By Samuel Lutwama
When Rosemary Nansubuga Sseninde got married in 1985 at the age 20, she decided to try something that has for long obsessed her from childhood- being a leader.
This was after she had put her education on hold after senior six to begin family life. A natural leader, who started from the grassroots level of chairing women groups in her village to become a women MP of parliament for Wakiso District, has been a giant stride taken.
In many ways, Hon Seninde, 50, the mother of seven is a blend of modern and typical suburban cultured African mom.
Over the years, she has created her own brand of dressing. Many times she appears before the public clad in her trademark traditional busuti, something that has won for her many admirers among the women’s constituency in the district.
At the time of the interview, she was scheduled to preside over a public function and she was dressed up in traditional attire (busuuti).
Clearly her life is full. But looking back, her life was preset by personal choices and circumstances beyond her. The oldest of the children, Nansubuga grew up in with her mother and grandmother; Millicent Sewali, a medical nurse, whom she says influenced her life.
Her father who abandoned her mother was out of picture while growing up. Perhaps because of the instability in her family, she spent most of her school life in boarding schools, a place where she found so much love she needed as child.
While at St Agnes Naggalama, destiny placed her in the hands of a wonderful sister Bon Nalwadda, the school’s headmistress. Sister Boon took her under her wings; she wanted her to be a nun.
Her future mirror changed when she tested leadership offices at St Joseph Nsambya and Trinity College Nabingo. In the meantime, sister Boon kept on instilling virtues in her. “She taught me how to be a lady and how to excel in class,” she talks proudly about her.
She would give her much work than others. “At the time, I thought that she was mistreating but when I grew up I realized that she just loved and cared for me,” she adds. The virtues she received proved to be forthcoming in the later years when she started her family and subsequently her political career.
Riding on the husband’s support
Although it’s usually said, “behind a successful man, there is strong, wise and hardworking woman,” but with her case roles are reversed.
Nansubuga’s craft into leadership, however, was largely aided by her husband; Kizza Zephaniah Walube Sseninde a veteran politician in the area. She attributes her political success to her husband. “My husband is mentor and greatest cheerleader. Having been in the political field before her, he has encouraged and supported her on how to navigate the murky political waters.
Ironically, a mother of seven started as a chairperson for women’s group on the local council, but then scaled through the ranks to become district councilor, then vied for a parliamentary seat, which she won in 2001. A position she has held to date. She however seeks for another terms says that she has unfinished business in the parliament
A primary teacher with big mind
Prior to taking on politics as career, she pursued teaching profession. This was after her husband opened up a primary school; Kidde Primary School in 1989 where she worked as director. So there she was, at 24 steering a school without education background.
It was then that she realized the need to take apprenticeship course in education. She enrolled for a Grade three course at Lady Irene College in Ndejje. It was a giant step that led her to earn a, Diploma in Education, a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources management and a master’s degree in Public Management from Makerere University.
While in Parliament, she initiated and founded Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Quality Education, an organization that oversees quality education in the country. “As Member of Parliament, I am so passionate about quality education,” she said.
On parliamentary weighing scale
Definitely there has been a lot of highlight since she joined parliament. “As a teacher, I am an organized person and I have done my services in my constituency in an organized way,” she said when tasked to highlight her achievement for the last fifteen years.
She said she has been able to solicit funds for her constituency, a revolving funding arrangement whereby people are funded in farming projects. “In agriculture I have been able to get seedling and training for my people,” she emphasized.
Because she was teacher first before strode in parliament, she knew the challenges faced in the educational system therefore she managed to come up with a program where schools and parents are sensitized about the importance of education for their children.
This program has been piloted in 32 schools in Wakiso district. “The project has paid dividends, in cases where children were getting poor grades, the grades have improved tremendously,” she said, adding, “Arrangements are underway in helping needy children so that they are cared for. So far we have 80 children under that arrangement.”
On poverty alleviation, she boasts of coming up with a program on several sub-countries where youth comes together, form a group and funded for income generating income. With that profile already etched on her career why does she seek another term of office, I wondered. “There program that I have initiated which are still pending which cannot easily aborted during their infancy,” she answered back in poised manner.