I am inspired by women. Since childhood I have been accompanied by a sense of awe at what African women achieve in spite of daily challenges. From my mother, who raised three kids and built a home and worked a full time job and began multiple businesses, to historical figures like Queen Muhumuza who took up arms against British imperialists.
Still there is nothing like seeing the achievements of someone your own age, of similar circumstance to wow you into trying harder and being better. Some of us are motivated by envy and fear. Some of us see other’s accomplishments as raising the ceiling for what we thought possible. Regardless of what gets you up in the morning, here are ten Ugandan women under 30 who will inspire you.
Amito Stacie Lagum
Winner of Africa’s Next Top Model, Aamito’s star is on the rise. After years pounding the pavements of Kampala’s limited fashion scene, her rewards are much-deserved. In a country where the uninformed see modelling as only slightly better than prostitution, and where dark skin and Northern heritage is worthy of slurs, Aamito’s success must be applauded. Ethereally beautiful, relentlessly classy, persistent in the pursuit of her dreams, I cannot wait to see what is next for this young lady.
They say surround yourself with people who are better than you, and I did, so full disclosure, this young lady is one of my good friends. You do not have to know her personally to be impressed by her talent and drive. At only 24 she is a columnist for the New Vision, turning her own experiences as a woman in this country into hilarious missives on a weekly basis. On her blog, she writes with candour about issues of sexuality, something that no Ugandan woman has done so openly and to such a large audience. This year she made the leap of leaving formal employment to focus on her own dreams, which include FitClique 256, a group she began to promote physical empowerment for Ugandan women. Mildred told me,
“I have a lot of ambitions now, which makes me think about the futility of worrying. I achieved what I had been calling my grandest ambition at 21 and my fear of no longer having a goal to work towards made me launch a career in a field that wasn’t at all right for me. I’m glad that I found the courage to break free because now I can put all my energies into things that make my soul sing.”
FitClique now boasts its own gym space and a weekly schedule of trainers and activities including dance, self-defence, Afrikan Yoga and strength training. Mildred Apenyo is already an example of the renaissance attitude and industriousness of Ugandan woman that keeps this country moving forward.
At only 12, this MC Flower is by far the youngest on this list, but she has already accomplished more than many twice her age. As part of the Bavubuka All Star Crew, MC Flower performs lyrical content far beyond her age to crowds that leave even grown men shaken. Expressing oneself is an art that takes many a lifetime to master. Having a commanding stage presence is a skill that many of us will simply never achieve. These are the reasons MC Flower makes this list of young women who inspire.
You may have seen her name on bylines for international outlets like The Guardian, The Independent and Al Jazeera, giving a much-needed local perspective when Uganda is in the news. Patience Akumu caught my attention for galvanizing protest against the recent rash of street assaults following the passage of the Anti-Pornography Act. She is also a winner of the 2013 David Astor award for journalism. For defending women’s rights, and for turning online activism into offline advocacy, Patience Akumu is a young woman to watch
While others despair about the nation’s dismal youth employment rate, Ugandan women are taking risks and starting their own businesses. Nina Kebirungi is one of those young women turning her talents into profits. Her beautiful designs are increasingly being seen adorning the bodies of the tastemakers and the trendy, at weddings, functions and on the street. The future belongs to the brave, the gifted and more importantly, the job creators of which Ms Kebirungi is most assuredly, all three.
Speaking of gifted, have you heard MoRoots blow? The singer, songwriter and saxophonist is one of the most exciting new talents in the local music industry. A classically trained musician, she is part of two popular bands, Qwela and Souldeep, and holds down a full-time job. She has found success playing her tunes at different functions and has grown a fan base so strong it extends to Kenya and beyond, proving wrong every parent that squashed their child’s dreams by saying music is not a respectable profession. I asked her what inspires her and she told me:
“I’m greatly inspired by the potential of impact that I could have in this world. The idea that as an individual, I possess the ability to affect someone by what I do, or the way I do it, is greatly inspiring. I’m musically inspired by people’s experiences and my interaction with our environment – the “hecticness” of Kampala, the sounds of the city, being stuck in traffic jam, birds, stories that people tell me about their lives”
For her drive and work ethic MoRoots is an inspirational woman, but it is her talent that ensures that she will be following her music career, wherever it takes her.
As the name that comes up whenever the subject is Ugandan women in tech, Evelyn Namara has made something of a brand of herself. She represents a generation of young women including Maureen Agena, Terry Karungi, and others who are making waves in the technology sector. Whether pioneering accessible, locally relevant mobile apps, representing international organisations like Solar Sister, or ensuring that other young women have access to the same opportunities, it is obvious that young Ugandan women will not be left behind in the technology revolution.
Esther is a Public Relations “rockstar.” She has used her skills and connections to start 40 Days, 40 Smiles Foundation. Through fun events, Kalenzi galvanizes the support of Uganda’s young middle class in order to raise money to support vulnerable children’s homes. With each successful event, Kalenzi makes charitable giving fashionable among those with the capacity to make the most difference. For this reason, African Woman salutes her. I congratulated her on the recent success of the Women’s Day 40-40 event, and she had this to say:
“To be honest I am often shocked by the ‘attention’ 40-40 has brought me. I don’t think what I am doing is extraordinary. I think all youth should be improving their society in one way or another so that this ceases to be News. That said, I had a little dream that grew wings and I believe every woman should get up and fly with hers.”
Whose patriotic heart is not warmed when they see Gloria Wavamunno exhibit at London Fashion Week, when her creations adorn models in international magazines? Gloria Wavamunno has gone from strength to strength in building her own high fashion brand. When others dismiss her because of her famous family name, they dismiss the fact that she is a multiple business owner, from a boutique in Kampala to her design house in the UK where her name means nothing. The creativity, talent, drive and acumen necessary to achieve all this, make her someone any young Ugandan woman can look up to.
To paraphrase our neighbour, and current It Girl Lupita Nyong’o, all dreams are valid. If yours is to see your work glide down the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, Wavamunno’s achievements just brought your dreams a few inches closer.
Tired of the unfair and unequal representation of Ugandan women in the media, Rwakabukoza started Mon pi Mon. It is an online space for Ugandan women to write about and discuss issues affecting them. In the wake of recent misogynistic comments by government figures like Minister for Youth Ronald Kibuule, and Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, Mon pi Mon has been vocal in its disapprobation. Proving that not all Ugandans have a morally conservative, and fundamentally anti-woman perspective; young women like Rwakabukoza have ensured that their voices are heard and amplified. I asked her about being one of a small number of young women to call themselves feminist without ifs, ands or buts and she said,
“I have always wondered why feminist somehow ended up as activists. I have found that feminism for me is an active process: reminding each other where the system fails, and also reminding ourselves when we reify what is problematic in the system. It is a journey of continuous learning and unlearning”
By: Kampire Bahana