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Story and Perspective

What “Country-led” Means to Pathfinder Uganda

Ritah Nakigudde Waddimba, Country Director, Uganda


As Pathfinder seeks to advance country-led solutions that achieve universal sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and are deeply rooted in local contextual understanding, Pathfinder Uganda has made three main shifts toward locally led operations and programs:

  1. Power Shifts: Country-led operations and resourcing empower Ugandan solutions for SRHR, climate resilience, and women’s and youth empowerment, which are deeply rooted in the local context.
  2. Local Leadership: Regional presidency in Africa ensures responsiveness to local needs.
  3. Locally Driven Priorities: Technical strategies are tailored to Uganda’s specific challenges.
Ann Mbeiza, FPA Gender Technical Advisor, discussing the dangers of gender-based violence with school children in Kiryandongo district, Uganda

Power Shifts

Pathfinder has abandoned the hub-and-spoke model of traditional international NGOs, with power centered in the United States. Concrete investments are being made in the sustainability and growth of country teams, like Pathfinder Uganda. This allows us to make key decisions about strategies, partnerships, programs, and budgets, and ensures sustainability of our local leadership and technical expertise.

A change that has had a huge impact on our growth and sustainability has been leading the annual planning and budgeting process for our office. In the past, annual planning and budgeting was led by teams in the US, with inputs from country offices. Now, Uganda’s priorities are front and center and can help drive global strategies and investments.

Business development has been another shift. While in the past, business development decisions were made by leadership in the US, in consultation with country directors—I now have the final say over which awards we bid on. For the first time, we have a dedicated local business development office with a highly experienced team that collaborates with program experts and other Pathfinder country offices to profile donors and submit winning proposals.

We’ve also benefited from increased leadership of local procurement and contracting; a country health dashboard with expanded operational and program data that allows us to better use data for decision making at country level; and local IT staff who can give us round-the-clock support, instead of working with a team based in the US that is on different working hours.

Local Leadership

As Country Director, I have assumed greater control over our strategies, budgets, and decisions, and I am now reporting up to Lydia Saloucou, our President, Africa, based in Burkina Faso, instead of a leadership team based in the US. A President who has experience leading SRHR programs throughout the Africa region, Lydia has a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges we face. She supports our office to build lasting and trusted local partnerships for coordination, expansion, and continuity of programs; work through existing structures and systems to ensure sustainability of interventions; and strengthen capacity for localized development programming.

Locally Driven Priorities

Pathfinder Uganda, fully staffed by Ugandan nationals, has a deep understanding of the needs in our country and where Pathfinder can respond. A passionate team of five senior specialists, led by me, formulate the strategic approaches we apply. Driven by overwhelming need, Pathfinder Uganda has expanded its programs beyond reproductive health and family planning to include maternal, neonatal and child health; environmental safety and climate resilience; and communicable and non-communicable disease control. We promote inclusive programming, especially for youth, equipping them with skills for social and economic empowerment.

This story is part of our LinkedIn newsletter series, Country-Led in Action with Pathfinder International, where we delve deep into our country-led approaches, showcasing how our local leaders, teams, and partners are taking the helm in global health and development—leading the strategies, programs, and investments that drive impact in the communities we serve. From navigating complex partnerships to overcoming systemic challenges, we’ll offer practical insights, inspiring success stories, and candid lessons learned about how global organizations can localize effectively.

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