There are not many young politicians with the confidence, passion and charisma of MP Aspirant; Norah Robinah Akwii in Uganda now. She was thrown into the jungle that is Ugandan politics, when as a Senior 6 leaver, country wide votes ushered her into the Treasurer NRM Youth League position at National level. She broke a record that has lasted until now, as the first woman to have served as a National Executive Committee member in the Youth league. And ever since then, she has been at the forefront of youth rights advocacy and women empowerment in both her home town of Nakapiripirit, and across Uganda through the various positions she has held. Her competence has seen her elected Treasurer National Women’s Council even when she was the youngest contestant for the post. She has made her presence felt through juggling (presently) positions such as the aforementioned NWC roles, as well as Finance Manager of The NRM Youth League.
Given her accomplishments, when she announced that she was going to run for the position of national female Youth MP, many political enthusiasts and analysts were quick to state that it was long overdue. Some were quoted saying “a Messiah has come.” It is solely why we caught up with her to ask her about her plans and how she manages as a young politician (who insists on being called a stateswoman) .
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Norah Robinah Akwii. I am passionate about serving my nation and I believe that leadership is my calling and destiny. I am Born to Dr. Imoko Joseph and Nancy Imoko, in Nakapiripirit. I have 10 siblings, 8 sisters and two brothers.
I have a Master’s Degree in Institutional Management and Leadership at UMI. I also have a Bachelor’s in Adult and Community Education at Makerere University. I went to Municipal Primary School Moroto for PLE, Tororo Girls for O level and Gayaza High School for A Level. My passion for politics is mostly because I have experienced first-hand, the challenges the Ugandan youths face. That’s why I pride in being an icon for hope to transform the young people in the various ways as enshrined in my 3 point campaign pillars, Education, Unemployment and Health.
I have been at the helm of counseling and guidance of the youths, atop spearheading community outreach programs that bring about pad distribution, empowerment, among hordes of other benefits to communities.
Share with us your political journey.
I guess it is in the blood. I grew up in a political family. My mum, Nancy Imoko is a leader. She was appointed Deputy RDC; first of Moroto, then Nakapiripirit, Soroti and Mbale. But I guess also because of my character and personal ideologies and Political Philosophy. I have always wanted to stand out in championing issues that affect my people. From as early as Sunday school, I always volunteered to lead. In my Primary one, i was a class monitor. I was Health prefect in P6. In High School, I was the time keeper and counselor in O level. I was also a Health Prefect in my A Level and Deputy Head Prefect at Mariam High School, a position I won when I was only, but a week old in the school. In the S6 Vacation however, is when I had a political break through. I was volunteering as a teacher of English at Nakapiripirit Primary School when the then Division Commander in the UPDF, Patrick Kankiriho (RIP) scouted me and talked to me about taking up politics. He said he’d seen a lot of leadership potential in me. l declined the offer. I told him I wanted to instead mentor the young ones in my region to take Education seriously. He told me to write a concept paper about what I had wanted to do. I did and gave it to him. Surprisingly, I got communication from Afande that the first lady wanted to have a meeting with me. As a young person, I was so excited and nervous at the same time. She, Janet Museveni, was the minister of Karamoja affairs at that time.
So i asked him if I could meet her with a team (KARADECO) of 10 students who were my friends and were sharing the same school of thought with me. We set off for Moru linga the state lounge in Moroto. That day of our appointment with the first lady was pushed to the next day and since the head of state was coming to Moroto, she thought it was a good idea for us to meet and share our ideas with him. That was the longest night of my life.
I kept on looking at my tiny self and imagining speaking to the president of Uganda. We woke up at 5am, prepared ourselves and set off for the state lounge. While there, we were so excited but we met the president at midnight. l was confident my team believed in me. I presented the concept paper; the president was impressed and elated so he supported us. That was the beginning of my journey with NRM leadership. I got to know about the youth league still through Afande, who linked me up with the Youth that were contesting .He supported my campaign and I won mercifully.
I remember in Namboole, the youth were making chants of Gender balance Akwii. I contested with 8 candidates and all were Male. I became the National Treasurer NRM youth league which marked my break through.
Any Achievements ever since?
I have been appointed by the president twice to be in his national campaign task force. I have used my office to lobby and get a number of young people scholarships, in India from the First Lady’s Office. The same people were given 5 Million each to start Business Projects. I also lobbied for a scholarship system where 5 bright students were chosen per district in the Karamoja sub region; to study from F1 to F6 scholarship. I have used my experience and knowledge to do mentorship programs for the young people.
Why join politics yet you could have made strides in bigger organizations like UN given your experience and skill set?
Politics has always been my calling. The burning urge to make a change, and to impact the communities, has always driven me to do something. And I realized that to fully do that, I needed to join politics. It was, like they say, my destiny.
What makes you special for the role of Female Youth MP?
I know the plight of the youths. I understand the problems the Ugandan female youths are going through. From unemployment, to the lack of education opportunities, to the health at the different levels, to the lack of pads, to sexual harassment at work spaces, school dropouts, malnutrition, inaccessible internet, among hordes of other problems. I am best suited because I am a cadre who understands critically, the issues that grossly affect us, and are looking for a chance to make that huge contribution to change the vibe.
You are standing under the NRM Card, why not independent seeing as you made your name independently?
I am a staunch NRM cadre. But to understand this, I need to take you back to where I grew up, in Moroto, Karamoja. I experienced first-hand, the great strides that NRM has brought to the region. I feel like I owe my life to NRM.
The yesteryears of Karamoja are synonymous with war, and being behind in all aspects of development. First forward to now, and we have good roads, access to education, a hastily developing economy, all courtesy of the peace that NRM has brought and its good leadership of President Museveni.
The government has done so many things to promote girl child education, of course with partners. Without UPE (Municipal Primary school,) I wouldn’t have studied. Because many people in Karamoja were averse to education, some education schemes were so comprehensive that, I recall, they’d give you a Token of appreciation like Posho, Beans, or milk if you were a girl and had studied up to P5. We are products of UPE. Without UPE, we wouldn’t have gone through school.
So NRM was very pivotal to who I am now. I have seen their great darts at women empowerment through UWEP (Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program) and empowerment of youth through YLP(Youth Livelihood Program.) That is why my card is NRM, they are my heroes.
Who is the most significant contributor to your political journey?
Patrick Kankiriho who recognized my potential and talked me into joining politics at a time when I was reluctant. Everyone needs people like Afande Kankiriho Patrick in their lives. But also, I’d like to thank my family. They have been very supportive, emotionally, spiritually and through offering me an education, and a lot of other ways. I will forever be grateful.
What challenges does the average female youth face, and how do you seek to address them in your term?
They are many. They range from unemployment, which is a result of the education system that needs to incorporate heavier elements of skilling in the theoretical curriculum: to their health, the lack of information in rural areas that leads to teenage pregnancies and consequent school drop outs: to problems like sexual harassment. I can’t exhaust my manifesto in one paragraph, but for a snippet, I’ll make sure to advocate for Government programs to empower young people to be self employed by supporting their ventures. Also for Unemployment, the Youth-To-Elderly ratio in government employment should be higher than is at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, they shouldn’t put the experienced and older people out of jobs, but a better plan should be put in place to ensure the ratio favors the youths a bit more than it does now. Also, the education system should foster skill set equipping.
Lastly, what message do you have for your voters?
The young people have to take politics seriously. The leader you vote today is going to impact you in the next 5 years. The educated and employed young people should also be at the fore front of decision making, and not leave politics to only the other sectors of the population.
The future of the continent squarely lies on our shoulders we can be just spectators!