As a child, the 30-year-old Charity Wibabara always wanted to become a great lawyer but it had never occurred to her that she would actually go as far as pursuing a PhD in International Criminal Law and Transitional Justice. But how did she manage to juggle family, work and school at the same time?
Source of inspiration
Born on March 22, 1983 in Uganda, Wibabara says her mother is her source of inspiration.
“My role model is my mother, Faith Mukakalisa, because she emerged from refugee status in Uganda to become an MP in Rwanda for 10 years. She has supported me since childhood and motivated me to study hard. My mother has also raised and educated over 20 needy children up to university. This I believe is a big contribution to society and country,” Wibabara says.
She adds that since childhood, her dream has always been to motivate girls.
“I was always determined to pursue my dream and aimed at motivating other young girls and women out there. I want them to know that it is possible to achieve your dream career as a mother and wife at the same time,” Wibabara says.
But that would possibly be different if it wasn’t for her husband.
“My husband’s encouragement and support also played a big role and I’m so blessed to have him in my life. At some point, I was about to give up on the PhD but he encouraged me to carry on,” Wibabara discloses.
Wibabara, who expects her second child soon, praises her husband, Fleury Davy Arakaza, for being very supportive.
“I got married in 2011 January and had my first child that very year. Although the marriage was still young, my husband and I agreed that I should not waste any time since I was already pursuing a PhD. But of course balancing school and family was hectic,” she says.
But while Wibabara was out there spending sleepless nights in the library, her husband was also undergoing a lot of pressure from his family and friends.
“Many people were wondering how a wife and mother can ‘abandon’ her family all in the name of studies. But for me it was not a big issue because I wanted her to achieve her goals and realise her full potential,” Arakaza explains, adding that they need to work as partners to develop their family and country.
Arakaza says much as a home without a wife misses a lot of important things, he always looked at the bigger picture.
“I was always motivated to support my wife because I knew the output of the PhD would be particularly beneficial to our family and the country in general,” he argues.
Arakaza says their parents usually helped him in taking care for the baby.
She reveals that many women are still unable to balance work, school and family because of either self-imposed reasons or cultural and environmental factors. But Wibabara has some advice for them.
“We should not be bound by historical factors and stereotypes against women to undermine our potential. I mean we have the competence and capacity to advance in our roles and careers just like the men. There is still need to change the mindset of society regarding women and career,” she adds.
Wibabara advises women to take advantage of the Government’s policy to promote women’s standing in society to aim for the highest.
What other people say about her
Wibabara’s supervisor, Prof. Dr. Gerhard Werle, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Transnational Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention, describes Wibabara as hard working and determined.
“I have known Charity since 2009 in the pioneer LLM class of 10 full scholarship holders where she was selected among the 150 applicants and successfully completed her Masters. We then selected her for the PhD in 2010. It was a great pleasure to work with her; she is really an achiever,” Werle reveals.
Dr. Juliet Okoth, Wibabara’s classmate at the Masters and PhD level and a lecturer in Kenya, says: “Three words can give a summary of who Charity is; friendly, intelligent and God fearing. She is very hard working and dedicated to whatever she believes in. I was always inspired and impressed by her love for work and the word of God.”
Who is Wibabara?
Wibabara is the legal adviser of Rwanda Education Board (REB) and a part-time law and justice lecturer at the National University of Rwanda, Kigali Independent University and RDF Senior Command and Staff College Nyakinama.
She had a humble childhood and attended most of her primary school in Uganda until 1994 when her family came back to Rwanda.
“I completed primary at Camp Kigali Primary School before going to Rwanda International Academy for my O’Level. I then attended St. Lawrence Citizen High School, Uganda for A’level and later the National University of Rwanda. I graduated with a degree in law in 2007,” Wibabara says.
She enrolled for a Masters degree in 2009 and a PhD in 2010. Both her Masters and Doctorate were sponsored by Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, a German academic exchange service at the University of Western Cape in South Africa in collaboration with Humboldt University in Berlin.
Focus of research
“During my PhD research, I was focusing on the lessons from the different justice approaches that were applied to deal with the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which involved the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, national courts and the traditional Gacaca Courts.