Very informative insights into feminism. Very well written too.
About 9 years ago when I joined secondary school at Trinity College Nabbingo, there’s one club I knew for sure I wanted to join. The Interact Club. Indeed, I did join the Interact Club. This is because growing up, my parents, uncles and aunties, older cousins always had stories about Rotary that triggered my curiosity. Speaking of, there’s a time somebody asked for a link to my blog and in their observation noted my continued reference to my childhood and growing up past. I hadn’t even realized this to be honest but hey, it is our pasts that shape us so I guess in telling a story, our minds’ subconscious is prompted to bring it up. Anyway, back to the matter.
I enjoyed being a part of the Interact Club. The service, the fun and the fellowship. Whether it was pruning the school’s flower beds on the weekend and sparing some of my pocket money to contribute to buying mosquito nets for the sickbay, or ironing my uniform on several Saturday mornings in preparation for those much anticipated (oh yes they were!) trips to Namilyango, or the Sunday fellowships and all the norms that came with them. All of it I fully experienced and took delight and great pleasure in.
For A-level when I moved to another school, I transferred the same zeal and energy. Although the Rotary culture I found wasn’t as solid as that of my former school, I was fortunate to have found a school principle who was as passionate about Rotary as I was. So for us, the club committee which comprised of mostly also students that had formerly, like me, been in schools with very active Interact Clubs, this made our year of service easier. There’s not much we could have done in one year to bring this Interact club to the level of the ones we’d been formerly in, but during the year we served, the club soared. Of that I was proud.
Fast forward to University 3 years ago, interests were fast piling and to-do-lists growing so long that for one and a half years, even when I had the thought at the back of my mind, I procrastinated joining Rotaract. Note that I had visited a few not-so-sound clubs but hadn’t been inspired enough to join them. Then came the awesomeness that is Lewis. See I’ve known Lewis since he was member of a six-man dynamic dance crew in Namilyango, (he’s gonna kill me for this revelation) but oh well, for this piece of knowledge I’m willing to die sharing with you all. For months however, we lost touch, then he found me, as usual. It was good to reconnect (always is) and soon, as luck would have have it, he invited me to the Rotaract Club of Kyambogo.
My first visit to the club was when I made the decision to finally join Rotaract. Soon I was inducted and the rest is history. I’ve since served, on the club and project committees, I’m part of initiatives that have changed several lives. I go to places where people live in extremely sorry states which realization always reignites my need to constantly be grateful for my life situation. I’m proud of the fact that even without the biggest pay check or a comfortable monthly allowance, I can help others live a better life. I know for sure that I don’t have to attain philanthropy status in order to give back to society.
Things do not go smoothly all the time. I’ve made mistakes in judgment of character. I’ve felt betrayed and sometimes not appreciated. I get frustrated sometimes when I’m failing to find a balance between the commitment that is Rotaract and my personal life. But also through Rotaract I’ve met the most amazing people, made and maintained the most beautiful friendships. I’ve seen amazing developments sprout from of a combined effort of youth with a passion to change lives. I’ve been part of the biggest victories and losses, joys and sorrows too, with these people. In those times I’ve felt a huge sense of belonging and family. All these times, I’d not trade anything in the world for.
Viva La Rotary!
So much truth in here. The gender double standards.
It’s 1a.m on a Friday night. Almost everyone of my friends is out on the town having the time of their life while I’m back home, in the confines of my room with the lights on, but not doing anything in particular. Just lying on my bed face up. I notice the light is slightly flickering. So great, I will need to replace my bulb. (Yes I can change a bulb). I’m out of new books to read. So much so that I’ve been tempted to re-read one of the many piled on my dresser, a personal favorite and birthday gift from a good friend: bless you Raymond. So I grab it and choose to remind myself of my monumental quotes therein that I neatly highlighted, one of many habits I picked from daddy. Even before I read each line though, I know how it ends so this is not working. So I move on to Shakespeare’s “The Sonnets” instead which I occasionally pull out to muse. However today, none of these sonnets makes sense to me. At all. So it dawns on me. I have this unsettling thought about life, again.
That constant self-imposed pressure to do everything right. The terrifying thought of the possibility to JUST go through life, the fear of being an ordinary human being. I have for a long time convinced myself that it comes with first born territory, which it really to a great extent does. Being ( you thought I was going for “Being Edna” didn’t you? Haha) the lucky, sometimes not-so-lucky child that came first, I’ve always felt the responsibility weighing heavily on me in whatever i did and I’ve come to live with and both mentally and physically accept this huge responsibility. Tonight however, I’m vividly contemplating all the things I’ve done wrong, all the times I’ve betrayed my principles and gone against the very things I believe in and stand for. Pressure. Disappointment. More pressure.
See unlike the people that have tough childhood stories, those “didn’t have a mother or father figure” stories, the ones that literally raised themselves, I realize I don’t have an excuse. Not like life listens to anybody’s excuses anyway, but in their hearts of hearts, when they fail, or should they screw up at a certain point in life, they, backed by society can pardon themselves with thoughts like, “well if I was provided the same opportunities growing up” or maybe “If I had been raised in the same environment and given the same attention, taught how to go about things, I’d have done this life “thing” better…” I on the other hand, fortunately or unfortunately whichever way you look at it, don’t have the luxury of any of those excuses. I have no other choice but to do this one life right. Pressure.
No, I’m not seeking sympathy, neither am being a spoilt little ungrateful brat. I count my blessings everyday, I am entirely grateful for how I was raised, the opportunities, love and attention I was accorded. However this particular blessing that i’m completely aware of has also become a part of my adult life nightmare. This is the reason why several nights I might stay up two hours later than my usual midnight schedule. I’ve become extremely critical of every action I take, every choice I make, every person I choose to associate with. I’ve slowly but steadily, with increasing momentum and hostility, become my own critic. Every damn time there’s a voice in my head, one that I personally entertain, saying, you cannot fail, you cannot mess up, you cannot be a bad example, you cannot be defeated, you cannot be fooled or manipulated, you cannot have non-constructive company, you cannot be mediocre, you cannot fall short of your full potential. I’m mentally exhausted and I’m going to do something about it. Why I’ve chosen to share this, I don’t know. Maybe i’m over the days when i’d write about life and stash the notebook far away from anyone’s reach then keep wondering what would have happened if I’d let even a handful of people read. Or whether there might be others going through the same experiences.
Tonight I want to end this ridiculousness, I want to enter my bed every night and not worry about what the future holds. I want to still be very aware that every one of my action’s outcome will affect either the present or the future, but not obsess about what to do and what to not do. I want to implement a quote I like, “Let go and let God.” I want to allow myself to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it after because mistakes are part of life. I want to always remember that perfection is impossible. I want, once in a while, to do things I want to do without cross checking in my head how everyone else will be affected. I want to say exactly how I feel at all times, even when it may not suit me, without putting a disclaimer at the end. I want to forgive myself when I make bad judgement of who I let into my life and know that it happens to everyone else too. I want to always remember that at the end of the day, i am just human: and this, is my resolve.
As I write this I do so with a fervent hope that when I’m done, I will have if not fully, at least partially changed one or two people’s (even more if that’s not a bit of a stretch) mindsets. That when someone out there is done reading this, they will want to break these insecurities and the bondage that is societal gender stereotypes. Today I’m here especially for the men because in this struggle for equal rights and opportunities for all genders, I’ve come to realize that underneath all that hate speech against feminists lies big deep rooted insecurities that the society we live in has so easily managed to use to rob men of their free will.
I once dated a man who kept secret his low points. For example, when he was not financially well, he pretended otherwise. When he was stressed about work and it evident he was stressed, he refused to talk about it because he didn’t want “to stress me with work.” (This many men do). So I think to myself, what’s the point of a relationship then? Isn’t it why two people that love each other are together? To share their life together? Isn’t that what the point should be, that you will have a long stressful day at work but know that at the end of the day you’ll get home to someone who you can talk to about it. Or pick up the phone and call them to talk about it and feel better? Why is it okay that you encourage me to vent about my crappy days all the time to you yet you insist on dealing with your bad days on your own? Aren’t men human beings with emotions and frustrations as well? Why does a person I care about so much feel the need to supposedly protect me by only sharing the good in their life while dealing with the bad on their own? How is that supposed to be a gesture of love? I always wondered. Also shame on anyone who is thinking in those ‘’women don’t understand’’ lines but I promised that I was here for the men so, moving on!
The “man card” business: I always see these comments and I quite honestly feel so bad for the people that think this way. Comments like, “if you wear skinny jeans hand in your man card” “He doesn’t watch soccer so he should hand in his man card” or “if aren’t “hitting that”….” Or “he listens to Taylor Swift….” and so on. What is this man card you talk about? Are you, who is asking that another man “hand in his man card” God? Well because isn’t it the one that created us that blessed us with either masculinity or femininity? Why do we let these social constructs further destroy our emotions and deepen our insecurities? There is absolutely nothing wrong with a man wearing skinny jeans. There will always be an evolution in fashion and style and quite frankly (which is no secret) I’d rather a fashionable man but again, that’s just me. Music is universal. There is not a genre made for men or that for women. If somebody enjoys Taylor Swift music, let them. Or are you also going to say that because and I love and listen to Kanye, I should hand in my “woman card” too? Ridiculous right? Yes, that is exactly how ridiculous you all sound with those “man card” comments. I mean, so what if a guy doesn’t have an interest in soccer? So what if they don’t feel the urge to have coitus with a female? So effing what?!
Emotional detachment: there is a tendency for men to identify lack of emotion with masculinity. That someone has to deprive themselves of the natural instinctive state of mind is just in humane and if you continue like that you might be slowly leading yourself to a death caused by depression. I’m serious. It is okay to feel, it is okay to be sad, it is certainly okay to be excited. One should not have to suppress their emotions on the basis of them being male. Allow yourself to express emotion because whereas the thought may not be exactly one you want to have, you’re an emotional being. You have to acknowledge your emotions or you’re going to channel them into something destructive. The liquor for example: see liquor is a temporary fix, yes I know this because I’ve been there. The feeling of overwhelming emotions that prompts you to sip and sip and sip until you can’t sip no more. Am I ashamed? No? I’m human and we tend to do that. However I’m fully aware of the consequences: the “morning after hangover” coupled with terrible migraines and that unsettling consciousness. Now to think that someone goes through that all the times they’re supposed to exhibit emotion because God forbid society should ever identify them as an emotional male being is just heartbreaking. Do not do this to yourself.
Societal Rigidities: because society has made men believe that for a man to “sit at the table of men,” they have to at a certain age marry a girl whether they’re ready or not, they have gone ahead to marry people’s daughters that they do not necessarily love or want to spend the rest of their lives with, but because they pass as wives. You know, the wife code values: can cook, can wash clothes, is submissive and generally presentable to her in-laws. I’ve heard men confessing publicly (in their circles of friends) that they married their wives simply because they were good candidates for this “wifeship” thing and that they, even just two months after their wedding, have extra marital affairs because their wives were “just wives.” Now do not get me wrong, I still believe in marriage, but for one to ask a man for his daughter’s hand in marriage and go ahead to take those vows, not because one wants to but because society says it’s the right thing to do, is again, in humane and a source of everlasting unhappiness for both parties. You, the man, are going to come back home every day to someone you dislike and share a bed with someone you rather not every single night. The girl on the other hand is stuck in a marriage where she is not wanted and it’s just one whole mournful real life but movie scene-like experience. What is so wrong with not getting married until there is someone who your heart appreciates enough? Guess who is going to be blaming you for your failed marriage after a few years when you can’t take it no more? The same society that pressured you into this marriage. I say think!
The above are just few of those stereotypes and i am certain you know and identify with many others that i haven’t gone into. So again, think long and hard. A friend of mine recently noted with genuine concern, the fact that I’ve owned feminism and how that may be something a lot of other people will misjudge me about (personally and professionally), label me a bitter person or a hater of men and jump at every opportunity to shame me. I heard him, I saw where he was coming from, because it is without a doubt that feminism is associated with several misconceptions. I also know however that we can’t all be afraid to speak, to do something about the issues affecting us just because a few people may be angered by it. Today I want to reach out to you all and ask that we do not make this a fight against each other but a fight together against the societal bondage that led us to this fight in the first place.
Lately, the twitter population (tweeps) has had a reminiscing phase recounting Primary school experiences. From being canned in the butt crack ( they called it “bum-line”), to putting one’s clothes under the mattress at night so they would look ironed in the morning and then someone mentioned something unusual that happened at my own school and then all the memories came flooding in. I could have dedicated a whole day on my twitter timeline to recount those memories but that I thought was impractical. Then I thought about summarizing a few in a tweet but let’s face it, how many memories can one tweet (140 characters) accommodate? Having made the above considerations therefore, I thought I’d write a detailed piece of my own recounts.
I’ve always said that my primary school was equivalent to a military boot camp and this is not so much of an exaggeration. In a few minutes I will be telling you why but before I get to it, let me tell you how I ended up in boarding primary school in the first place. I had a great childhood, I did. First born child, daddy’s little princess, mummy’s little jewel, name it. My parents showered me with love and lots of affection. I got everything I asked for, was taken places, my 3rd to 6th birthday parties were held at hotels for chrissakes!….and as you might imagine, I became a little “spoiled” if you catch my drift. It is because of this and a little push from some evil, yes evil: friends of my parents felt the need to ship their little girl off to boarding school. We (read: they) tried a certain school near home first but it didn’t work out because of environment, school academic standard, etc. They, through another friend then later found what was described as, and I quote, “the best primary girls’ school in Uganda.” Applications were made, I passed my interviews and within no time I had been admitted and I later, reported to school.
School for starters strictly prohibited carrying food, grab (read snacks) and money. Yes, our parents were to drop us to school and leave us with just our property. The catch, as written in the circular was that the school provided a variety of foods and snacks already and that they gave pupils some pocket money over the weekend which was provided for in school fees and there was no need for extra. This pocket money I later discovered, to my disappointment, was Ugshs 500 and might I add, ONLY! Now you might argue that in the 90’s (this was 98), that was a fair denomination, make no mistake. Saturdays when this pocket money was given to us was a highly anticipated day. It is when for the first time during the week, the canteen was opened and one had a chance to eat something other than the regular school food potions. So as soon as you got the money, you went to the canteen and spent it all on Riham biscuits (the ones with the red pack). 2 packs of biscuits and your pocket money was gone, all spent! One fateful Saturday, I gleefully walked to the canteen and reached into my pocket where I had tucked my precious 500 shilling note only to find it wasn’t there. Panic….I searched and searched deeper…I traced my steps back hoping that it was still lying where I had dropped it but nothing. I went back to the dormitory verandah and cried my eyes out….yes I cried, you would too. The other girls bought their biscuits and ate them I just watched because I didn’t even want to ask to be given some of those biscuits only to be asked in turn why I was “begging as if you didn’t get your pocket money!”
Let’s talk about meals. We had black tea with a bun for breakfast. Milk two days a week for break and a jerrycan cover (yeah, that red thing) of roasted soya beans other days of the week. Lunch was worse. Before I got to around Primary 5 and the school adapted the cafeteria system, we had “table leaders” whose role was to get to the kitchen earlier than everyone, get the food in dishes and bring it to the table (each table sat 12 people). These table leaders who were Primary 6 pupils would then proceed to serve the food onto twelve plates, of course they served themselves a lot of food and us so little but that was an unwritten rule that we all conceded to. One day at lunch however, I humbled myself and closed my eyes to pray for my meal but when I opened them, my plate was gone! Somebody is just playing a prank on me and they’re about to return my plate, thought the optimist in me. This was never to happen. I looked around for about five minutes and everybody was quietly eating from their plate, not a single look towards me. So I stood up, walked out of the dining hall and walked to class…..crying, again!
The dormitory was a challenging place. In Primary One for instance, we woke up at 6a.m and walked outside to the compound stark naked, with our buckets full of water and sponges to bathe. Outside we were required to form a circle with our buckets and the matron would then hand out the soap and proceed to give us instructions on what body parts to scrub. Now should you be caught for example scrubbing your feet when the matron was screaming, tukuute emikono (let’s scrub our arms), you’d be at risk of a slap. The water was cold of course and so was the morning air. But we persevered. In Primary Four, the dormitory corridors had terrazzo floors reminiscent of missionary built structures that had over the years become rough as quarry stone. These floors that we mopped daily were on Saturdays, to be scrubbed clean of all the dirt and dust that had accumulated onto it during the week. We used hand brushes and the whole time while we were on our knees scrubbing hard, the matron, who had the last word on whether you had scrubbed clean enough and could now stop went around ordering us to scrub harder. The harder you scrubbed that floor, the better chances you had at being let go to leave the rest toiling.
In the evenings after classes, we had to wash our uniforms and for one to rinse and hung, you had to be cleared by the matron. Which meant that when you felt like you’d washed the uniform clean, you’d have to take it where she always sat and display it, she then decided to either send you back for another washing session, or clear you to rinse and hung it. The earlier one was cleared, the earlier they left to go shower and prepare for supper. When you were cleared late, you bathed late and you were consequently late for supper. At the Dining Hall gate the teacher-on-duty stood with a cane waiting for the late comers. Therefore whenever you were late ladies and gentlemen, you lay down to be canned so that you could eat. With no consolatory snacks back in your suitcase, no hope of the canteen being opened till Saturday and having had your last meal at lunch, knowing your next was the following day at breakfast, getting a few canes was clearly the wiser choice compared to foregoing supper.
The traditions in my school were inclined to a certain culture: you had to kneel while addressing the teachers and the matrons regardless of where you were. Almost everything was conducted in accordance to it. On the days when the leaders of that culture visited (which was often), we woke up early and lined up on either side of the road from the gate to the trading centre awaiting their arrival. You can relate it to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, only we never laid our clothing on the ground. One random night after prep as we prepared to sleep, one of those leaders notified the school authorities that he would be shortly dropping by to see his daughter. So at 8:30p.m, the matron walked into the dormitory corridors ordering us to get out of our beds, dress up and follow her. We, amidst a lot of confusion obliged. She let us to the gate and there, we were lined up on either side of the path leading to the Headmistress’ office and asked to start clapping. In a few minutes, the leader walked into the gate with a few of his subjects and went straight to the office where his daughter and the H/M waited. As soon as they entered, we were sent back to bed!
Yes, school life was really hard and I could go on and on about every other hardship I encountered, but I will not. Instead I will acknowledge a few great lessons I learnt while there. This school taught me some great values. Its Christian based and girl empowerment foundation for example, kept me in check with my values as a believer and a woman. I learnt the importance of prayer and how to value my femininity even at very young age. At this school, I also learnt how to dig, how to peel and how to wash my clothes clean. It taught me discipline, respect and above all contributed greatly to the strong woman that I am. For that I’m entirely grateful.
Many a time I’ve been crucified for speaking my mind & labelled “so opinionated;” same people that say, “We like the truth…the truth will set you free” and other lies. I have come to realize that they have either failed to decipher the word in its true sense or everyone is suffering from advanced stage double standards. If the truth somehow goes against what they believe to be right, or if it is brutal, then it ceases to be “something you should have an opinion about.” The more disturbing bit is how they will tell you that some things should not be spoken about but go ahead and gossip in hushed tones about the same issue.
So are you telling me that not saying it to out loud but channeling it into the grape vine is the way to go? I say you are a pathological gossip who has not the ‘balls’ to say exactly how you feel openly. That’s just what I think though and this is me not being afraid to tell you (no I’m not apologizing); but let’s get to why this vexing thought re-emerged in my mind.
Over the weekend there was a controversial topic on social media that generated cyber altercations (to simply call it a debate would be euphemism). Many had their different opinions and mostly with sound reasoning, then there were those that as usual just let it pass and don’t get me wrong, in as much as I may not believe in silence especially over issues such as the one that was raised, I know that they probably have their reasons for not speaking up.
What I find disturbing is how someone who had chosen to remain silent over a rather serious issue now suddenly had something to say concerning others’ decisions to speak out. You refuse to speak out but you also don’t want others to be speaking up? Should we all now let it pass? Also kindly and briefly please help me understand why it is okay for one to speak up about everything the government or police have done wrong(they do this all the time) but for some reason “unwise” to do so for an injustice committed by a few individuals. These are some the questions burning questions I had.
The motto of a school I went to read, “Be True” and I want to challenge you to think about it. Be true to yourself and to others, have the courage to speak the truth and be objective even when it hurts or may not be most convenient for you. Be brave enough to condemn and denounce any injurious behavior, not solely to find fault, but to advocate for behavioral reform especially so that our society will be a better place for even the defenseless. Channel the same energy you use to slam the police for their heinous acts into speaking up about incidences other than those you have watched during the 9 o’clock local news bulletin. Although if you disagree with anyone for doing so, speak up too and give your reasons, after all we each have individual minds and don’t have to agree on things all the time.
However, if you haven’t found the courage to do either, then kindly forever hold your peace. Do not be suddenly criticizing others for doing it because who knows, the victim could be you next time and since you have not the courage to speak up, you may need the bold ones to do it for you.
As I leave I will let you ponder the words of Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
EDNA NINSIIMA ( @BeingEdna )
A few nights ago, I painfully watched the 9 o’clock news as a woman activist with the FDC Women’s Forum was ‘manhandled’ by the police, dragged on the ground, her skirts flying over her head revealing her lower body parts and under garments. This woman later fainted and the police said they had called an ambulance to take her for a psych-eval!
Now,the manner in which police officers handle civilians especially members of the opposition regardless of their gender is not something that has been ongoing despite several criticisms and condemnation. In 2008 the same police forcefully and inhumanely Kampala Central Woman MP, also prominent member of the ‘Forum for Democratic Change’ opposition Party, Nabila Sempala while she launched suggestion boxes within her constituency. In the . In the same year, her fellow MP Susan Nampijja of another opposition political party was tear- gassed while consulting with her constituents. The then President of the Uganda Law Society Oscar Kihika, noting with concern, police brutality against civilians and called upon the Inspector of Police to “advise his officers to act and behave professionally in full observance of the constitutional rights of all Ugandans.”
That wasn’t all. In 2012, television footage clearly showed a police officer grabbing and squeezing the breast of Ingrid Turinawe, leader of the FDC Women’s Forum, during an arrest ahead of a rally. She was heard shouting out in pain. Deputy Police chief later apologized to her saying, “the incident will be investigated.” This was just a year after the leader of the same party’s car windscreen was broken before they soaked him in tear gas and arrested him. These are just a few of the incidences and I will not go further into examples because we have all seen theses things happen anyway.
We watch this happen all the time and I think I speak(write) for all, well most, civilians when I say it is frustrating and sickening and we all feel hopeless and for a moment hate our country. Even more frustrating is that we never really see the culprits being satisfactorily punished…or punished at all. I know the feeling and as much as I’ve always advocated for standing up against injustices, I, In my humble capacity implore you all to also think rationally before getting into physical confrontations with these people whose brutality as we’ve all witnessed knows no bounds. This woman who was defending her friend is most probably a mother whose children watched her nakedness on national television. These children go to school and have friends, again, most probably. These images of their mother might forever be imprinted on their minds.
If you’re a parent, this is not something you want to subject your children to for the rest of their lives. If your medical insurance (if you have one anyway) can not fly you to Nairobi for proper treatment, that tear gas may damage your organs forever, if you’re a University student, think about what your parents would go through if you died in a riot. The force whose task is to enforce the laws set to protect you are the same ones violating them. That’s the sad irony. You’ve seen what they’re capable of, so while we all find alternative ways to return discipline and respect of human rights to our police force, stay away from direct, physical confrontations with them. It is frustrating, it is a hopeless choice, but it is a safer one. Your safety and dignity first. Till next time, be safe!