In this special edition of our alumni of the Month we invite you to read about the leadership journey of one determined Ugandan lady who will leave no stone unturned for social justice; A feminist who profoundly speaks of her AWLI memories and how this experience has continued to shape her leadership journey; You will definitely be inspired and stimulated to attend the AWLI.
Getting to know Jean Kemitare
I am passionate about women's rights (especially in Africa) and confident to stand up for these rights as evidenced by my relentless commitment to speak for women. I am assertive and work best by putting forces together to push the values that I hold dear, so while you may not hear/ see me in the media 'breathing fire' many times I will stroke the fire for any women's rights position. My gift of persuasiveness has enabled me to 'light the fire'. I am a social person who easily builds and maintains rapport with a cross section of people across the social spectrum; an arsenal for movement building. My cheerfulness warmth and hard work are some of the key attributes that define my personality as an African woman of Strength.
Sharing her AWLI experience and how it has impacted her personal life and career development through the years
I think I can describe it as my 'click moment'. As I was joining Raising Voices in the job interview I was asked if I was a feminist and I felt I was not – because like many people I was misled about the concept and ideology of feminism. However my 2 weeks in the AWLI made me realize I AM a feminist, I do claim the term and am not afraid to label myself as feminist despite the unfortunate misconceptions that exist about feminism. From the AWLI I gained a lot of confidence in public speaking as well. We talked at length about transformational leadership and for me that concept stuck in my mind, many times I reflect on my work/ actions and debate with myself; is this actually going to contribute to positive transformation of power relations between women and men because that is something am passionate about.
Are there any unique aspects of the AWLI training that have proved particularly effective on improving your work with women?
Yes very many; I will try to elaborate some– standing up for what you believe no matter what! The AWLI awakened the conscious working towards positive social transformation as opposed to band aid remedies hence my interest in movement building for social change.
Confidence to speak out and speak up! Weather by mouth or pen! Understanding patriarchy as an oppressive system with this has come the understanding and interpretation of its impact on every sphere of women's lives hence diminished the temptation to be judgmental about any woman's decisions especially those that are unable to leave abusive relationships. I also learnt how to be a mentor/ positive influence in many people's lives around me – transformational leadership!
The biggest unique aspect was developing the ability to QUESTION! Why do we accept everything we are told as 'gospel truth'? Inability to question has led human kind into many unfortunate experiences and it is worse for women everywhere. That ability to question even things that were passed on to me as divine truth is a big lesson I got from the AWLI.
Networking was a big aspect of the AWLI – some bonds I still have held and work with even across borders.
Would you recommend any young woman to undertake the AWLI training?
YES!!!!!!!!! Obviously for many reasons but I shall cite a few;
• the ability to question should be nurtured in every woman!
• Meeting so many other women from different contexts opens your eyes and provides you invaluable networks that last a lifetime
• The AWLI will provide any young women to understand her life deeply on a personal level and make meaning out of it
• Concretizing one's life goals, or even setting some for those without any at the time!
• Developing professional skills
• Immense personal and career development
Dealing with the challenges we continually face as we advocate for women's rights
I think the fact that no matter who we are; where we are; we are faced with similar challenges as women, this is in a way solidarity. All over the region we have similar histories and double impact patriarchy – (indigenous and colonial) impact our lives in similar ways. No matter the challenges or differences that may threaten the movement's existence we come back to the same place – trying to dismantle patriarchy and the effects it has on us all! So I would say feelings of solidarity have supported the women's movement through the years many women remain committed to advocating for the full realization of women's rights in every sphere of life.
New challenges and New opportunities for African women's Organising Today
• We are facing increased fundamentalisms that are pushing back on gains made previously. In searching for our own identity dangerous doctrines have crept into our ways of life and as usual these affect women more with increase public and private control of women's bodies, and actions
• We have unclear discourses that have crept into concepts like gender, gender – based violence, empowerment etc these have lost their politicized meanings making women's rights work more technical than political
• Fatigue from development partners/ or change in trends? i.e. funding women's rights is now 'out of fashion'?
• With the development of technology it is now possible to mobilise in a short time over a large geographical spread using social media and other ICTs
• We could also strategically use traditional media to change attitudes and beliefs many more people have access to media – and believe in it
• With many more women receiving formal education politicizing the movement is easier
"Women Rising"; what is your message for young women interested in political leadership in your Country?
I applaud them! And go further than that to encourage young women especially to join politics we need more women in decision making arenas. However I would urge them to attend the AWLI first and any other such institutes, the political space is extremely patriarchal and unless one understands patriarchy and its enforcement mechanisms their bright ideas/ dreams/ aspirations can quickly turn into disillusionment/ co-option as they try to manoeuvre the political sphere, or to survive!
Leaving a Foot Print
A courageous woman who had immense positive influence on the personal and professional lives of many people especially women.