Tracy Karuhogo’s journey to being an honouree on a list of the top 100 Black women to watch in Canada began before she moved to Canada from Uganda in 2019.
Karuhogo, UMSU president, was “shocked” to find out she was listed as a recipient of the award hosted by Canada International Black Women Excellence, which was presented on Oct. 28.
“I felt so honoured to have been chosen and to have been recognized,” she said.
Coming from a family with four children in Uganda, Karuhogo was the first in her family to move to a new country to pursue higher education.
In Uganda, Karuhogo said she faced intense sexism, and that there are very few women in Ugandan politics. Coming to Canada, she realized “how racism could affect” her.
“When I moved to Canada, I had to really modify who I was in the beginning,” she said. “I was afraid of using my accent, or I was afraid of knowing where to go. I was afraid of walking at night.”
Karuhogo began her university studies at the International College of Manitoba (ICM) for a year before transferring to the U of M to study psychology and women and gender studies.
After serving on the ICM student council and seeing the faces of the current UMSU executives, she was inspired to become an executive herself, but really she wanted “to contribute something more.”
Despite the pandemic beginning in 2020, which made it difficult for Karuhogo to find friends and community, she started to get involved in student leadership.
Previously, she served as the women’s representative, then the vice-president student life (VPSL), and she is now the president of UMSU.
Karuhogo found her time as VPSL “really incredible” as she was able to work with many different students and support the various community representatives.
“I’m a really huge advocate for women,” and “a really huge advocate for any marginalized group,” she said.
Karuhogo knows the struggles that many women and people in marginalized communities face well. She was diagnosed with PTSD and panic disorder after being sexually assaulted during her first month in Canada. She tells this story to share that despite the trauma someone has been through, “it doesn’t mean that your story has to end there.”
She hopes that other students can think of her story and know that they can make it through difficult situations.
“I hope to inspire them as well,” she said.
Karuhogo is passionate about being an advocate for women, and during her time in student leadership, she has become interested in government relations.
Once her undergraduate degree is complete, she wants to work in government “to make sure there are no laws that are actually causing more harm than good.”
Karuhogo said her ultimate goal is to create a not-for-profit organization that helps to inspire women to enter leadership positions and reach their full potential.
“As long as I can inspire more and more women, more and more international students, I feel like that’s what my main goal in life is,” she said. She hopes “to inspire people to really take that step and move forward.”
Karuhogo said the award is not just for her, it is for all the Black girls who are going through adversity.
“It is a sign of hope,” she said, “that we can still push through barriers and trials and tribulations.”