Evelyn Mugisha is an alumna of the G4G UMEME Cohort in Uganda. Learn more about the lessons she learned with G4G that made her move to Australia one of triumph and success.
I dream of a time when women’s perspectives will be at the core of leadership decisions. This would improve livelihoods, grow businesses and transform economies. It is my long-term career goal to develop sustainable solutions to infrastructure delivery and management amidst pressing global challenges like climate change, population growth, resource scarcity and rapid urbanization. My life story, however, has been one of breaking glass ceilings. I was born and raised in upcountry Uganda. As a young African girl, I did not have the same opportunities as the boys but I had the resolve to change that narrative. I worked hard and chose subjects that challenged me. I demonstrated great resilience. The little rural African girl grew to become one of few female architects in Uganda and later take on management positions in Uganda’s leading electricity distribution company, prior to coming to Australia. Along the way, I worked at uplifting other women. I started a social enterprise Evergy Limited where I trained female-led households to supplement their income through waste-to-energy technologies.
I joined Girls for Girls at a major turning point in my career; I was in transition. I had to make the difficult decision to relocate to Australia with my family. In Uganda, my career was picking up, after five years of seeming stagnation. I was involved in a pilot project on energy access, a very rare opportunity to work with Executive Management, owners of successful start-ups in the off-grid space and a reputable funder. New career opportunities were opening up. It also couldn’t have been a better time in my architectural practice. I was getting bigger projects with reputable clients and opportunities to put my mark on Kampala’s built environments. After 10 years of practice, I could finally name a few major buildings that have my signature. My social enterprises in waste-to-energy and low-cost construction were also beginning to evolve into more sustainable lines. At 35 years, I finally felt I was beginning to emerge. And then the big move. It took me over a year to come to terms with it and prepare to move.
At about that time, I was invited to join a G4G mentorship circle. At our first meeting at G4G, we were asked to introduce ourselves. I remember summing up the things I was passionate about. I said something like ‘I am passionate about developing innovative solutions for the delivery, operation & maintenance of large urban infrastructure.’ In a way, my dream career has been that of a city manager because cities fascinate me. I enjoy learning about the various infrastructure that makes cities work. At G4G, I was encouraged by the dreams of my fellow ladies and inspired by the achievements of our mentors. I felt the courage to pursue my dreams no matter what life threw at me and to negotiate. Prior to joining G4G, I was quick to give up. I came to G4G thinking that in a few months, I was going to throw away my dreams, relocate to Australia to become a housewife. As we went through the sessions, on advocating for self and others, building your village, investing in your gathering years, the importance of always being prepared, and others, a ‘lioness’ was building up inside of me. I started to see my moving to Australia more as an opportunity than a setback.
I also started to realise that I was not limited by location; which means that with negotiation and the right strategies, I could still maintain the work I was doing Uganda. I did not have to throw it away to start afresh. I got the courage to negotiate. YES, I DID IT. Previously, I was too shy to speak up for myself. Now, I was not afraid. First, I negotiated to continue supporting the pilot project remotely because I am passionate about energy access and the innovation around this pilot. The second thing I did was to negotiate with a client of mine to continue being involved in a major construction project I was managing. Both clients accepted my proposals.
With the same courage, I started to apply for professional jobs in Australia. In my first month in Australia, I landed my dream job. One that is exactly in line with my career dream of becoming a city manager. I got a project management role with a water utility. My experience to-date had been in design, construction and energy. Now I am getting water, sewage and flood Management experience. I feel that I am getting closer to my dream of becoming a city manager.
I’m now planning to pay it forward. The department I work for runs a gems4stem program in secondary schools in Melbourne. I would like to use the G4G materials to support the gems4stem clubs.