Dismissed Until You Prove Yourself – Grace Mukunzi Luwemba


Grace and I met through a mutual friend called Racheal. We are both part of a G4G cohort called ShEagles. G4G is a group of women from different countries, that come together to help empower girls to lead. Here is our interview about her scientific journey:

Who are we privileged to host today?
My name is Grace Mukunzi Luwemba

What do you currently do?
I am a Civil engineer by profession; currently working with COWI, a consulting group that specializes in engineering, environmental science and economics. Specifically, I am currently involved in the preparation of Uganda’s National Integrated Transport Master Plan (2021-2040) as the National Transport-Rail Engineer on part-time basis and in the preparation of the physical development plan for the Jinja-Kampala-Mpigi Regional corridor as a project coordinator/assistant project manager; these being some of COWI’s key ongoing projects in Uganda. My other day-to day activities include preparation of EOIs and proposals as part of business development. My main passion is in everything transportation engineering.

Tell us about your life journey; how did you end up in the engineering field?
I completed my Primary Leaving Examination from Namugongo Girls Primary School, a very strict Catholic school where discipline and abiding by rules was non-negotiable. I then passed extremely highly, getting admitted to Gayaza High School where I did both my O & A-levels. To say the least, Gayaza High School modelled the lense through which I see most of life and of that I am grateful. It is here that I also made the bulk of my friends who have been my social support since then.

I was then admitted to Makerere University, on government scholarship, to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering; graduating 4 years later with a First-Class Degree. After University I had the opportunity of working with Watoto Childcare Ministries, Uganda National Roads Authority, Ndejje University and American Tower Corporation before embarking on a journey to pursue my Master of Science in Railway Systems Engineering and Integration at the University of Birmingham as part of my larger goals to build a niche in transportation engineering particularly Mass Rapid Transit.

All the while, I was being raised by a mother that held me to a higher standard; encouraged and believed in me fiercely. She modelled hard work, persistence and Godliness among other values necessary for achieving anything in life. She was also a big believer in girls being able to do what boys can do. I attribute whatever victories/successes I have enjoyed to her and God obviously.

What is your most prestigious award along this journey?
My most prestigious award so far has been the Common Wealth scholarship to study my Masters.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Having a baby while doing my masters, and at the same time navigating the loss of my mother.

Professionally, navigating the gender bias within our profession continues to be a challenge. In most cases, you are dismissed until you prove yourself.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?
Lately, most of my ‘outside work time’ is spent minding my 2 children, however, I enjoy talking to/spending time with like-minded people. I read quite a bit and endeavour to strike a balance between self-help and fiction. I am a born-again Christian so every now and then I will listen to a sermon/Christian podcast. I love music, so I listen to it when I need to unwind. I am currently working on incorporating workouts into my daily schedule; it’s still an uphill climb.

Anything additional, maybe a quote, word of encouragement, future steps?
In everything;
endeavour to put your best foot forward and never give up!

Thank you Grace for taking your time to speak to me.

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