By Joan Akello
Victoria Balyejusa Sekitoleko, former Director and Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), minister, and MP speaks to Joan Akello about her career and retirement.
Anything we do not know about you?
I’m a republican by birth and faith; I don’t treasure monarchies because I don’t understand them like the one of Busoga which my father told me was created in 1934 when he was at school in Kampala he heard Busoga had a Kyabazinga. I feel frustrated by women who are more patriarchal than men; I wanted to be lawyer but I manage agriculture. I’ve never been a farmer.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
It starts within you; nobody can keep your happiness.
When and where were you happiest?
When I prepare a good meal for my husband and make those around me happy.
You were a powerful woman, how did you manage?
When I became minister, I stopped my husband from cooking lest the media got to know. I realised that you need somebody for that soft touch because it is sometimes lonely at the top. But if the man you married is easily intimidated, whatever you do, he will be.
What’s your advice to female ministers and ambassadors?
Go for an annual medical checkup, keep sources of social and spiritual support available and have quality time for your children, family, and husband.
What is your greatest fear?
That we are headed for the worst if the government doesn’t do anything for the youth. Have we nurtured our youths so that when they take over we can take the back seat and enjoy the ride?
What about your party?
I don’t understand what is happening but only hope the issues are handled in the right circles. The president once said that if you’re annoyed, open your fridge, put your head in there and then talk and never to speak off- the-cuff because it’s difficult for anybody to defend you if the media gets you wrong.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Leadership, I find it difficult to follow.
What is the trait you deplore in others?
Lies, especially when unsolicited.
Which living person do you most admire?
Sarah Mulwana; her Jesa Milk is on planes and sold outside Uganda now and I respect Mugerwa Mamerito, the town council chairman for ensuring the entire sub-county of Kiira has tarmac roads.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Shoes. I often buy more than two pairs.
What is your current state of mind?
I do only what I enjoy; the beauty of retiring psychologically after 17 years at UN.
On what occasion do you lie?
Instead of lying, I keep quiet.
What do you most dislike?
People who put down others. When I was abroad, those who were antigovernment or unpatriotic in my house, I would suddenly remember that your driver is waiting to return you to the hotel.
Which word do you overuse?
Bibawo, (things happen)
Who is the greatest love of your life?
Charles Sekitoleko, my husband.
Which talent would you most like to have?
What one thing could you change about yourself?
My wedding date, I would have married my husband three years before; I really enjoy life with my husband.
What is your greatest achievement?
I ‘ve achieved my dreams, been educated and had a great career. My mother was a teacher and my father a policeman so education wasn’t negotiable.
If you were to die and come back what would you be?
As me; not an animal to be slaughtered
What is your most treasured possession?
My husband, children and grandchildren.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Children who lose their mothers when they’re still babies.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Commanding and demanding.
Who are your favorite writers?
Jeffrey Archer especially his book Only the future will tell
Who is your hero of fiction?
Emma Harte in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Woman of Substance.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
One particular woman who worked at Uganda Pharmaceuticals during Amin’s days refused to sell medicines on the black market and Rosa Parks.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My mother who had fourteen children never lost any and none was stunted and those women who put food on the table. What would happen if women went on strike and refused to provide food.
What is your greatest regret?
In Senior Three, one of my uncles asked me about family planning and I said I didn’t know but had I told him the truth, he wouldn’t have produced 17 children and died miserable. In 1993, I imported and distributed condoms to everybody except my family. Three of my brothers died of HIV/AIDS.
How would you like to die?
Peacefully in my bed.
What is your motto?
Never give up.
Why are you shy about your age?
My birth date is 23rd March. I don’t reveal my age because the people I was in class with are now five years younger.In 2011, I retired early and I’m enjoying.