Washington, DC 202.408.9450 © 2012 Women's Democracy Network. All rights reserved.
Robinah Nanyunja Advocates for a Greener Uganda
Kampala, Uganda–In the war-torn nation of Uganda, years of conflict, political instability and a rapidly expanding population have put considerable strain on the country’s formerly abundant natural resources. The country’s increased urbanization has resulted in the destruction of its forests and the pollution of its rivers. In the midst of this Robinah K. Nanyunja, a member of the Women’s Democracy Network, has used her talents as an environmentalist and an entrepreneur to advocate for environmental responsibility and grassroots democracy in her homeland.
A longtime advocate of sustainable development, Nanyunja began her career as a researcher and analyst for projects sponsored by the United Nations as well as the Ugandan government. In 2006, she founded her own company, Pilot International, an organization whose objective is “to promote global, sustainable development for the benefit of humanity and the planet.”
In this role, Nanyunja has spearheaded several successful sustainable development projects in local communities, empowering local groups to take ownership of the projects and continue to implement them as a result of her guidance. Notably, she is implementing a community initiative to promote the use of briquettes as an alternative source of fuel. The project provided training to members of the local community on converting urban domestic waste into briquettes, which then provides a sustainable alternative to wood and charcoal. The project has fostered collaboration between diverse groups, from civic leaders and civil society to women’s development groups and local government officials. As a result of these efforts, Nanyunja was honored with the East African Community Philanthropy award in July 2013 by the East Africa Association of Grant Makers.
Nanyunja’s background in promoting environmental responsibility led her to advocate for increased attention to green politics on the national level. She found a platform for her message through the Ecological Party of Uganda (EPU) where she was elected vice president of the organization in 2010. In EPU she has worked to enhance the party’s effectiveness by focusing her attention on civic education, mobilizing support and strengthening the party’s structure. She has also battled corruption within her party. When the sitting president was involved in a financial scandal, Nanyunja played a major role in investigating the allegations against him. As a result of her active role in EPU, she was elected President General of the party in 2013.
The EPU, under Nanyunja’s leadership, is preparing for its first major challenge – the national elections in 2016. She is also focused on building the party’s grassroots democracy by empowering leaders at the local level and plans to hold a delegate’s conference later this year to elect party leaders at all levels, thus taking the first step to secure EPU’s representation in the Ugandan Parliament. Nanyunja is also promoting women’s advancement in the party, stating, “Our plan is to field 10 candidates for parliament and 20 local councilors. My target is to have half of the contestants as women.”
Nanyunja’s political engagement has propelled her to the international stage. She currently serves as the treasurer for the African Greens Federation, a coalition of green political parties from 29 African nations. In this role, she incorporates an environmental focus into policy on the pan-African level. She also oversees the financing for affiliated parties throughout Africa.
Nanyunja is well aware of the many challenges facing her party in the upcoming elections. However, she is confident that by identifying local leaders who can impact sustainable change in their communities and mobilizing community members to take ownership of sustainability efforts, Uganda can look ahead to a greener future.