Halima Namakula says that it is because of the second chance she got from her mother that she managed to defy all to become the woman she is and selflessly using her image to root for others, especially fistula victims and teenage mothers.
She recalls the hard life her late mother went through to raise her, a trend that has defined her life for so many years.
A singer and an actress who became a mother at 15 years, Namakula recalls that much as sometimes life would be hard, her mother never ceased to help others that sometimes she could share the little food she had served them with a stranger.
A women rights activist and a voice of fistula victims in Uganda, Namakula says that she has always moved in the shadow of her mother that even her entry into music came with a song that used to be her mother’s old Luganda lullaby called Ekimbeewo. She modernised it to become her signature tune.
“EKimbeewo, which is my first song, used to be my mothers’ lullaby that she liked most and she taught me to sing it for her. At times she could be sad and I would come up with a song which could relieve her of some burdens,” she explains
In the slums of Kaleerwe just bordering Mulago in Kampala, Namakula says life at home was not a bed of roses. She was raised by a single mother who hustled to see her get whatever she needed as a child.
She says her mother, the late Afuwa Namuddu, who died recently at the age of 97, was a hardworking individual who did all sorts of basic jobs to bring a meal and pay school fees.
“ I cannot count the jobs that she did but they were mostly odd jobs, especially in markets and on streets. But I recall her selling “malwa”, a local brew, much as she was a Muslim. All she wanted was to see her dependents have a better life” she adds.
Namakula recalls Kaleerwe and Mulago as an active and a sparsely populated suburb and that she could connect with peers easily.
“I grew up with boys and life was fun that because I had no sister at home i ended up emulating their life style” she adds.
Namakula recalls that the place where the Synagogue Church of all nations in Mulago is located was a vacant space with a mango tree they would go to with her brothers.
The 60-year-old says that much as money was limited in their home, she was happy.
“Sometimes she would withdraw food from us to serve strangers who could seek shelter at our home when it was raining. It was sometimes a sad experience but we later got to understand her position and she was nurturing us to be selfless” she says.
Namakula says she was exempted from hard work, since she was a girl, but that never stopped her from learning.
A mother at 15
“My daughter you have done something that I will never forget until I die,” Namakula says that those are the words her mother said when she found out her daughter was pregnant at 15 years.
Namakula recalls that while a Senior Two student at City High school in 1975 , she became pregnant. Though she was worried, her mother did not know of the pregancy up to six months.
“She was always coming back home late in the night and over weekends I could go to visit friends. That is why it took her long to know about my pregnancy,” Namakula says. She, however, says her mother accepted her situation and stayed with her until when she gave birth to a baby boy.
Namakula says her case was the first of its kind in the entire village. “Being a young mother never hurt me initially but later it became an issue because I had to raise my own child,” she adds.
Going to America
A model and a fashionista, Namakula says that the father of her child helped her move to the United States in 1979 where she returned to high school before joining a beauty college and later Casablanca Modeling School.
She says that much as she was not tall enough to be a runway model, she was recruited as a face model, which became her first job. She later got a fulltime job at the age of 23 in Burma Pies, a baking factory in Oklahoma.
“Getting a job was not easy, I was turned down because I could not speak good English” she says.
Her first pay was $3 per hour, the money she accumulated to build her mother a house in Kaleerwe. Among the many odd jobs she did were hairdressing, shoe shining and working in elderly homes.
Namakula the musician
Many who watched television in the 90s recall a character called Mitchell, who played a role “Mitchell Muva Bulaaya” in the famous That’s life Mwattu. That was Halima Namakula for you.
She says that before going to the US, she was an actress and playwright attached to Mugave Ndugwa’s Black Pearls, among other drama groups. She recalls acting in: Wassajja mu bizinga by’e Ssese, Obulamu bwa Ssembirige, Wofiisi Njereere and the famous Galimpitawa, among others.
She says her fame in the Ebonies in their famous play That’s Life Mwattu always got her an air ticket to come and act.
In 1998, she joined the music industry and Kimbeewo is her most popular song which she sold to Nick Studios. She performed it in the US, Europe and Uganda at the time it was the biggest hit on the airwaves.
She claims to be the first artiste in uganda to do a solo show at Nile Hotel (today’s Serena) from which she made enough money that helped her open No End Studio in Kamwokya.
Much as she started music as a hobby, it later became a profitable business that in 2000 she was paid Shs3m to perform.
Child of charity
Namakula took so long to plan for her retirement citing a busy schedule. Apart from being an artiste, she was busy as a woman activist.
During this time, she would send money to Uganda Women’s Effort to save Orphans (Uweso) to help women with fistula.
“It took me time to build my own house. I feel so bad to be happy when others are crying. One day I had to channel money meant for building materials into helping women with fistula and I do not regret,” she adds.
Her investments were mainly in real estate but she says her great investments is the people.
To retire at death
A proprietor of an organisation rooting for teenage mother and fistula victims, Women at Work (Wawi), Namakula says she is on a mission together with her friends Annet Nandujja, Angella Kalule, Eve Ngabirano, Asaba Grace, Ambassador Milton Kambula, and John Bosco Kigozi, among others, to change women’s lives.
At 60, Namakula lives a happy life saying she invested in her children who are the pillars in all what she does.
“I became successful at an early stage but I never used my status against others and it helped me be happy and that is why I never grow old,” Namakula says.
Namakula you never knew
Born in Mulago Hospital, Namakula says she is one of the lucky people who are among the first to be delivered in the early days when the maternity ward was opened to the general public in 1960. She was born on New Year’s day in 1960.
A singer, activist and actor, she studied in a community school then called Kawooya Primary School in Kaleerwe before joining Makerere Primary School.
She says that then she was transferred to Mandall Primary School, currently Bat Valley where she completed primary school. It was from here that she joined City High School.
A mother of six, she is a daughter of the late Afuwah Namuddu of Kalerwe and the late Hajji Ali Musiitwa of Kibibi Butambala District. She is the second born in a family of many.