Few people can experience what Eunice Namirembe did, living her childhood as a refugee, and still make it to the top.
Today Namirembe is the country director of Text To Change, a social media enterprise that uses innovative mobile phone solutions to send and receive text messages, voice and data. During Uganda’s era of political turmoil in the 1980s, her family fled to Nairobi and lived there until peace returned.
She was only two-weeks-old when they fled and her family only recounted the incidents to her. Life was never the same even after the family returned to Uganda after the war. A far cry from the bungalow the family once called home, they now had to make do with one-roomed accommodation.
The second-born of six children, she had to squeeze herself in half of the room with her siblings. Even adapting to boarding school in Uganda became a daunting task. Namirembe says it took her long to learn Luganda and adapt to a daily diet of posho and beans, week in, week out.
This was at Makonzi boarding primary school in Mubende. Owing to her brilliance however, she was made to skip P3. When the boarding school shock persisted, however, Namirembe was transferred to St Mary’s primary school in Nabbingo for P7. In 1996, she joined Gayaza High School for O-level and later moved to St Joseph girls’ school, Nsambya for A-level and took the Physics, Economics and Mathematics subject combination.
“I was not quite certain of what career I wanted to pursue but my father wanted me to do architecture because he saw enormous potential in it,” she says, adding that her father’s conviction made her delay joining Makerere University by a month.
She, however, enrolled for a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, Economics and Statistics (MES), graduating in 2005.
Lease of luck:
Like many other graduates, Namirembe says she applied for jobs in different organisations without any luck. Her uncle, John Bosco Kavuma, who was then working with National Planning Authority (NPA), eventually offered her a part-time job of writing minutes, reports and research proposals.
Namirembe did this for different organisations that the authority interfaced with. In one of the conferences she attended, she met Arjen de Jager, the programme manager for I-Network Uganda, an ICT development company.
“Jager wanted me to be the programme assistant for the organisation because he said he was impressed with the reports I wrote,” she says.
For Namirembe, joining I-Network was like crossing the proverbial Rubicon, because she got fully acquainted with and adored using ICT for development (ICT4D). Within three years of working here, she was made the country-wide coordinator, monitoring and evaluation, for the network.
“While here, my mind was stretched to realise new potentials because Jager always expected the best out of me. Sometimes, he made me stay awake until midnight, writing reports and perfecting others,” she remembers.
Then once, while at her work, she met Bas Hoefman, a communication specialist and founder and director of Text To Change (TTC), who was searching for a programme manager.
Namirembe joined TTC in June 2011, first as a programme manager and later became its country director. TTC sends messages to different people to remind them to go for counseling, HIV testing and antenatal care, among others. Although the organisation covers a wide spectrum of sectors, such as industry and agriculture, its greatest successes have been registered in the health sector.
Milestones and future:
The fact that she has been able to be the country director of such an organisation still baffles her.
“When I was given this post, I thought I was too young for it and wouldn’t be able to handle it. However, the more I spoke at national and international conferences, the more I built my confidence and was continuously encouraged by Hoefman,” Namirembe says.
Jennifer Alum, her colleague at TTC, who has known Namirembe for three years, describes her as an intelligent and hardworking leader.
“She always compliments us and is not one of those bosses who is always in your face. She is a very calm person,” says Alum.
She however adds that Namirembe is a workaholic, reserved and hardly delegates duties, even when she has a backlog. In April this year, she was the overall winner of Google’s Africa Connected competition for her work with The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG).
She was selected out of over 2,000 applications from 35 countries and won $25,000 (Shs 65m). TMCG is in the process of establishing a mobile pharmacy and building a 24-hour call ambulance centre by using the Google Cloud console and Google maps to record patient information and track patient locations.
Not so many of Namirembe’s acquaintances know that she can plait hair, is a writer and poet. She learnt how to plait hair while at Gayaza high school and this skill helped her make some money while she was at university.
For leisure, she enjoys working out and kick-boxing.
Source : The Observer