Finding Our Voices by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 17.06.14

In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions become strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences.

Audre Lorde

I’ve been pushing the urge to blog to the back of my mind.

It was inevitable for a couple of reasons.

The first is finding myself in a state of permanent rage over the multitude of injustices which girls and women in Uganda on the continent and globally, have faced historically and still suffer on a daily basis. Hardly a day goes by, not even an hour, without a report: man rapes woman, wife beaten, man kills woman, girl raped by father, soldiers rape women, and so on.

In the era of widely touted Millennium Development Goals, Uganda is in the lead or close to the top when it comes to incidence of child marriagesexual abuse of childrenteenage pregnancy, sexual harassment and assault (rape is hardly reported; on record is mostly that by LRA insurgents during the war in northern Uganda), intimate partner violencematernal mortality, and deaths from complications arising from unsafe abortions. The horrors are endless to the point that many have become desensitized to the real suffering, in real time, of real people.

Human-beings. Girls. Women.

The second is frustration with the everyday woman-bashing in the local media in Uganda. You only have to open a page of any of the newspapers on any other given day to find headlines  questioning women’s behavior, attitude, choices, and lifestyles. The critique is endless.

Every Odong, Ssemwezi, Wanzusi, and Kamukama has ‘advice’ for women based on the most unrealistic, dehumanizing expectations and demands for the benefit of men. All this while women are sexually objectified  and our agency undermined in the name of ‘culture’.

I am sick of this matter-of-fact anti-women stance. Sick of male violence against girls and women. Sick of society where women are valued in direct proportion to their living/being in service and subservience to men. Sick of the commodification of women. Sick of institutionalized sexism in the family, in education, religion, politics, and commerce. Sick of the state, legislators, and men of all stature assuming ownership and claiming control over women’s bodies.

Sick of indifference to the plight of girls/women here in Uganda and everywhere.

Perhaps by now the genius that you’re has figured out that my primary and secondary concern is issues pertaining to the interests of female human-beings. Life isn’t a bed of roses for all boys/men, neither are all women oppressed equally, or never perpetrators of violence. Even then, men themselves are responsible for most of the hardship their fellow men face – from playground bullying to war zone atrocities. Whatever the struggles men encounter, they pale in comparison to the gross violence visited upon women [as a class] by men. This is reinforced by structural discrimination and minimal access, if any, to the privileges enjoyed by boys/men in a male-centered society.

Certainly, things are a little ‘better’ for women in some parts of the world – credit to our foresisters who fought for them. After years of struggle, blood and tears, women won the right to vote. Today many of us take voting for granted. However, we must remember the past to truly appreciate women’s historical position in society vis-à-vis our present-day challenges. To secure voting rights, women who didn’t give-in to despair and hopelessness battled on.

We need to evaluate the contribution decades of women’s votes have made to the liberation of women. How are we using our votes and voices to improve our lot in a culture which views women as ‘inferior’ to men? How can women assert our standing as full human-beings in a society brimming with dogma, norms, and the deeply-held beliefs which keep the patriarchy and its inhumane ideals of womanhood in place?

We need to move beyond simply hoping for the time when the global sisterhood will be fully delivered from the shackles of male supremacy. We must work toward the day when women are seen not as objects existing to provide men with sexual, reproductive, and domestic labour, but as we really are; full human-beings in our own right, just as men.

That day may not be near, but it gets closer the more we challenge the oppressive ‘normal’.

I choose not to be complicit in the dis-engagement and individualism of a generation seemingly mindless of the backlash nibbling on the gains of many years of feminist movement. We must continue in the spirit of those who walked this path knowing well that as distant as emancipation may appear to be for women as a class, as ‘different’ as our struggles may be, in our silence we collude with the oppressor.

This blog isn’t about men; hating or bashing them. But neither will it be about glossing over male violence, soothing male egos, or shrinking in acquiescence in response to male aggression. There’s no room at this inn for the delusion that men are inherently or otherwise superior to women. Zero lollipops for all manner of good-guy/bad-guy Olympics. The oppression of women isn’t simply about the actions, inaction, or feelings of individual men and women. It is about the system which to this day permeates all others; therein giving men [as a class] dominion over all at the utmost expense of women.

It will be a place to vent and share thoughts and observations with the understanding that an educated, financially-independent woman living in Kampala can never be ‘free’ if a woman in Yumbe lives under the heel of sexist oppression. Similarly, a middle-class woman in Geneva cannot be free of oppression as a woman, when women in Kapchorwa, here in Uganda, live with excruciating pain from the horror that is female genital mutilation; when women in Pattaya and girls in Cambodia face daily abuse as sex slaves, while others line the streets of red light districts in major cities across the world; and in Kinshasa, Majorca, Pretoria, Sydney, New Delhi, Tokyo, Michigan, and so on, stats keep piling of the girls and women raped &/or killed by men.

Importantly, a space to celebrate women wherever we are in all our marvelous being. And if that brings moments of reflection, a spark of energy to keep us moving – and as we are able to, play our part toward the liberation of women – it will have done more than is hoped for.

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