She is not certain when she was born, although FIDE has estimated it to be 1993. She grew up in the Ugandan slum of Katwe, where as of 2011 fifty percent of teen girls are mothers; when Phiona was about three her father died of AIDS and shortly after her older sister Juliet died of an unknown cause. When Phiona was about nine, and had already dropped out of school as her family could not afford to send her, she found a chess program run by the Sports Outreach Institute, which taught her how to play chess. As of 2011 she is a three-time Women's Junior Champion of Uganda.[ She played on board 2 for Uganda at the Chess Olympiad (Women) (2010). Furthermore, she is the youngest person ever to win the African chess championship. However, if the Sports Outreach Institute cannot raise enough money, Phiona will be unable to attend the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Turkey.
We must look at starting a chess club at our schools. Many of us learnt at school and it is just the sort of thing that could really appeal to our boarders when it is too dark to play out in the evenings.