“The ELSA programme changed my life”

Barbara Badaru was one of the participants of the ELSA programme from Mondiaal FNV. Thanks to the training, she improved her negotiations skills, gained a lot of confidence and is now able to work more effectively for the Ugandan trade union for the plantation and agricultural sector.

Barbara Badaru. Photo: Compass Media

“I used to be shy. I hardly dared to speak in front of a group,” 32-year-old Barbara Badaru from the Ugandan trade union NUPAW, for plantation and agricultural workers, says. The young, female union worker also felt out of place at the union. “I was the only young person among exclusively middle-aged or even older people,” the Ugandan says.

Leadership training

However, the young trade union leader gained much more self-confidence through the ELSA training programme, which is organised and financed by Mondiaal FNV. “We received several courses about leadership as well as about different types of people and how you will be able to form an effective team with them,” says Barbara. “I learned more about myself. And the trainers also taught me skills and gave me the confidence that I can be a good leader,” the 32-year-old lady adds.

The ELSA training also came just at the right time for Barbara. In 2019, she became the victim of a serious traffic accident, in which she was the only survivor in a taxibus with fourteen occupants. “Surviving this accident made me realise that I no longer should be shy and scared, but that I had to start doing something for the community. The ELSA programme thankfully gave me the skills to do that.”

Recruiting 8000 tea pickers as new members

With the gained skills and knowledge, Barbara is now able to work more effectively for her trade union. She proudly tells that she recruited over 8,000 new members on the tea plantations in the past six months. “I spoke to large groups of tea pickers while clearly explaining to them why it is important to join the union. I could never have done that without participating in the ELSA-training.”

Barbara now claims her own place within her union and even tries to initiate a cultural change. Many unions in Uganda are still dominated by middle-aged and even older and quite conservative employees. Barbara had to take a critical look at the finances during one of the ELSA assignments. “I found out that we were having high salary costs due to employing 72 people, many of whom actually did little,” says the young trade union leader who is also secretary of the Youth Committee of NOTU, the largest national trade union center in Uganda.

Hiring young employees

Barbara managed to convince the leadership to rejuvenate the union. For example, older, less active employees were guided in finding more suitable work. For specific positions such as IT specialist, the union recruited new people and Barbara convinced the management to hire young people. As a result, seven of the now only 57 employees are under 35 years of age.

Win-win situation at salary negotiations

Impressed by Barbara's newfound knowledge, the general secretary of the plantation union has started to give her more responsibilities. “I told my boss that we had to approach salary negotiations differently. We used to be aggressive and angry. But during the ELSA training, I learned that you should treat employers with respect. I also learned that you should talk about fringe benefits as well so you can get more out of the negotiations for your members. Besides, you should try to make it a win-win situation. Barbara was allowed to join recent salary negotiations and was able to actively negotiate. “We got a ground-breaking 9 percent salary increase,” Barbara proudly tells, who is convinced that this is thanks to the lessons learned during the ELSA programme.

Barbara is delighted that she was able to participate in the ELSA programme. “It has changed my life,” the union worker says, who adds that she otherwise would never have dared to initiate the culture change at her union. “Thanks to the knowledge I have gained and my increased self-confidence, I’m now sure that the trade union is the right place for me.”

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