That name still rings a sweet bell in my ears. Mitooma… the long-anticipated event!
But how did we get to Mitooma?
In January this year, CivSource Africa organized a retreat for female Executive Directors. This was as a result of conversations we had held – the first being a leaders’ gathering to talk about succession and transition among NGOs. After that first meeting, I met two female EDs privately and separately to ask them how they were doing in their personal and professional journeys and how they were doing as leaders. During those conversations, it dawned on me that the EDs were facing burn out partly because they did not have time to stop and reflect on themselves and how they were leading.
I met Hope Chigudu (or Hope C as she is fondly called) and discussed the idea of a female EDs retreat - a space to relax, reflect and rejuvenate - where leaders could meet with and talk to themselves as a collective and as individuals. Hope and I spoke through what a retreat of that sort would look like and what we would achieve and then I enlisted the help of a young female ED to help me put together names of EDs who would form our first cohort – EDs who needed this kind of retreat.
The retreat was held in the first week of January and brought together 23 female EDs from the nonprofit and private sector. According to the participants, the retreat was a resounding success and one of the things we agreed upon was to hold each other accountable to the commitments we had made. The first accountability session was to be held two months after the retreat. Then Ka-Winnie (ED of Global Rights Alert) offered to host the second accountability session at her home in Mitooma. The deal was signed and sealed at that moment.
We went away energized and indeed, the EDs have kept true to their word. Not only did we meet two months after the retreat to check in on each other, we also reconfirmed our commitment to meet in Mitooma.
In between the first accountability session and the Mitooma meeting, we decided to check on one of the EDs (Jay) who had come to the retreat all the way from Lira. We thought that instead of requiring her to come to Kampala for our meetings, it would be good if we found her in Lira so that we could fellowship with her on her own turf. We further agreed that we would extend the invitation to other female EDs in Lira and spend a day with them sharing what we had learned at the retreat.
Jay agreed to the plan and she quickly set about organizing a female EDs gathering in Lira. And oh what a beautiful time we had! It went from skeptics facing each other in the morning to ending the day as friends bound by a chord of solidarity and understanding. We talked about how we lead as women, we talked about wellness and self care, about feminist leadership and sisterhood. We ate together, played together, laughed together and exchanged gifts. The sisters in Lira gave us a cake and so many more intangible gifts! We were well taken care of and we were loved on. Strangers became sisters!
The next stop was Mitooma. Up to the last moment, the leaders kept confirming attendance and dropping off. At some point I was so distraught I cried – loud, heart-wrenching sobs! Did the people dropping off last minute know just how much time and other resources had gone into making Mitooma happen? Did they care that we were potentially being rude to our host by dropping off last minute? Was I pushing them into this thing but they were not brave enough to tell me to my face? Had we made a mistake to promise to go on a journey we could now not take?
Then I tried to look on the bright side – those that were coming were meant to come and we would have the time of our lives. We would miss those who couldn’t join us but we were determined to still go to Mitooma. And so, off we went.
Our host, Ka-Winnie, had arrived a few days earlier than us, to make sure all was in order. And my, were we blown away! From the warm smiles to the hugs, to the endless supply of food! Literally speaking, there was food any and everywhere we turned! We even included two unplanned events – visiting a girls’ secondary school nearby to inspire the girls and a dinner with Winnie’s family.
The rest of the time, we had to ourselves and the leaders shared from their hearts. There were moments of tears, of joy, of acknowledging and facing pain, of encouraging each other and of holding each other when we needed to. It was a true space of solidarity among leaders who understand the pains and aches and triumphs and deep dark ditches that leadership can be. It was a space for freedom, a space of no judgement and a space for reaffirming each other’s potential. It was a space of listening to each other’s words and even deeper – listening to each other’s hearts. It was a space for sharing how we had progressed and the areas we had failed. It was a space for re-committing to the journey of a more purposeful and energy aware and energy filled leadership.
Mitooma was a space for
By Jacqueline Asiimwe
CEO CivSource Africa