Imagine being unable to move around at liberty because you are afraid of being attacked or kidnapped, or murdered! Imagine not having the peace of mind to carry out your daily activities because you are thinking about the grief that will strike your relatives when they discover your body with sticks inserted in your vagina. Gruesome! For over a year, at least 42 Ugandan women had been found dead, strangled, with sticks in their vaginas, if not raped. Women had been reduced to market items with kidnappings for ransom being the order of the day in and around Kampala and no affirmative response from security agencies. The pleas for the state to offer women more security as they are seen as the easier targets fell on deaf ears and the perpetrators remain at large.
A citizen collective, the Women’s Protest Working Group, comprised of members of the Uganda Women’s Movement came together to organize a protest march in disapproval of the unresolved murders of women in the country. Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) in partnership with the Working Group organized a press conference on 29th June to raise awareness about the march and amplify demand for accountability from the State and call upon the government to stop trivializing the lives of Ugandan women and respect and protect their lives. The conference which was attended by activists and members from women’s rights organizations garnered coverage by both local and international media houses. Women in Uganda demanded the police set up a dedicated team to investigate the murders and kidnappings, and in a timely manner reports progress to the victims’ families and the general public to whom they are accountable; desist from blaming the victims or making excuses for their murders and deliver on its promise to set up a fully-fledged directorate to prioritize, prevent and deliver justice on gender based violence.
History was later made on 30th June when Ugandan women and their allies took to the streets of Kampala in a peaceful protest to demand action and accountability for the rampant kidnapping, brutalising and murder of women in the country. Hundreds stood on the right side of history as they added their voices to the cry for justice. The Uganda Women’s March started at Centenary Park and ended at the Railway Yard on Kampala Road.
Our young women leaders under the Tuwezeshe Akina Dada project met with the Committee using the opportunity to push for the passing of the Sexual offences Bill and for the creation of safe spaces within institutions of learning. The young women recommended that gender responsive institutional level sexual harassment policies and regulations are developed and implemented and that data collection systems on sexual violence are strengthened to establish prevalence of Sexual and Gender Based Violence and effectively curb the vice.
One of the key outcome's of the meeting is that the young women leaders were invited to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament to make a submission on the Sexual Offences Bill. It is however regrettable that when issues affecting our sisters in the LBQ community were raised, one of the members moved for the submission to be expunged from the record. Unless the rights of all women in Uganda and Africa are respected, we shall not scale down Sexual and Gender Based Violence.
Nonetheless, here's to young African women influencing policies and governance!
Read the Full Submission here: Submission to Committee On Inquiry into Allegations of Sexual Violence in Institutions of Learning in Uganda
Anna Adeke Ebaju is a Ugandan lawyer and politician. She is the elected Member of Parliament representing the National Female Youth Constituency in the 10th parliament and an alumna of the African Women's Leadership Institute (AWLI).
It is impossible to speak about Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), the African Feminist Forum, the Uganda Women’s Movement and the Uganda Feminist Forum without mentioning Stella Mukasa. A feminist, lawyer and activist with over 20 years of experience spanning government, international development, and academia, Stella undoubtedly espoused feminist principles in the different spaces she participated in and to say that she lived a rich and fulfilling life is an understatement.The African and Uganda Women’s movements are devastated by the heartbreaking news of her untimely passing as she has been at the forefront of the battle for women’s rights on the continent. She founded one of the very few Feminist Consulting Groups in Africa – Nordic Consulting Group (U) Limited. At the time of her demise, Stella was employing all her energies fighting for women’s justice through research as the Regional Director for Africa at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).
Stella has been an activist whose work guiding governments and civil society on gender-responsive policy development influenced a number of policies in Africa including the banning of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria and Uganda’s Domestic Violence Act. The inclusion of progressive reforms for women in Uganda and Rwanda’s constitutions are some of the other processes that Stella engaged policy makers with to advance women’s rights. True to her feminism and her love for African women’s emancipation, Stella’s voice was always out-and-out on the issues that affected the women’s movement. Civil society in Uganda cannot forget how boldly she came out against the shrinking space for civic engagement in 2017 which among other injustices saw Action Aid International Uganda and the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) bank accounts frozen.
In her work, Stella facilitated and advocated for women’s engagement in critical spaces by supporting women in leadership and creating linkages between governance and rights. When she was not in that room imparting knowledge and ideas to young African women, she was away mentoring others to follow in the steps of feminist and transformational leaders who have gone before them. Besides feminist mentorship, Stella was zealous about sisterhood and the importance of looking out for one another and it comes as nosurprise that she is one the women who spearheaded the inaugural convening of the Uganda Feminist Forum in 2008.
I fully embrace my responsibility to stand up to patriarchy at whatever scale in both my private life and the public spaces that I occupy. This responsibility includes ensuring that every woman understands their worth as a human being and makes an effort to defend their personhood and dignity – Stella, in an interview with the African Feminist Forum
During her time as the Chairperson of the Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) International Governance Board, Stella provided stewardship that transitioned AMwA from the global north to the Global South. This transition also enabled the organisation to strategically position and address pertinent issues that affect the lives of African Women in Africa and the Diaspora. She further provided direction on how the feminist movement in Africa could cultivate value for women in leadership and sustain their initiatives, to develop their leadership capacities and amplify their voices to address gender inequality and women’s empowerment. Stella has also served on the board of Action Aid International Uganda and Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA) and Mentoring Program for Young Women (MEMPROW).
I remember Stella as one of the feminists who trained me in the African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) in 2006. I will never forget the valuable advice she gave us during the training on feminism and human rights – Nyambura Gathumba, AMwA Alumna, Hivos East Africa
Farewell thee Stella, you are gone but you have left a legacy that has transformed Uganda, Africa and the world that will continue influencing feminism on the African continent. You have been beautiful, wise, cheerful, pleasant, confident, firm in your beliefs, supportive, and an irreplaceable sister. We shall miss your delightful presence in all our spaces and shall not stop speaking truth to power and mobilising until every woman's voice counts, every right respected and all systems and structures that continue to legitimise the oppression of and discrimination against women are eradicated, in your honor. Rest well Stella, Rest in Power!!