This world is so amazing that I wonder if God is a woman. As I pressed the stop button on my recorder, signaling the end of my interview with Peggy Mutabaruka, Shaggy’s early 2000’s hit song ‘Strength of a Woman’ was the only thing in my head. I found myself singing to its tunes, having been inspired by her story.
During her childhood , Peggy admits she never envisioned herself in her current status but says she owes all that to her determination, smart work and the vision she had for her life. Born four decades ago, Peggy Mutabaruka grew up like any ordinary kid, but in a very strict family. Her folks were ‘‘no nonsense’’ takers as she explains. “They gave us everything we needed - within their reach - and expected us to deliver on our part,” explains Mutabaruka.
From the estates of Uganda where she spent her early childhood days, she moved to Toronto, Canada with her family. It is here that her life utterly transformed. While still at the tender age of seventeen, she met a Somali friend in Toronto who introduced her to the modeling world.
“It’s a sudden turn I took, but not the wrong destination,” she narrated. The friend invited her to one of her modeling events just to watch. At the event, she was shocked when the event organisers showed interest in her. “They wanted to take me in as one of their runway models saying they had seen a lot of potential in me,” she asserts.
The modeling agency then sent her on contract to Tokyo, Japan. Having been in high school and still a minor, she explains that things did not go well with her parents. “Being only seventeen and still in high school, my parents protested the idea strongly but later, my dad relaxed a bit and gave me some back up,” notes Mutabaruka.
In Tokyo, she met famous actors and actresses, models, and designers. For her, modeling was just for fun. From Tokyo, she then moved to Paris on another eleven months contract from where she decided to give it a permanent break to concentrate on her studies. She had taken a three year break off school.
As she explains, modeling was challenging for African ladies as it was a white dominated field. You could find only two African ladies in a whole bunch of forty or so models at an event. It made me feel weird,” she says.
Comparing modeling today to that in her days, she says it has fully revolutionised. “Nowadays it is taken seriously as a career in Africa. People have appreciated it and many are making a living out of it,” she explains.
In 1990, after completing her studies, she moved back to Uganda. She did different jobs before moving to Rwanda where she partnered with Ugandan colleagues to set up Silk Events, an event organising company. After two years, she decided to pull out and establish her own company that she named Galaxy Events. “I felt like I had gathered enough experience and needed to put up something of my own that I was fully responsible for,” she says.
For a year now, her company has grown bigger, and has worked with a number of local respected companies, among them, Tigo, Bralirwa, Airtel and RwandAir. She sees her company as the next big thing in the events organising industry as it has what it takes to scale up the ladder. She also plans to venture into the hotel industry as plans are underway to set up a swanky restaurant in the city’s outskirts.
As for her advice to fellow women, they should believe in themselves and strive to better their welfare. “Gone are the days when women fully depended on their husbands. It is our time to rise and shine and build the nation that we dearly love,” she concludes.
Mutabaruka is a proud mother of four; Ama–Chloe, Kevin, Bailey and Ryan, and a wife to Desire Kamanzi.