Archive for September, 2014

On July 31, 2014, the elders of Ethur in Abim district, Northern Uganda imposed 6-months alcohol ban on women. This was agreed upon during their meeting that was convened to discuss matters affecting social lives of the Ethur and the major topic of discussion was reckless manner in which women behaved when drunk. Indeed, this is a good practice of ensuring that communities live together in peace and harmony. But  the concern here is why discuss the behavior of women only women? Don’t men also misbehave when they are drunk? This decision brings in mind many questions and unearths the cruel realities, violations and discrimination that women face in their daily lives. This is typical patriarchy at work and unfortunately, society has normalized it.

The Elders further stated that if one woman violates this ban, all the women will pay, because they failed to guide their member. And as part of the payment, woman will kill a bull for the elders, and each of the women will be required to brew a certain quantity of local beer (Kwete) for the elders. Really, this is selfishness of men   and unfair treatment of women

Why should women be judged differently from men? If they must ban alcohol it should be for everyone not for just women. Where is the Gender Equality that is inscribed in our constitution, policies and other international Human Rights Instruments. In any case do these people know that such instruments exist? So where is the missing link?

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In 2000, world leaders agreed during the Millennium Summit of the United Nations to accelerate social economic development,  human dignity and equity. They agreed on eight goals to be achieved by 2015 which were named as The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and each goal has specific targets, and dates for achieving those targets. It should be noted that  most of these goals are interlinked  and failure to achieve one goal will affect  the others.

I would like to draw your attention specifically to Goal 3: Prompting gender equality and empower women and Goal 6: Combating HIV, Malaria and other disease using a scenario of a young  Ugandan woman.

Nora Nabanoba not her real name walked in my office, greeting me in a local Luganda greeting and asked me how we help women. She started narrating to me her story of how she came to Kampala. “I finished primary seven and because my parents were poor I could not afford to join secondary school. Our neighbour had a daughter who was working in Kampala and she decided to take me to look work for me in Kampala”. Nora narrated.

When she reached Kampala, thing were different, the person who brought her to Kampala never assisted her as she had promised instead took her to her home to become her maid without evening paying her.Nora said that after working for along time without pay, she decided to escape from her and look for work somewhere else which she got work and started working as a house maid and she was being paid some little money.

Two years later, a friend brought her a man whom she accepted to marry. The man was living in a one roomed house and he had chairs (commonly known as sofa sets). Norah revealed  to me she accepted to marry man because he had sofa set in the house which they did not have in their home. They stayed together for a few years and had a baby.

Norah became suspicious when her baby and her husband started  falling sick quiet  often. Unfortunately, the baby died. After the death of her baby she decided take a bold step to go for HIV test and the results came out positive. ‘I felt like my life was ending there and then’. Nora said. Finally, she had to come to terms with reality of accepting her HIV status.

When she told her husband about HIV testing and her results, her husband started abusing her, beating her and accusing her of infidelity and blaming her for infecting him. Little did Nora know that her husband had many wives.  The husband later became critically ill and was admitted in hospital and his condition improved. Nora got pregnant again and had another baby. Since she knew her HIV status, she did not breastfeed her baby.

When the baby was three months old, her husband abandoned her. “I reached at a time when I was giving my baby water only because I did not have any money to buy milk not even food for me” Nora said. She is now   ARVs and she is temporarily staying with a friend who offered her a temporary shelter. Given the costs of living here in Kampala she feels she is a burden to her.

Norah’s story is one of the many innocent young girls whose dreams have been shattered and can no longer see a bright future.Is this the Future We Want?  Therefore as we move from MDGs, specifically  looking at Goal 3 on prompting gender equality and empower women and Goal 6 on Combating HIV, Malaria and other diseases where little progress has been achieved and  in some cases there is reverse,  we should not forget that   poverty,gender inequality are the key inhibitors of sustainable development.

It is therefore important that as we to reflect on the Future We Want by formulating new Sustainable Development Goals, poverty, gender inequality and HIV should be at the center.  So for any sustainable development to be realized, poverty and gender inequality have to be addressed

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This morning, I woke up reflecting on the rich proverbs and riddles in my mother language- Runyankole that I used to  hear and learn when I was a little girl between five to ten years of age.  When I reached office, I opened my computer and started typing a few proverbs and riddles I know from my head. As  little  girl, I used to like  reading  Runyankole Children  books like Alifu, Rutaro na Kengoro among others.  I remember, one day, while in  Primary One, at Runengo Primary School, our class teacher  Mrs Busingye, wrote on black board a Runyankole word for us to read and as you might  know  in the lower classes especially from Primary One up to Primary Three, pupils have a tendency of raising  their hands irrespective of whether they know the right answer or not.  (sometimes with great energy and enthusiasm)  for the teacher to see  and pick on them.

We all raised our hands to read the word several times, but we failed.  Mrs Busingye gave us enough time of about fifteen to twenty minutes to reflect and re-read the word. When we were almost giving up,  I raised my hand  again like any other pupil  and read the word  correctly. I cannot remember it very well but it was something like Omugurusi which means an old man. Momentarily, noisy class went into  loud silence and  I took the show for that day and from then, I became the Celebrity of the Class. This is to show you how early, I learnt how to read and write Runyankole and my passion for it.

Another incident was when I was in Primary Two and it was during the examination period. It was a practice that during examination period, primary one and two pupils stay at school the whole day unlike during normal school time when they leave school at 1:00pm. It was after lunch and I was busy playing with my class mate and someone called me out and said that the teacher wanted to see. At first, I was scared and asked myself, what have I done?  Then I went and reached their, I found my class teacher and few other teachers and female student who was in Primary four.  Her name was Nora. She was a big girl with big breasts and I think she was around fourteen and fifteen years. Then they gave me a text in A Runyankole children’s book to read and I confidently and eloquently read it and after I heard my class teacher saying. I didn’t I tell you and I left. Little did I know that the girl could not read that text and my class teacher told her fellow teachers that she has a student in Primary two who can read that text. It is now that I reflect on that incident and imagine how humiliating it was for the big, primary four girl who could not read what a primary two pupil can read.  I guest, the teachers must have insulted her and I feel bad about it. My parents were always proud of me and they used to give verses in Runyankore bible to read which eloquently read.

Today,my ever ending curiosity and desire to learn  new things  including  Runyankole proverbs and riddles led me to a google search about Runyankole proverbs and guess what I found  a Facebook page called Enfumu Zaitu.

The climax of it was opening the Enfumu Zaitu page and I find a post explaining a misconcept about my clan that has been bothering me since my childhood. I must say reading it was very exciting   and heartwarming. I felt a thigh of relief and gained my self-confidence as  a daughter of Abasingo because as I young girl, I used to hear people say  that the whenever a Omugabe- the Ankole  King wanted to spit, he would spit in a someone’s mouth and that person  was from the Basingo clan. So, I used to feel bad about it  to the extent of hating my clan and I  could not imagine a King  spitting his sputum in my great great great grandfather.  

So the discovery of this explanation has overturned tables in my life and this is how it is explained on Enfumu Zaitu Pafacebook Page

 In actual sense, Okucwerana omu kanwa n’okugamba ebirikushushana. (Spiting in someone’s mouth) was a ritual that symbolized the special relationship between Omugabe and the Basingo clan. Basingo were historically confidants and messengers of Omugabe. That is why they are called “Abashongore”, i.e. they were sharp, reliable and straight forward. Whenever a musingo messenger delivered omugabe’s message or directive, he would say “omugabe yaancweera omu kanwa” (Omugabe has spat in my mouth) meaning that the message was transmitted in full without distortion or deviation. At the time when messages were delivered by word of mouth, “spitting in the mouth” was simply a way of saying that Omugabe’s message was accurately conveyed to the intended recipient. Unfortunately, this figurative meaning was later on distorted to achieve political ends and has been unquestioningly swallowed by the younger generation

And truelly, I agree with the above explanation. Abasingo, we are very Sharp,Reliable and Straight. My father is exactly like this. For him, he will tell you the truth and will not hide anything from you. He is a very successful businessman and a Farmer who never saw the inside of the classroom.

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