Barbie Kyagulanyi: Passionate about helping the needy
Babra Itungo Kyagulanyi is a philanthropist, an author, a mother, an activist for women empowerment, a decorator and events manager. Commonly known as “First lady’’, Barbie is the wife to Ghetto president as he likes to be called, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, who has been involved in the country’s politics as an opposition candidate in the recent past.
Born and raised in the south western Uganda district of Ntungamo, Barbie is proud of having grown up in a functional home with doctor parents who evidently did a great job at raising her.
She has fond memories of the community she grew up in and having had a good childhood, in the middle of the many challenges and high mortality death rate because hospitals were far away.
Reshaping the future for young vulnerable women
Because of the many challenges her community experienced growing up, Barbie decided to make a difference and in 2012, she founded a non-profit organization called Caring Hearts Uganda.
The organization teaches adolescent girls how to make and use reusable sanitary towels, constructs toilets with changing rooms for girls in schools, and purchases water tanks for schools to support girl children.
Referring to herself as a lucky child having survived death, Barbie says many babies of their time died at birth because there was no neighbourhood hospital to cater for such emergency cases.
“There was only one bus for public transport and it only served five districts. All pregnant mothers had to converge under a big tree and wait for its return from Mbarara town at 4pm if they wanted to deliver in Kisiizi Hospital. You had no option but to give birth at home if you went into labour at night, through the day, or after 4pm,” she says.
Her passion for the girl child is inspired by a situation where her childhood friend Kyomuhendo was married off while in high school because she had started her monthly periods.
“One holiday when I returned home, I got shocking news. My ‘Kyomu’ was going to get married the next day. Her father got her a “suitable” husband. To the father, Kyomu was a mature woman. She had even had her menstruation! She was a cost to his household,” Barbie narrated in an interview.
Author of books
Golden memories of a village belle, is one of those books that make you want to go home for a visit. In the novel she narrates stories of growing up in a rural grazing community and how the experiences shaped her. It is here, she says, she learnt everything; from dancing, milking cows, and playing the flute.
Practically any African child can relate and identify with the kind of storytelling. In 2021 the Education Ministry of Rwanda approved, and added this particular book to their curriculum which gave Barbie a good rating as an author.
Mother of all
Barbra Itungo is a model mother that inspires many women, especially by the way she relates with her children and the good manners she has instilled in them.
She has four children of her own and is often seen assisting with infants during her caring hearts projects.
Public speaker and mentor
She is a self-made public speaker and mentor who is occasionally invited to speak to young school girls about staying in school.
“I was a virgin when I met my husband; they also can,” she says. Barbie encourages young girls to stay in school and delay sexual intercourse in order to have a bright and healthy future.
She empowers women by skilling them to start income generating initiatives to help them avoid depending on their husbands for everything and also contribute.
First lady, it’s not just a title
Behind every successful man is a woman who did not tire fixing his crown. Barbie is that woman; the virtuous woman of the Bible whose husband found a good thing. Barbie has been credited for transforming her husband Bobi Wine from a young man addicted to drugs, into a political leader who stood against President Yoweri Museveni in the 2021 Presidential Elections, hence the title First Lady.