On 2nd April, 2016 as a member of the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), I attended the International Women’s Day function held at Hotel Africana. Before I delve further into my experience that day, I should explain that UWOPA is a body that was established during the 5th Parliament, with the aim of engendering participation and emancipation of women in the legislative process in Uganda. On this particular function, Rt.Hon Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was officiating. The theme was "Sustaining the Women's Call for parity on the Policy Agenda.
The function was graced by women from all professional walks of life, they were accomplished, they had bearing, dignity, independence. It was an honour to be counted among them. Needless to say the fashions, hairstyles and the accessories were something out of one of these ‘glossy’ magazines. I actually spied one or two younger and newer members of Parliament with something I would liken to awe (if ‘awe’ had a face). I settled into my seat, like the proverbial smug bug! It was a good feeling, especially since the wonderful people of Mawokota North had given me another five years to enjoy perks as these.
As the function progressed, my attention kept being drawn to the colorful and vibrant women in attendance. At some point I fully yielded to my curiosity and allowed my imagination to paint mental pictures of the possible lives of these glamorous attendees. As the unrestrained, pondering mind does, the sunny imaginations graduated into deeper and more somber thoughts; theories on the meanings of womanhood, emancipation and feminism. During this reverie it occurred to me that the line between Emancipation and Feminism could be very thin. Women’s Emancipation had all to do with ‘freeing’ the woman where as Feminism took it a notch higher from ‘freeing’, Feminism also necessitates the equating of women to men, it necessitates displays of might and recognition. In my opinion, Emancipation should be a basic requirement forthe Ugandan woman, while Feminism is a woman’s personal choice, not an entitlement. As women leaders; in law, business, academia, politics, Corporations, we should struggle for the woman to be emancipated from violence, illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, and any gender based injustice. Yet, here we were, colourful, beautiful, achievers, well spoken and we had missed out to invite the one woman most in need of emancipation. Yes, there was no representation of the rural woman. The Real McCoy.
My argument is not that, we the so-called accomplished women are already emancipated, by all means 'No'; It is still a struggle for many of u. But admittedly, we are further along the emancipation spectrum than that woman with calloused hands, calloused by the hoe, by the exposure to the elements, calloused by the burdens (physical, emotional and mental) she carries daily. That woman who works for 12 hours in a day, only to have to submit her paltry income to an often drunk husband, the woman who lives in trepidation of the future of her daughter becoming a bride at the age of 12, and many more harrowing fears that only a woman suffers. I scanned the room and indeed, I saw no representation of the rural woman, unless she herself had had a makeover for this function. I doubt that though.
What is the meaning of a ‘Cause’ if we are leaving our must vulnerable behind? What is the meaning of emancipation if it is exclusive to a few?
Sitting regal in this room, with manicured nails, impeccable CVs, speaking English that the Queen herself would be proud of, and having under our dainty, designer belts accomplishments our female ancestors would never dare to have imagined….are we not instead purporting Feminism? Dear Reader forgive me, if I am getting too dark, too skeptical, too ahead of myself, but as I sat there, my mind wondered over the numerous functions celebrating women and their accomplishments, many of which I myself, have presided over; and sadly I admit very few of them had the rural woman adequately represented. Yet, she is the pillar of this nation. She is the Real McCoy, she is the one that needs the emancipation more than me, more than any of us in that ball room that day.
What do we seek? Emancipation, or to rank in on Feminism? What is more important for the Ugandan woman at such a time as this? Is all this grandeur that we so painstakingly put together, for the collective good? or it is simply the brandishing of individual feminine prowess? Sisters, Daughters, Mothers, we may need to pull out the drawing board again. Weneed to ask ourselves ‘Are we doing this right? Is emancipation across the board? Is it comprehensive? When shall we embrace our heroine at the grassroot? The time is now!!!