For this interview, I met Jackee Batanda at her office in Ntinda. She had had a busy day, but she waited patiently for me. “I have refreshed my makeup so that my pictures will be beautiful,” she said as I walked in. She was dressed in a peach tight-fitting dress with black shoes.
“You know, you could write an article without interviewing me because you know almost everything about me,” she said. And she was right. I know about Batanda’s struggle with writing, the joys of success and challenges.
The Batanda I know
I have known Batanda for more than 10 years. We met at Femrite-Uganda Women Writers Association, where we were all trying to write. Batanda was born in Kampala but her family comes from Busitema, Busia district.
“I grew up in a very large family and I am among the youngest children, she says, adding; “My elder siblings always read novels and narrated to me what they had read. That was the beginning of my love for the written word. I wanted to create the same worlds that I saw authors create with their writing. ”
The Batanda I met at Femrite was always an avid reader. She holds an MA in Forced Migration Studies from Univeristy of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, a BA in Communication Studies from Makerere University and a diploma in Education from Kyambogo University. She studied literature in O and A level at Mary Hill and Bweranyangi Schools.
Batanda started writing in her notebooks at an early age and it was when she joined Femrite that her dream of writing came true. Now, Batanda is an award-winning writer, speaker, and enterprenuer with bigger dreams.
“At Femrite, we dreamed of winning the Booker prize without publishing the novels, because we were young and had wild imaginations,” she recalls.
Right from the beginning, Batanda knew that she wanted an international breakthrough in her writing career.
Batanda’s first short story to get published was A Job for Mondu in a collection of short stories by Uganda women writers: Words from a Granary, in 2001. The anthology was launched by the British High Commissioner then, at Hotel Equatoria, and we all had to wear African dresses. We signed autographs and we seemed like stars.
“I didn’t know that writing came with pomp, but I knew that this is where I wanted to be,” says Batanda today. After the publication, Batanda used to go to Femrite offices and sometimes ISIS WICCE on Bukoto Street, because they had free internet for women to use to surf for information on publishing opportunities.