Joyce Ocaya from Omoro, Gulu District is the Vice Chairperson of Palaro Odek Growers’ Cooperative Society in Odek Subcounty. Before she was a leader in the cooperative, she served on the vetting committee which handled Board elections. This is where she conceived the idea of serving on the Union; board level but she didn’t believe in herself as it was rare for women to contest for leadership positions.
According to a study examining the influence of gender relations on the economic empowerment of women in Gulu district in Uganda, communities in Gulu including leaders still hold to the traditional gender orientations that take women as being biological and universally inferior to men in ways that cannot be changed to enable women to be enterprising. This orientation is influenced by the traditional cultural rules of the generations that have come before them and are restrictive to women being out of the closet and assuming leading economic and social roles.
It was till she attended a training of trainers (TOTs) with National Association of Women’s Organizations in Uganda (NAWOU) where she learned more about leadership and mentorship that flicked the switch in her mentality.
”When I attended TOTs organized by NAWOU among cooperators of West Acholi Cooperative Union (WACU) with support from We Effect, I was equipped with more information and better skills in leadership and communication,” said Joyce. “I assessed myself and the qualities I possessed were strong, I took it upon myself to educate and improve myself more because I had decided to run for Board leadership of the Union.”
Along the way, she encountered challenges, especially from fellow women who discouraged her with a rallying call that ”Union Leadership is a man’s role” upon which justification to step down was made. Despite all the opposition she faced, she braved on with her interest until the Chairperson of Palaro Odek approved of her nomination and furthered it to the Union. Against all odds, she beat all her male contenders.
Joyce Ocaya is currently among the three (3) women that are currently serving on the Union Board. She is serving her third year as Board Member representing Awere Road, and also a member of the Union Finance Sub – Committee.