Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza On Becoming A Voice for Women and Change

Fatuma Ndangiza with Assert Media

In a world where women’s rights and good governance are crucial for social progress, Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza stands out as a transformational female leader.

Born in 1968 in Uganda to Rwandan refugee parents, her journey from humble beginnings to becoming a women’s rights advocate, peacebuilder, policy expert, and seasoned politician is inspiring. 

Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza is a visionary and pragmatic leader who embodies the values of integrity, social justice, and hard work. Her 30-year public leadership journey was influenced by the plight of Rwandan refugees, who had been denied the right to citizenship and a dignified livelihood in their motherland. 

In 1991, after obtaining her university education with a bachelor’s degree in Education, she joined her fellow compatriots within the Rwandan Patriotic Front to contribute to the liberation struggle aimed at emancipating Rwandans from decades of divisive and discriminatory politics to a united and reconciled nation. As a young political cadre, she was in charge of political civic engagement, focusing on the political and economic empowerment of Rwandan women living in exile.

From Refugee Status to Humanitarian

Her early years of service

Amidst the war and genocide against the Tutsi, driven by her compassion, she joined humanitarian efforts in the town of Byumba, Northern Rwanda, providing essential supplies and support to those displaced by the war. She worked with other women to start the SOS Ramira initiative to assist vulnerable women and children in acquiring basic relief services.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of Kigali after she relocated there. From August 1994, she served as a coordinator between the Ministry of Women and Family Promotion and UNICEF, identifying urgent concerns faced by vulnerable women and children and proposing remedial measures to the Ministry. 

Public Career path

Ambasssador Fatuma Ndangiza

From 1995 to 2002, she served in the Ministry of Gender and Women Promotion in various capacities at both technical and managerial levels, including Director for Women in Development and Personal Assistant to two Ministers. 

She also played a critical role in nurturing the women’s movement in Rwanda when she was the 1st Vice President of Pro-Femme Twese Hamwe, an Umbrella Women Civil Society comprising 53 NGOs that promote peace, gender equality, and development.

Ndangiza also chaired a task force that established the National Women Councils to unite Rwandan women and empower them to aspire for leadership and build solidarity in advocating for their rights and priorities to be integrated at all levels of governance and decision-making. The National Women’s Council played a key role in engendering the 2003 Rwandan constitution, which has been amended. 

The Constitution enshrines the principles of inclusion, power sharing, gender equality, and affirmative action of a minimum of 30% of women’s representation in all areas of decision-making. Currently, Rwandan Parliament has 61.3% of elected female MPs the highest globally while 42% of the Cabinet of ministers are women.  

National Unity and Reconciliation, Policy Development and Regional Leadership

From 2002 to 2009 Ndangiza was the Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, an institution that spearheaded healing and reconciliation as well as helping Rwandans come to terms with the past and forge a path towards a peaceful and united country for sustainable development. 

She played an instrumental role in promoting and coordinating reconciliation policies and initiatives.

Ndangiza’s public leadership extended beyond Rwanda’s borders. An Ambassador to Tanzania and simultaneously the first Rwandan Ambassador to the Seychelles, she actively fostered bilateral diplomatic relations, trade, tourism, and regional integration. While representing Rwanda in Tanzania, she was also accredited to the Republics of Zambia, Malawi, Seychelles, and Madagascar, as well as promoting her country’s interests in the East African Community and COMESA.

She later served as the Deputy CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board, responsible for good governance and decentralization. In January 2012, she was nominated by the APRM Forum of Heads of State and Government to be a Panel Member of Eminent Persons representing the Eastern African Region for a tenure of 5 years. She served in different leadership capacities and was elected Chairperson of the APRM Panel of Eminent Persons from 2014–2016. The Panel ensures the integrity and credibility of APRM voluntary governance peer reviews in APRM and AU Member States.  

During her tenure, Ndangiza advocated for the participation of the APRM in the design of UN Agenda 2030 monitoring indicators related to governance and for the APRM to play a monitoring role at the continental level to assess the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063 and UN SDGs.  To enhance funding, visibility, and mainstreaming of the work of APRM, she advocated for the integration of APRM into the African Union. Currently, APRM is the premier African Union governance body on continental governance matters.

From 2012–2015, she was a member of the EAC Verification Committee and Negotiations Taskforce on the accession of the Republic of South Sudan to the East African Community, where she led the Rwandan team of experts. In April 2016, the Republic of South Sudan was admitted by the Summit of EAC Heads of State as the 6th Member of EAC.

At the nomination of Her Excellency Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the former Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Fatuma Ndangiza headed the African Union Election Observer Missions to observe presidential elections in Namibia in 2014 and the first ever All-Women AU Observer Mission to observe Parliamentary Elections in Seychelles in 2016. She was also the Deputy Head of the EAC Observation Mission during the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections in Kenya in 2022.

Voice for Change in the East African Legislative Assembly

Voice of Fatuma Ndangiza

Since 2017, Ndangiza has served as a Member of Parliament in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), representing Rwanda. Apart from discharging the Regional Parliamentary mandate of legislation, oversight, and representation, she has held various leadership positions as Chairperson of the EALA Committee on Legal, Rules, and Privileges (January 2018- July 2020), Chairperson of the EALA Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution (August 2020- December 2022), and EALA Commissioner from January 2023 to date.  

Utilizing this platform, she continues to be the driving force in championing gender equality and women’s full participation in the East African Community’s (EAC) integration agenda, including in decision-making processes within EAC organs, institutions, policies, programs, and legislation.  She was a pivotal figure in reinvigorating the EALA Women Caucus, where she currently serves as Secretary General. Her focus remains regional policy harmonization and promoting legislation to advance the EAC mission of widening and deepening economic, political, social, and cultural integration to improve the quality of lives of EAC citizens through increased competitiveness, value-added production, trade, and investments. 

Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza at TLS 2024
Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza (first, right) at TLS 2024

In early March 2024, she was present at the 5th Transformational Leadership Summit, where she lent her voice to the topic, “Bridging the gap between traditional and political leadership of sustainable development in Africa.” She was also awarded for her leadership and achievements during the summit.

Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza’s leadership and advocacy continue to inspire a new generation of women to strive for gender equality and justice. As she embarks on her second term in the East African Legislative Assembly, her legacy as a champion for women’s rights, and accountable and transparent governance remains a guiding light for the future.

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