, Prof. Mary Okwakol, Prof. Catherine Hawkins, Ms. Naomi Lumutenga and Ms. Frances Nyachwo have a chat during the tea break at the HERS-EA Second Academy, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

“I owe all that I am to my unschooled but educated parents who despite not having gone to formal school, still had the wisdom to value the education of the girl child instead of marriage, as was the case then” she said.

Despite seeming to have it all together now, Prof. Okwakol confessed to having had to overcome a lot of cultural and institutional challenges along her career path, which included overt and covert sexism, as well as having to endure and rise above long-entrenched stereotypes. She also had to pass up her PhD training opportunity twice over; in Bern and Oxford, so as to raise her then young children. “What good will it profit you if you get this paper while your young family crumbles?” reminisced Prof. Okwakol, of the wise advice from a friend who’d had to leave her young family in Nairobi to do her PhD in London.

“I am telling you all this so that you know that what you are going through, I have gone through and triumphed” empathised Prof. Okwakol.

Herself a 2007 Graduate of HERS-South Africa, Prof. Okwakol, thanked HERS-EA for promoting the advancement of women in leadership and management in Higher Education through training. “Women at all levels have the ability to care for and nurture others” she shared, before adding “Women bring commitment to teaching as well as supporting the learners, be they male or female. Furthermore, the presence of women in policy making leads to more balanced policies.”

She therefore urged the facilitators, participants and members of the audience present to be transformational leaders. “Strive to be purpose-driven, choose to be role models and always walk the talk so as to have idealized influences. Have genuine concern for those you lead, be innovative and challenge your followers to do likewise” said Prof. Okwakol. “It is transformational leaders who will build transformational institutions” she added.

As such, she called upon Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to instutionalise mentorship, noting that presently, there was an obvious absence of consistent mentoring structures. She observed that most early to mid-career women are often tied down by family responsibilities which called for organisations to institutionalise mechanisms such as sabbatical leaves for women, to enable them undertake research and publish.

On a parting note, Prof. Okwakol stressed the importance of physical fitness in advancing career. “Take good care of your health and wellbeing” she advised, “Busitema University has six campuses in Eastern Uganda and since I also have a number of meetings both in and out of the country, I travel a lot. The only way I manage is by doing exercise every day! It is very important that all parts of your body receive that flow of blood” she concluded.

Representing the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe at the opening ceremony, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi acknowledged that he had an important stake in the day’s proceedings because leadership in HEIs often goes hand in hand with research and graduate training. “It is therefore critically important that Makerere sets the pace in empowering women to take part in leadership.”
Prof. Buyinza shared that Makerere University has demonstrated its commitment to HERS-EA, by funding a total of twenty women; ten at Inaugural and ten more at the Second Academy. “With continued support through the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD) and other Units, Makerere University will continue to collaborate with and provide support to HERS-EA in this initiative, whose benefits are for all.

“Makerere University is proud to host this Academy and to support the HERS-EA goal of striving to increase the visibility of women in Higher Education Institutions’ senior management positions” concluded the Vice Chancellor’s remarks.

Speaking on Makerere University’s Gender Mainstreaming Programme, the Acting Director GMD-Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine shared a timeline right from the admission of the first six female students in 1945 to the present day strategic objectives. Achieving gender equality and non-discrimination for all staff and students is a strategic objective of Makerere University as espoused in its Gender Equality Policy. “Promoting women participation in leadership in Higher Education Institutions is therefore common ground for the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate and HERS-EA” she added.

Dr. Mugisha Baine shared with her audience the guiding principles of the Gender Equality Policy as: Women and men in the University are not a homogenous group; Gender equality means that the different behaviour, aspirations and needs of women and men are considered, valued and favoured equally; Intra household family relations may have adverse effect on the University functioning; Transformation in individual consciousness about gender equality and women’s rights as well as organisational culture and governance are a prerequisite for gender equality and women’s empowerment; and Sustainable development is possible only if based on equal partnership and mutual respect between women and men.

“I therefore welcome you all to the HERS-EA Second Academy. I have always been amazed by Ms. Naomi Lumutenga and Prof. Margaret Khaitsa’s passion for women and I am excited that your idea has become a reality” added. Dr. Mugisha Baine.

Article by Makerere University Public Relations Office

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