Pearl Atuhaire, 33, speaks with a calm but infectious smile that reveals the gap between her teeth.
She is a young woman of average build with a large profile that places her above average.
I meet Atuhaire on a chilly Sunday afternoon in a shopping mall in downtown Kampala.
Her knee-high dress matched over a pair of white wedges (shoes) is a true reflection of a stylish young woman with a high fashion sense.
However, beyond the fashion sense, is a passionate young woman whose regard for women rights ranks high on her priority list.
“You are welcome my dear,” she says as she extends a firm grip to extend greeting before signalling me to a seat in a corner of the mall corridor.
Throughout our almost two-hour interview, Atuhaire passes off as cheeky, joking about different things, but holding strong opinions about women rights and development.
“Society continues to restrict women to certain roles. The evidence is right in our own homes and workplaces. At home, we are expected to run the affairs in the house while at the workplace we are reluctantly considered for opportunities,” she says as we delve into her pet - women rights.
“On the other hand, men pursue their dreams and goals with minimal or no major interference,” she adds.
Because of such discrimination, Atuhaire says, women should stand up and fight for their rights that will ultimately come with opportunities.
“We cannot continue to doubt our potential. We need to think big and aim higher to better our lives,” she says.
This, she argues, can be accomplished through self-empowerment and making smart decisions among them making education for the girl-child a priority.
Atuhaire holds a Masters in International Relations and Diplomatic Studies from Makerere University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies at Durban University of Technology in South Africa.
She has also had several study opportunities among them the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which perhaps gave her the platform to appreciate why young people, especially women need to understand their rights.
“It is one of the recognitions I am most proud of. I used to have a self-esteem problem but after attending this fellowship, I gained a bit of confidence and it has indeed made me accomplish so much,” she says.
The fellowship, she says, exposed her to more than she could bargain for and brought her closer to some of the world’s most powerful people including former US president Barack Obama.
“One of the key things he [Barack Obama] told us was that it is not about one’s position or title in society but what they can do,” she says.
She was also a participant in the 2017 Women in International Security Fellowship that seeks to advance women leadership and professional development in the area of international peace and security.
With such a large profile, Atuhaire has been empowered enough to champion women rights, especially in the area of property ownership.
She has also worked with the East and African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, a key initiative that seeks to empower women as well as advancing the women cause.
“I started out [at EASSI] as a volunteer in 2013. However, after six months, I was hired as a project officer before I left to pursue a PhD in 2014,” she says.
Atuhaire has also published literarily materials through which she raises awareness on gender and human rights as well as participating in different campaigns against gender-based violence.
She also operates a women empowerment project - Mume Kwa Muke - which seeks to reduce gender-based violence, especially in refugee camps.
“My PhD focuses on conflict studies. This is ideal for my plan of advancing women rights through reducing sexual and gender-based violence,” she says.
Atuhaire, who is doing her last year on her PhD programme, is optimistic of getting married some day but she refuses to give in to friends and family pressure trying to push her into marriage.
“Why is society so stuck in celebrating marriage at the expense of other accomplishments,” she wonders, vowing that she will only marry and start a family at a time she and God see suitable.
Family and education background
Atuhaire was born in Mbarara Municipality to Mable and John Karuhanga. She has four siblings.
She completed Primary Seven in 1997 from Mbarara Municipal Primary School before joining Kyeizooba Girls School in Bushenyi District where she studied up to Senior Four. In 2002 she joined Mary Hill High School, where she completed her A’ Level education and joined Makerere University to study for Bachelors in Development Studies that she completed in 2007.
Currently, she works with the United Nations Women as a programme specialist.