BLOGGING: Prudence Nyamishana has always wanted her freedom, just like a butterfly. While other people were dreaming of becoming doctors, pilots and engineers, her dream was to be different and create a difference.
Blogging is one of the budding professions that new media has spawned. While many ‘bloggers’ use their social media platforms to spread gossip, serious bloggers hinge on their passion to create a niche from where they can transform people’s lives.
Prudence Nyamishana uses her platforms to amplify the voices of the disadvantaged. After her studies at Bishop Kivengere Girls School, Muyebe in Kabale and St Joseph Girls Secondary School Nsambya, the, ‘30-something-year-old’, as she describes herself, studied Education at Kyambogo University, majoring in English and Literature.
Namishana taught literature at St Mark’s College Namagoma and St Lawrence Collage Paris Palais before she quit teaching to become a social justice blogger. She runs a blog, Pru’s Notebook, which is followed by 6,363 people.
She is also the co-founder and head of strategy of Kweeta Uganda, an organisation that deals in strategic communication, advocacy, social media campaigns and multimedia production.
How did the idea of blogging come to you?
I started blogging in 2012 as a way of grieving my mother. I had always had a desire to write. I wanted to give myself a voice and space for expression.
What was your first blog about?
It was ‘Uganda is stuck in a bad relationship with Museveni’. It came from a conversation I had with a boda boda guy on the way to the market. The road was full of potholes and I was thinking: “My goodness, we have been in this relationship for a long time. I wish this guy could just give way and create space for young people with new ideas”. I was hungry to start something. It was a new beginning for me. That boda boda guy sort of gave me an inspiration because we had a wonderful conversation.
As a child, what had you dreamed of becoming?
This might sound strange, but I have always wanted to be a butterfly. I wanted freedom. So, while others were dreaming of becoming engineers and doctors, I wanted the freedom to make a difference and that is why I have always been a rebel in my thinking.
What was your last blog about?
I wrote about the prisoners in Ndorwa (government) prison doing forced labour. When I spoke to the spokesperson of Uganda Prisons Service, I realised that as a country our standards are very low. They think it is okay for prisoners to work like donkeys. But, shouldn’t we be aiming higher? I mean, prisoners deserve rights.
Why is your blogging focused on the downtrodden?
It comes from what I see around me. I have always been compassionate and sensitive to my surroundings. When I see a child begging, I am curious because although everyone has a voice, their voices should be amplified. My writing does not come from experience. I had a very wonderful childhood in a relatively priviledged family. I just want to use my little priviledge to help those around me.
When did you decide to take blogging further and co-found Kweeta, Uganda?
As I was running Pru’s Notebook, I was engaged in many social media campaigns, out of passion and also to raise money. I had also started an online movement, This is Uganda, that tells positive stories and celebrates unsung heroes. One day, my friend, a journalist called Rosebell Kagumire called me and we sat down to think about forming an alternative platform to tell stories about human rights and inclusion, gender rights, feminism, and women in media.
‘Kweeta’ is a Rukiga/Runyankore word that means ‘call’. We needed a brand that is close to an action that describes communicating. We both had our different jobs but we followed our hearts and passion and later, funding followed us.
Did you feel pressured by your parents to get a ‘real’ job?
Blogging is gradual so they did not understand it. It is an anxiety-inducing thing to leave a comfortable job to start blogging. My parents could not understand how I was surviving in a ‘gig economy’. In the beginning it was one gig after the other. But, I enjoy some priviledges — I have zero responsibilities. I am the last born, and I do not have children yet, so I can afford a minimalist life.
My siblings do not understand blogging either, but they do not see me complaining. I am independent, I take good care of myself and I travel the world. I am learning more about content creation, getting exposed to critical topics and emerging technologies. So, a real job is not about being in an office and wearing a suit every day. For me, the real job is that I have decided to follow my heart. But, it is hard work.
How has travelling the world opened your eyes?
I have realised that although people in most African countries are struggling, there is beauty. I am more open-minded because I have interacted with people of different races and cultures on different continents. My stereotypes have been completely dismantled and trivial things such as tribalism do not come into play. Every race and tribe has beautiful and annoying people, so you approach everyone as an individual.
Is blogging about sharing gossip or writing about one’s passion?
Blogging is about choices. I have chosen to write meaningful stories that amplify the voices of girls and women, sex workers, and prisoners. I believe that if the country is making policies without focusing on the last person — a child selling bananas in the middle of the road at night just to make ends meet— then those policies are useless. That is why we tell human interest stories.
What has been your most influential blog?
I have a feeling that we have lit a number of fires and challenged other bloggers not to just write about trivial things but to think critically on how to utilise their spaces. My blog is followed by people I least expected, so testimonies about how I inspire people have influenced me.
What challenges do bloggers face?
Blogging is lonely. You do not have an office; all you have is yourself, your computer and the people you interview. And then, there is the sustainability of it all. You must reinvent yourself and learn from the best so that you can give the best to whatever project you touch.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I draw inspiration from many writers. However, from my youth, I have religiously followed Charles Onyango Obbo’s Ear to the Ground. I like how brave and bold he is in articulating issues and after all these years, I wonder how he manages to write a column every week. I also read other publications such as, The New Yorker because every article comes with a unique character.