Refugee Women’s Political Leadership: Experiences, Challenges, and Obstacles in Nyumanzi and Maaji II Refugee Settlement, Uganda

Uganda hosts the biggest number of refugees from the neighboring countries including South
Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A large share of these refugees is
hosted in Uganda’s Adjumani district. Refugees as a whole face several vulnerabilities that the
Uganda government and UNHCR are concerned with. However, the challenges faced by
women are particularly of concern. Hence, placing women at the center of leadership in refugee
responses remains one of the most critical ways through which engendered needs of women
refugees can be addressed. The approach ensures that women’s voices of welfare reach the
decision-making table and are acted upon to address women’s rights even in the refugee

This study, therefore, investigated the experiences, challenges, and obstacles of women in
leadership positions within the refugee settlements of Nyumanzi and Maaji II in Adjumani
district. It also sought to establish the role of different actors in enhancing refugee women’s
political participation in the settlements. This was accomplished through answering the
following research questions; (1) what are the challenges to gender equality in elected
representation and (2) what roles do different actors play in fostering women’s political
leadership in refugee settlements?

The study was descriptive. I chose a case study to obtain in-depth information about the target
area. Informed by the constructivist research paradigm, the research adopted a qualitative
methodology and a qualitative research method of in-depth interviews.

From the study findings, it can be concluded that; the achievement of gender equality was first
paced through the establishment of a 50/50 gender quota in the settlement refugee councils.
However, these quotas did not necessarily lead to improved representation for all women
refugees. It was also found that there are divergent views presented by men and women about
refugee women’s participation in leadership, some of which were sexist. The study hence
recommends that there is a need to focus on optimal refugee women participation in leadership
and decision-making rather than absolute numbers. Also, rather than a needs-based focus on
improving refugee women’s welfare and representation, women’s empowerment groups should
be supported and, female networking and partnership should be supported. Furthermore, a
human rights focus should be addressed.