Monday, September 11, 2006

Proud to be Ugandan

At first sight, Kakiiza might strike you as a Somali or a South Africa. But she is purely Ugandan. She is beautiful, selfless, intelligent and likes challenging situations. Ivy Kakiiza might not be a familiar name but she has made her mark in the Diaspora. She is the European Campaign Coordinator with Actionaid International. Her work among other issues involves advocacy for women's rights as well as trade justice. Nonetheless, she is a lady who is free with everyone. As a matter of fact she is always ready to listen and learn from anyone. She is an amazingly simple lady by nature. I discovered this as we went around visiting different communities and people with the Get on Board bus campaign. She was in the country to enhance the campaign as well as make comparisons with European cases. She loves children and she would generously listen to their experience, most times getting overwhelmed with emotion at their sad tales. This, she says, is one of the things she has learnt from her mother. Kakiiza, 29, hails from Kabale in South Western Uganda.At the age of four, Kakiiza's family left Uganda for Nairobi where her mother had got a job. This was the first time she ever travelled across the border. Little did she know that this was only the beginning of an endless travel story. Before she knew, she was going places. She attended her kindergarten in Nairobi, a town she says she loved. After three years, she moved on to Brussels in Belgium for a short while before she moved to London where she was not only introduced to a whole new life but started her basic school studies. She recounts that above all her mother, Faith Semitarabana, wanted her to give her the best upbringing. When she left Nairobi, she joined boarding school in England at Rookesburg Park, an all girls' school for her elementary education before she joined Westwing girls' School and Bristol for her high school, in London. She then went back to Brussels for her college before joining the prestigious Middlesex University still in South London. All throughout her school days, Kakiiza says one thing lay at the back of her mind. She had to work hard not to disappoint her mother who had single-handedly raised them (together with her other two siblings). At Middlesex University, she studied Politics and Philosophy.
DETERMINED: Ivy Kakiiza during her last trip to Uganda at Barlonyo Internally Displaced Person’s Camp. Kakiiza looks up to her mother as a role model. Photos by Wandera W’Ojumbo
Kakiiza has worked with IBM based in London as well as Webershand Wick Consultancy. "I was lucky that I immediately got a job and started working. IBM [International Business Machines] offered me a job as a consultant at their London base. It was good experience and I was there for a year before moving back to Belgium. That was in 2001. In Belgium, I worked for some International consultancy called Webershand for a year."She doesn't strike one as a Ugandan more so because of her accent which is foreign. Her general lifestyle also, is western but she occasionally made an exclamation in her mother tongue, which usually made heads turn. She hails from a family of four, two sisters and her mother. She says her great grandmother who she describes as a strong woman, lives with her bigger extended family. Her two other siblings are also out in the Diaspora. Vanessa Semitarabana King, who follows her lives in Liberia with her husband where they run joint family businesses. The other sister, Angella Semitarabana, lives in Brussels and works with IBM.
Patriotic"Sometimes when I tell people that I am from Uganda, they find it hard to believe me but I am a patriotic woman and I can tell you I love my mother country. I have made friends out there but I keep on coming back to check on my family and friends. I feel homesick at times," Kakiiza says. She adds that she has always had a passion for organisational work dealing with challenging issues. She says her work is all about engaging the South and North in terms of activities for programmes on issues like poverty eradication, HIV/Aids and debt cancellation. Asked about what has propelled her to such heights and repute, Kakiiza discloses that it has been hard work coupled with determination. She says she has always had a go-getter attitude and believed in herself. "I learnt this from my dear mother. As a single mother, she always encouraged us to believe in ourselves since she is a confident lady herself. “So as I grew up, this became a stronger reason to prove to her that I had heeded her advice. In life, I have also realised that it is actually very important to have self-drive," she says. It is obvious that her mother is her role model.As a young Africa lady working overseas, she says she has loved challenging herself to work hard to prove herself against men and learn from situations and the people she has met in her line of duty. This has helped her easily acclimatise with different environments and people. This has also been an avenue for her to make friends.
Representative"At some point I don't want to judge myself as being someone special. I want to think of myself as a woman doing a job and representing all that is good about being an African woman." She loves African crafts. The African bungles especially look good on her. She tells me she shops for these every time she comes around on her private trips to pay a visit to her family in Kabale. She has her country at heart and looks forward to retuning to Uganda one day. Meanwhile, she has a plan of buying one of her dream houses in Brussels. A peep into her lighter side reveals a playful big girl, if only she gets some time off her rather busy schedule.


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Getting to Nairobi

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