Angela Semanda is a pharmacist who lives and works in Kampala, Uganda. “I wanted to have a real purpose to get up in the morning,” she said in April 2016, reminiscing over her last few years of work.
Since finishing school, Angela worked at different pharmacies and under different managers, but aspiring to make a bigger impact in her community sent her online. After a quick Google search, she stumbled across the East Africa Women’s Mentoring Network that was being organized by the USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance Project, on the last day that applications were being accepted.
The network used an online mentoring platform to connect mentees and mentors, but as mentoring relationships grew stronger many women kept in contact in different ways, such as email, Skype, or WhatsApp.
“I am very interested in sexual and reproductive health,” Angela explained, and so were many of the other mentees and mentors in the network. In her free time, she volunteers as a trainer with an organization in Kampala that provides reproductive health services and information for youths and adolescents.
Recognizing that she wanted to put this passion front and center in her career and community, Angela dreamed of starting her own community pharmacy, because she saw that pharmacies and drug shops were the primary point of care and health information for many Ugandans who could not afford consultation fees.
Although facing the uncertainty and risk of entrepreneurship, and leaving a stable job, Angela’s mentor, Ruth Kavuma, was crucial in helping her take the first steps. She still remembers what Ruth told her, “Lack of money never stopped anyone. What stops you is if you do not have the heart to succeed.”
So in January, after saving money for two years, Angela opened her own community pharmacy in Kampala. Now that she is in charge, she has a little more flexibility and free-time to volunteer, to train young women and adolescents on sexual and reproductive health, and to work in her community. “I love it. That’s why I do it,” explained Angela sitting at a desk in her pharmacy, next to a stack of books topped by Screw Business as Usual by Sir Richard Branson.
“I feel like I learned that I just needed someone to tell me, ‘You can do it,’ and then I was able to start the things that I knew I needed to do,” Angela said while reflecting on her relationship with Ruth and her experience with other participants in the mentoring network.