With a Masters in Economics and a monitoring and evaluation specialist job with UNICEF, Hanifa Nakiryowa was determined to conquer the world. But a heinous acid attack not only changed her physical appearance but also her career.
“I graduated with a Bachelors of Science with Education from Makerere University and a Masters in Economics from the University of Nairobi with the goal to pursue a career in academia. A year into part time lecturing at the Islamic University in Uganda, Kampala campus, I was faced with a life-changing event. I suffered a horrendous acid attack, which not only changed my physical appearance but also changed how I viewed my life moving forward.
In the same year, I had secured a contract with the UNICEF programme at the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council as the Monitoring and Evaluation specialist for the programme to keep mothers and children safe, alive and keep children in school. The experience I got working with vulnerable communities in Karamoja, Acholi and Rwenzori sub-regions, plus my life changing experience of challenges associated with the consequences of the acid attack changed my entire perspective of my career goals.
I developed a passion for social justice. This was driven by the fact that we reluctantly continue to accept institutionalised oppression of women and children in our societies, which makes human rights violations persistent. As a result, despicable atrocities continue to affect many women in our societies and less is being done to address such issues.
I started an NGO to promote awareness of the growing problem of acid attack violence. After realising that acid attack violence was not just a Ugandan problem but rather a global phenomenon, I felt the need to pursue an international development career.
I could not do it any better than considering to return to school, which to many may be a tough decision returning to school after so many years.
I cannot say it was an easy decision for me either; I had to balance between promoting the organisation on ground, single parenting, medical trips for reconstructive surgeries and full-time study. I have now finalised a masters in International Development and Human Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh graduate school of Public and International Affairs, USA.”