UGANDA: It is Time for Women to Reject History, tell Herstory

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Daily Monitor
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

I see little common sense in Kalumba's article on Career women in Daily monitor of July 6. He apologises for sounding sexist but the entire article drips with triple distilled chauvinism and misogyny. Sadly, what Kalumba says is typically representative of the Ugandan male psyche...never accepting responsibility and always blaming women for their shortcomings. The time has come for Ugandan women to reject History and tell Herstory. Let's tell the truth as it is.

Let me share some key truths with Kalumba about women in Uganda:
* Uganda is a country largely dependent on agriculture and women make up the bulk of the labour force yet often clueless extension workers focus on males who have more free time on their hands.
* Women in Uganda do the bulk of work related to caring for children and maintain the home...this is often unpaid work.
* Ugandan women go a long way to subsidising the health sector by being the main care givers to the sick.
* Inheritance systems mainly favour males at the expense of females and there is little motivation for law makers to change this given that most are male and unwilling to surrender their “privileges accorded to them at birth by virtue of being male”
* Ugandan women own less than 10% of land in the country. There is little motivation to improve the situation with “culture” being the excuse.
* Most Uganda cultures treat women like commodities and even pay to receive them in their homes. The reason given is to thank the girls' parents for raising them. No one explains why the boys parents deserve no payment for raising marriageable sons.
* We are facing epidemic levels of sexual violence, particularly against women and girl children but somehow hope for a rosy future despite knowing full well that women are the fulcrum of the family (Kalumba at least got this part right). What happens when you have a weak fulcrum? Kalumba and our policy makers should ponder this.
* Women and children are the biggest losers when marriages break-up or when a spouse dies with some being worse off than they were prior to the marriage.

Coupled with the above facts is the growing number of deadbeat fathers and fathers who do not lend the mothers of their children a helping hand, only going into overdrive at their childrens' graduation parties. Many a time have we seen women who left their jobs to be stay at home moms only for their spouses to throw them out for a new catch after years of sacrifice.

Kalumba waxes on about “...this emancipation thing that translates into being seen as part of the workforce at whatever cost, just like men.” If Kalumba and many others like him are clueless about the fact that women have been a central part of the workforce even before Uganda got its name, then its no wonder this country is doing badly in terms of development. Women are not joining the workforce to portray anything, as Kalumba says.

Women are at the centre of our agriculture-driven economy and if we do not know this, then our development as a country is based on the wrong assumptions and calls for a return to the drawing board!

Women work because, like men, they are human, have aspirations, seek new adventures and have a role in maintaining their families. If we want women to spend more time with children, as do most women, let's push for laws and policies that make it easier for them to do this. For example, organise creches at workplaces, have flexi hours that cater for mothers, and fathers, make it expensive for deadbeat and absentee parents by putting in place stiff penalties and have a reward system for stay at home mothers.

Women get fulfilment from work just as much as men do. What would men be willing to accept in exchange for their jobs? This should be the same standard used as people like Kalumba ridicule women's choices with only “a small cloth business” as the most innovative alternative. I beg to move from rhetoric to critical actions that will actually see us move forward as a nation.