Juliet Nakazibwe, Uganda Hub

Juliet Nakazibwe: My Leadership Journey.

This story is a part of our 10 years of Restless Development Celebrations; Becoming Restless, Changing Development.

Youth constitute 18% of the global population (in my country, Uganda,  they are 78% of the population), and they understand the challenges they face better than anyone.  I believe the main solution to the development challenge across the world is investing in youth leadership and trusting young people to lead.

Young people should be seen as the brains and hearts, rather than simply the faces of development work. Restless Development believes that too.

I am a result of the organisation’s efforts to invest in young people and most importantly in generating young leaders around the world. My time as a volunteer and staff member on various projects helped turn my potential into competencies fit to lead development differently. My life completely changed for the better from a timid graduate to a confident young leader, and I am just one among thousands of young people from our alumni network whose leadership journeys have been shaped through their experience with Restless Development. This is my story. 

I am Juliet Nakazibwe, born and raised in a rural community in central Uganda. I began my Leadership journey with Restless Development Uganda, then called Students Partnership Worldwide (SPW) in 2005 and served for 6 months as a volunteer peer educator. I rejoined later in 2008 as staff member, served in various positions; 13 years later, I am a member of the Uganda Hub leadership team, heading our programme and partnership portfolio, championing youth leadership and results based programming across our hub.

In 2005 right after University, I was recruited as a volunteer peer educator. This was my first leadership experience with a Development Agency. I worked in Kangulumira, a rural village in the central region of Uganda, with a team of 3 other young people. We empowered the community through the Community Resource Programme; teaching organic farming to community youth groups, environmental education in schools, and inspiring hundreds of young people (in and out of school).  

Restless Development invests in reaching the most vulnerable, and because of this focus, I got the opportunity to discover my potential and realise my dreams.

I was excited that Restless Development believed in my potential at that time, because I was very timid as a child, a character hugely shaped by my upbringing, having lost my father at the age of 6. I applied for this position because the needs and pressures from my family didn’t give me the luxury of waiting any longer before getting to work. At that time my family thought I was crazy to take up a volunteer role, with a monthly allowance of $40,000(UGX), about £10 (GBP) especially having invested in my education. Being a person raised in a rural village, surrounded by poverty, my passion was to grow my life skills and learn development work so I could contribute to my own personal growth and the development of rural communities.

Throughout my experience as a child I discovered the disempowerment that comes with poverty. The risks of abuse, harassment and vulnerabilities, I had to navigate as a girl child due to poverty will always remain an untold story, since I decided to focus on the lessons I picked, and the ambitions I had. Restless Development invests in reaching the most vulnerable, and because of this focus, I got the opportunity to discover my potential and realise my dreams.

I was inspired by the desire to make a difference, by the warm reception from groups of women and men – who respected us as facilitators, and addressed us as equals, and by the values-led approach which was at the centre of everything. I remember one resounding message, “the money we get in SPW, is for young people, and hence MUST be spent with a purpose of making a positive contribution to their lives.” I have witnessed the fervour with which this principle is upheld. And it has stayed with SPW as they have transitioned to Restless Development. 

Restless Development has maintained its commitments to values-led practice, meaningful youth engagement, nurturing youth leadership, sustainability and accountability through robust performance management systems including quarterly staff workshops, line management meetings, a values based culture, and on job training deliberately designed to support the growth of staff and young leaders.

Across all my roles, I have served with commitment and passion while putting our values at the centre of everything I do.

It was motivating and empowering to receive recognition by others as a values champion on several occasions, an indication that what we do as leaders is seen and assessed by those around us. Even the birthday celebrations, a moment which I only experienced after joining Restless Development, let us know we’re seen and loved. For leaders out there, these gestures build and inspire our teams and most importantly create lasting memories. 

I was lucky enough to have been supervised by one of our best leaders, the late Mariam Naura, who contributed to shaping me as a young leader, as a mother and as a wife. She supported me immensely She would always say to me, “Jules you are an amazing young leader, I know you have the potential to do this, and am here to support you navigate the triple role challenge.” To Mariam and the many other colleagues who have believed in me and given me opportunities to prove my potential, I thank you!

Restless Development is an organisation that nurtures leadership – reducing hierarchies, trusting people to lead regardless of their age or experience, hiring on potential, and providing the support for all to achieve that potential.