Kampala, Uganda | AGNES. E. NANTABA | Halima Namakula made her mark on Uganda’s music industry close to two decades ago by turning a nursery rhyme into a well composed and danceable tune. `Ekimbeewo’ was her first and break through hit which launched her into the music industry. But going professional at music would never have been her thing had it not been for a recording glitch for one of her sons.
“In 1998 when I returned home to have one of my son’s record his songs in one of the studios, there was some studio time left so he advised me to record `Ekimbeewo’ that I always sung in the kitchen.
“I just agreed to have something take home because I was not a singer but other people around contributed to make it better,” says Namakula.
Even when it was done in such a short time, the producer predicted its positive outcome. Just a few days after release, the song hit the airwaves of Uganda’s local radio stations and topped most countdowns. `Ekimbeewo’ remains her greatest hit although she has over six albums.
At 57 years, Namakula is also an envy of many ladies for ageing gracefully. She attributes this to keeping happy always, eating healthy, and doing her makeup.
She says, “I am a fully developed person with everything you need to look beautiful because I do my hair and facials”. She says she studied beauty and modeling and they are her professional occupation.
Shespent most of her adult life in USA, where she first travelled to join her husband, the late Samuel Semaala Kiwanuka, in Oklahoma. Namakula chose to return home after more than two decades, partly to care for her ageing mother; 95-year old Afuwa Namuddu. Her children chose to settle in USA. In 2003 she founded a charity; Women at Work International (WAWI), that initially worked with girls and women. She recently added boys.
Under WAWI, Namakula says she has helped over 200 sexual workers off the streets with over 1000 still under mentorship. And with the low sensitisation and implementation of family planning campaigns, Namakula also joined the campaign to educate women on child spacing. It is through this campaign that she got to know about the fistula menace as some of the victims revealed their challenges.
She successfully got in touch with a one Dr Sherry Thomas from USA who donated her time to treat fistula victims in 2012. She recalls up to 141 women receiving total healing.
After the successful camp, she chose to continue with the sensitisation campaign through mobilising, and referring to hospitals. She also hosted first Fistula Walk in 2013.
She is a mother to four biological children and several adopted ones.
She says, “I take motherhood very seriously because it’s a lifetime job and a blessing from God”. She also says she picked her humanitarian tendencies from her mother who cared for many children, including adopted ones. Namakula is the second last born and only girl of the seven children of Namuddu. Only two of her siblings are alive.
Namakula was born and raised in the city suburbs of Kalerwe, went to Mandal Primary School currently Bat Valley Primary School and City High School before conceiving and giving birth to her first son at only 15 years. Even with attempts to resettle her back in school, Namakula conceived again and quit school. She only resumed school when she joined her husband in USA. He died in 1994.
Even without any new songs, Namakula still relies on her built popularity to draw crowds and push her humanitarian work. It is her wish to be remembered as someone who contributed a lot in humanitarian work; especially in Uganda.