The Goethe-Zentrum Institute Kampala in collaboration with Friedrich-Elbert-Stiftung on Saturday 10th September 2016 at the Uganda Museum launched a platform for women and men from various spheres of life academia’s, visual arts, politics, the judiciary, media, and activists from the African continent and beyond with the aim to brain storm black womanhood issues.
The meaning of feminism was unpacked, explored and stripped of preconceptions; prejudice, grounded in African and Ugandan context. Women and men from different spheres of life debated the differences of being a woman or a man in the professional world. Especially in the art world, male artists continue to dominate the local and global scene while women, especially African women, are less visible and their works less distributed, indicating that deliberations on feminist perspective from global south are highly topical.
Hon. Miria Matembe, former Minister of Justice and Integrity and Member of Parliament (MP), renown governance and gender activist in her opening remarks defined a feminist ; As a person who recognizes the equality and full humanity of both a woman and a man. She noted that feminism is not about women, it’s about justice and equality which should not place men and women against each-other but instead work together to achieve a common goal to end social, economic, cultural and political oppression on humanity. She observed that despite major strides and approaches that have been made towards ending injustice and violence, a lot has to be done on the side of women. This is because a huge percentage of the girl-child is still voiceless and under different kinds of oppression, advisingthat collective efforts in both the local and global world should be continuous to end the inequality.
The symposium witnessed different presentations from women activists/feminists as well as counter presentations of men from the panel and audience. Ms. Godiva Akullo, lawyer and feminist lecturing at the school of law Makerere University Kampala said “Feminism is a radical notion with emphasis that women are people” she noted that culture still opposed the progress and growth of women in Uganda through the institution of bride wealth which perpetuates violence against women quoting our grandmother’s used marriage as security but right now women have a voice and choice. She also observed that despite several approaches/practices to end inequality; feminism is still fighting against objectification, infantalization, discrimination, marginalization and oppression of women’s rights she challenged the government of Uganda to pass-out more laws to protect women.
Hon. Justice Kenneth Kakuru, Judge, from Court of appeal discussed men’s role in promoting equal rights and opportunities. He noted that gender equality existed from the bible both man and woman were created in the image of God but wondered where it disappeared or what went wrong. He argued that men have always supported women to grow but women were not getting higher education and good jobs leading to a minimal pay-check, because of that parents preferred to educate boys as compared to the girls. However the trend has changed, today women are occupying big positions due to economic growth and emancipation.
Hon. Agelina Osegge Asio, Woman Member of Parliament-Soroti and Ms. Sheila Nduhukire, Political reporter and News Anchor NTV Uganda through a fishbowl conversation between panelists and members highlighted women should change from the radical approach of feminism to simplicity. Women should be contented and comfortable with whom they are then society will recognize/embrace their feminity but the radical approach will only lead to consistent rejection leading to a dead-end. Certain attributes of culture need to be retained and laws such as the marriage and divorce bill (MAD) had some components which will not protect women but will lead to careless lifestyles of living. Ms. Sheilah Nduhukire, also shared her experience in the profession of journalism is more challenging in the field than in the studio, she noted there are times she has to do strange things like engaging in hotel link-ups with male suitors to get a story.
Mr. James Onen, renown as (FatBoy) said “Ugandan women whine too much, they should stop caring and get over-it” women have to roll with the punches just like men. He noted that men are also molested and face challenges of domestic violence whereas some women have used their natural abilities such as beauty to take advantage of men to get what they want; Men as well take advantage of women’s beauty to get something in return. It’s a give and take thesis!! He further elaborated he doesn’t believe in marriage, neither does he believe in religion. He also cited we all have advantages and disadvantages by virtue of who we are.
African women artists in their experience in art and beyond highlighted that instead of theorizing feminism, we should work towards communism by helping more women get into positions of power. Women should become more concerned about working towards a common goal than labelling themselves. They further elaborated “Art interprets and interrogates life. Art asks questions even when it does not expect an answer” indicating deliberations on development for African roots.
In summary there is need to unpack the concept of feminism to increase greater understanding and creating more spaces for African women in the continent and beyond to dialogue. We all agreed to celebrate the evolution feminism and black womanhood, tell our own stories from a more informed point of view, Additionally we need to walk with the male feminists to un learn negative cultural norms to bring about positive change. Overall the symposium of the (Re)thinking Feminism and Black Womanhood created space for key actors to dialogue on what can be done differently to contribute to ending inequality against women and girls.
By Carol Mercy Asianut