compiled by Dee Finney

10-24-02 - NOON NAP DREAM - I went to work in the Engineering Dept. office where I worked in Purchasing like I did at A-C back in the 70's. My job was to send out inquiries for manufacturers to bid on making our parts for our projects and move the patterns for the parts from company to company.

In this case, the boss, Richard, was gone on vacation and a rush order came in which couldn't wait for him to come back. So another boss gave me not only the file with the purchase order and blueprints, he gave me the inside clips from the drawer.

I knew Richard would be mad that I had all that, but this couldn't wait.

I got right to work and then discovered I was still wearing my blue flowered kerchief on my head, so I took it off and put it underneath where the typewriter stand folds down into the desk.

It was lunchtime (noon) (the same time I was having the dream). I overheard one of the women complimenting another woman for what a great job she did helping some people, as we were walking outside.

Right against the building was like a short 4 car train with black windows, (the kind you can see out but not see in) waiting to take us somewhere.

The other woman said in return, "I tried to tell you that when we worked together in Uganda."

I could see the two women then, they were in their 40's. They looked familiar - I remember their names as Patricia and Joanne.


Uganda is a landlocked country situated in East Africa south of Sudan and north of Tanzania, while to the east lays Kenya and to the west is the Democratic republic of Congo (former Zaire). It has substantial natural resources including fertile soils, regular rainfall and sizable mineral deposits of copper and cobalt. Its terrain is mostly plateau with rim of mountains with a tropical climate, generally rainy with two dry season (December – February and June-August) and semi arid in the Northeastern part of the country.

Uganda covers a total area of 236,040 sq km with a total population estimated to be 23,317,000 people in 2000. Between 1996 & 2000, 88% of the population was living in rural areas, where women constitute for 70-80% of the total agricultural labor force. One third of the total population (8% being children) was undernourished and 55% were said to live below the poverty line.

Uganda has emerged as robust economic performer in the past few years, with agriculture as its’ most important economy sector - employing over 80% of the total labor force. Real GDP growth averaged over 7% per year over the past decade, and underlying inflation has averaged 6%. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the year 2000 was estimated at 5 % due to adverse weather and deteriorating terms of trade, but inflationary pressures were contained.

Despite impressive economic growth, averaging 6.5% per annum in the last eight years, Uganda remains mired in poverty as illustrated by the 2000 Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.435, constituted from a life expectancy of 44.7 years, an adult literacy rate of 59.7%, an urban growth rate of 5.4%, while, food aid accounted for 51% of the countries total imports. The annual per capita income was US$ 310 and the absolute foreign debt was estimated to be 64% of the countries GNP.

Despite recent programmatic successes, current estimates show that about 1.9 million Ugandans are living with HIV. The social and economic impact of HIV/AIDS in Uganda is reflected in the decline in life expectancy, loss of skilled manpower, weaker agricultural sectors, and reduced living standards.


FROM: http://www.worldbank.org/worldlinks/english/html/ug-women.html

I am Maureen Musinguzi and I was very glad to receive your reply.

I come from the western part of Uganda, Tooro region. I am a mutooro by tribe. My tradition, the Kitooro tradition, has affected women both negatively and positively. Women have very important roles to play. This has shaped a woman's character. It expects women to be graceful, obedient to their husbands and hardworking. Hence the women have unique behavior.

Tradition says that a man must pay dowry for his wife. This dowry includes cattle, local beer and sometimes goats or poultry. It all depends on the girl's parents. This has made women feel like trade objects for sale and not as human beings.

Traditionally women are expected to always be at the farm digging or stay in the house kitchen cooking. This has made today's village women ignorant of civilization and difficult for them to lead a normal life.

Hence they have turned out to be crooks.

Women are taken to be the inferior sex since they are bought. This makes them feel worthless. However today?s society has now given a fair chance of being superior, for example, they are given high posts like Ministers which in the past was not there.

In the Kitooro tradition, there some customs women have to abide with. For instance, women are not to eat certain foods like the gizzard of a hen. They are also supposed to eat from the kitchen while the men are in the sitting room. It is said that if a woman disobeys this custom, then she is undermining the men.

When it comes to home or village ceremonies, women are expected to organize especially cooking. For instance, marriage ceremonies. All in all, my tradition has made women do donkey work people.

I hope to hear from you soon.


My name is Maria, I am a girl of 15 and go to Nabisunsa Girls school in senior 3. It is found in Kampala the capital of Uganda . I am proud of my school because of the services it provides to improve on my academic standard.

Tradition is an opinion, belief or custom that is handed down from generation to generation in a particular place. There are certain duties for people in a society to carry out. These duties are the roles which in many cases dictated by traditions.


My name is Kyewalyanga Sumayah. I am happy to have received your replies.

My culture, the Ganda culture for Baganda, is a rich and deeply rooted culture, which has many customs and tortems. Baganda speak Luganda as there language. They had a kingdom before the colonial masters created the present Uganda, which now has many tribes. The kingdom still exists but it is now traditional kind of kingdom. And the king Buganda today is Ronald Muwenda Mutebi.

Traditionally women are regarded as the inferior sex who tend to the house chores And please their husbands.

However, today women are not so inferior especially those who are educated. They are allowed to have their own homes and they are also allowed to do descent jobs. Better still, they are even allowed to hold high posts in the parliament.

Women in my tradition, for example girls are in some homes still not allowed to go to school just because their parents think that women are meant to get married and give birth to children. This is not true because the best performing students today are girls.

Women in my culture are taken as property to be bought and can be treated as those who take them wish as long as they pay the dowry bride price to the parents.

According to this, women have been made to believe that their rightful position is under the man and their place in a home is the kitchen.

Women in my culture were not allowed to eat some foods like chicken, grasshoppers and various other foods.

Women in my culture were not supposed to apply for divorce from their husbands because it is a taboo. It was the husbands to decide whether to divorce or not but he can marry a harem as he wishes without even asking permission from the current wives or wife


Am pleased to receive your responses and let me know about you. I am Zahara Gaina writing again. I come from the Western part of Uganda called Mbarara found in Ankole where people speak Runyankole.

The people of Uganda have many customs because of the many tribes we have. Traditionally, women are regarded as inferior. Years back, they were not even allowed to join in some communal activities like in the local counts. They were meant to stay in their compounds and do the house chores . They were not allowed to eat things like sheep meat, chicken and some type of fish. When a misfortune befell somebody, they suspected a witch who in most cases would be a woman.

When a woman got into trouble such as getting pregnant before marriage , they would be sent out of the community.

However, today, women are not so inferior anymore. They are allowed to have their own homes and they are also allowed to do descent jobs. Better still the are even allowed to hold high posts in the parliament.

Today, women have freed themselves from such customs though a few are still not allowed to choose their own husbands. The present government has an interest in women's welfare and has tried to bring them up by offering them posts in parliament and as minister.

However, there is still a negative attitude towards women like girls in some families are not allowed to go to school just because their parents believe that women are meant for marriage and give birth to children. This is not true because results show that the best performing students in my country today are girls.

Women in my culture were not supposed to apply for a divorce because it's a taboo. It is the husband to decide or not. Women are treated like property of society. They are not supposed to marry men but instead men are to marry them.

Women and Tradition -- Second Exchange -- Myths and Facts


We are female students from Mt.St.Marys Namagunga, a Ugandan school. We are students willing to correspond and send ideas about women and tradition to other students in other schools.


Traditionally, there are many myths and facts that surround women.

In some parts of Uganda, it is believed that when a woman sweeps her house at night, she will be sweeping out her riches. It is too believed that when a woman jumps over another the latter will stop growing.

If a snake or black cat crossed a woman's path or if one dreamt about meat or heard an owls hoot at night, this would mean death for someone in the family.

It is also believed that if one did not have the marks of the letter M formed by the three lines on her palm she would never be rich.

In other parts of Uganda, if a water barrel rolled down a hill back to the water source or if the lower lid of your eye twitched, this would indicate an omen but if the upper lid twitched, happiness would come her way.

The people believed that if a woman sat on a cooking stone or ate fish ,eggs or chicken, this would lead to infertility. Up till now some people still believe in these myths and offer sacrifices to appease the gods when in the wrong.

Some of these myths encouraged the women to be careful, for example, when carrying their water pots so that they would not fall and break. Others encouraged the women to have good morals such as excusing oneself in order to get way instead of jumping over someone.

A few were simply there to scare them or deprive them of some pleasures like eating delicacies mentioned above. This was food regarded for the men only.

In those days, women had to do all the domestic work. They were expected to submit to their husbands, a term called blind obedience. All the above are still believed in although most women of modern times are becoming more knowledgeable and independent.


Baliddawa I
Acan M,
Namaganda J,
Nakyanzi S,
Nalubega J,
Kasibante L,
Kobusinge A,

Woman and Tradition: Canada -- Response from School in Northern Territory

Woman and Tradition: Myths and Beliefs. Second Response.

We all had a meeting, with elders. The topic was talking about Inuit myths and beliefs. Here are some myths and beliefs:

1. If a young woman/teenager, when they catch their first fish or lemming they have to put the animal in their pants through the pants so, in the future the woman would have a quick and easy child birth.

2. Long ago, men/boys who didn't knew how to build a Igloo they would not have any wives.

3. And, if a lady would not know how to sew the lady wasn't allowed any husbands.

4. When a lady is going to be in labor soon, she has to build an Igloo by herself. She cooks only one meal, and that meal has to last for a few days. At the meeting, this elder was the oldest of our town. And she had tattoos on her. Long ago must have been very painful to want to have tattoos on our skin.

This is how she told us.

Use a copper metal and make little holes on the skin, then have a little, bit long piece of stick put the sut from the qulik on the piece of stick, and put the stick with sut, in the holes on the skin.

Second response - Women and Tradition - Myths and Beliefs

A couple of days ago our group went to talk to elders. They where very helpful and told us everything we wanted to know.

This is some things that we heard.


-Young girls where not to pack heavy rocks because there baby might grow up very big.

-Young girl would get up in the morning and go straight out to check the weather this would encourage easy labour.

- The first fish that a girl caught was supposed to be put head first down the leg of her pants. This was so that she would have easy labour once she was pregnant.

- Arranged marriages. Parents would choose partners for their children sometimes even before they were born. In some cases the boys would help raise their future wives and carry them in an amauti (packing parka).

- Sometimes, when women had too many children to feed, the family would leave newborn females to freeze to death on the ice. Later there would be a shortage of females. Then men would fight over the women to find get mate.

- For a month after giving birth, a mother was not allowed drink water.

- For a month after giving birth, the wife had to sleep apart from her husband.


- If a girl has left her kamiqs (boots) unlaced, she will have a long umbilical cord on her babies.

I learned a lot by going to the meeting.

Women and Tradition: South Africa Response

Hi there

Sorry to take so long to respond, line problems. We (grade 7) would like to share a little bit about our culture. We have lots of cultures and it vary from nationality to nationality.

In our school we have the majority of Zulu's and S. Sotho's, even though some of us speak a different language at home, but at school we only do the two.

Let us tell you about our marriages. In olden days marriages were arranged, your parents would look for a suitable partner for you(what they looked for was the way that family handled itself) and they would start planning the feast. A cow was supposed to be slaughter and African beer made with soghurm was to feel buckets for people to enjoy after

The meals. People were suppose to bring gifts (like - African mats, pumpkins, African pots made from clay and many more) After the feast - few days After the couple would build a house not very far from their parents' house and they would have many children. Nowadays, the new generation doesn't want arranged marriages - That is why we have so many divorces because people marry people they don't know. In those days the elders would always pick somebody for you they knew would make a good wife / husband.

We will tell you more next time - how African beer is made.


Grade 7 - St. Matthews

October 24, 2002

FROM: http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/635/context/archive

Ugandan Women Seek Right to Own Land

Run Date: 08/30/01

By Jennifer Bakyawa

WEnews correspondent

Ugandan women do the vast majority of the agricultural work, as they do throughout Africa, but they own only 8 percent of the land that they till and have virtually no property rights. Now they are demanding legal co-ownership with their husbands.

KAMPALA, Uganda (WOMENSENEWS)--Winfred Busingye, 41, is up by 6 to prepare breakfast for her family--four children and a snoring partner. She packs a lunch of the previous day's leftovers for herself and the children because they will spend many hours in the fields, returning at dusk.

This is a daily ritual in Kitunga subcounty in southwestern Uganda.

In contrast, Busingye's male partner is still sleeping or nursing a hangover. As the day warms, he may go out drinking again or lounge in one-room shacks that serve as bars, waiting for friends to buy him a free drink of banana beer.

Sometimes, he joins her in the fields to plant and tend bananas that he either sells or brews.

Every year, Busingye must sell some of the family's food to pay taxes for her husband, or else he is locked up. In case she does not, he will sell a piece of the family land.

Busingye is one of an estimated 12 million Ugandan women, most of them engaged in agriculture, who have virtually no property rights because customary law gives property to their husbands.

In Africa, Men Own the Land, Women Till It, but They Have Few Rights

Throughout Africa, men own the land and the women work it--seldom with their own rights to it. This system may be beginning to crumble, however, at least in Uganda.

Earlier this month, the Uganda Women's Network, which includes more than 40 organizations, met here in the capital to develop a strategy to push legislation that would allow women to jointly own land on which the family home is situated or where the family derives sustenance, usually subsistence.

"Women provide over 80 percent of the farm labor force, yet don't have a stake in the land since it is owned solely by men," says Sheila Kawamara, the coordinator of the network.

This is an apparent reaction to several attempts to persuade the governing political party to support a change in the nation's land laws.

Women activists tried to mobilize rural women against the Movement, the governing political party, before the referendum polls that were held last June.

They demonstrated in Rukungiri district in western Uganda on International Women's Day, March 8. They put on black T-shirts and marched demanding a co-ownership clause to the Land Act, as well as enactment of the bills against domestic violence and sexual offenses. They also demanded establishment of an Equal Opportunities Commission.

But this came to naught when the Movement of President Yoweri Museveni won the referendum.

The women now have decided on political lobbying.

Women Seek Protection Against Unscrupulous Landowners

Their focus is on gaining support for a change to the nation's land laws proposed since 1998 by Miria Matembe, then a member of Uganda's parliament and now Minister of Ethics and Integrity. If enacted, the law would require a registered landowner to obtain the consent of all family members before selling the land on which he or she ordinarily resides with the spouse or children, or from which they derive sustenance. Family members include spouses and children of majority age or a parish land committee in cases of children below the age of majority.

Those for the proposal argue that it will protect families, particularly those headed by women, against unscrupulous landowners who take away a widowed or divorced woman's property and home.

Like Mzee Namisango, 65, who was evicted from the land where she and her husband had lived for 40 years in Mukono district, central Uganda. Her husband, Ssesanga, had gone into debt and sold off their land. Namisango knew nothing of the sale until the buyer showed up in 1997 and bundled her and her eight grandchildren off. Her husband had fled and was in hiding for weeks. She was paid only the equivalent of $58 (about 100,000 Uganda shillings) in compensation.

Namisango suffered a stroke that left her partially deaf and unable to speak. She took the case to the village court. Officials could not help but charged the equivalent of $11 for their time. After paying a truck driver the equivalent of $22 to move her few household goods, she was left virtually penniless.

Land Ownership Clause Would Include Multiple Wives as Owners

After almost two years, Baguma Isoke, the minister of state for lands, finally consulted Matembe and other women activists on the clause. The ministry had broadened the now-controversial clause to include polygamous marriages so that wives living jointly on a piece of land with their husbands would all co-own it. In the case of wives living independently, each would co-own the land with the husband.

However, the controversial women's rights legislation now has been deferred to the Domestic Relations Bill which has been on the shelf since 1964.

"Cabinet's decision to refer the clause on co-ownership to the Domestic Relations Bill bespeaks of a hidden and sinister intention to surely deny the women their due as demanded for under the Land Act. For the last 35 years, successive governments have tried to carry out reform on family law, which has never been completed," says Jaqueline Asiimwe, chair of the Uganda Land Alliance.

However, by attempting to put off the battle, the parliament may have aroused more intense pressure for the land proposal.

"If government remains adamant on this clause, we have the numerical support," said Abu Dominica, former chair of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association. "I think we aren't asking too much."

Jennifer Bakyawa is a journalist in Kampala, Uganda.


For more information:

Oxfam Land Rights Resource Bank:

"Uganda: Exclusion of Women From Land Ownership--The 'Lost Clause,'" Equality Now:

The Human Rights Information Network
Prospects for the African Women's Movement in the 21st Century

By Patricia McFadden, Women in Action, issue 1

African women have been an important and increasingly visible part of modern African political life. We participated in anticolonial struggles as trade unionists, political leaders, wives and mothers-often in the more traditional ways that women have entered politics. But we have also made fundamental changes to the body politic of Africa in very significant ways:

By engaging in anticolonial struggles, we introduced gender into African politics, though largely through forms sanctioned by men, and often our entry was through the patronage of men. African women have fought patriarchy and male privilege for centuries. By involving ourselves in the anticolonial resistance, we crossed over the very boundaries which had constructed politics as a male preserve. Our presence in these movements, our rejection of women's traditional status, was met with resentment and resistance. But African politics is bound to change as we recognize that women are a political force and we are needed to change the course of this continent.

We have a troubled relationship with Nationalism, in the sense that often, it is our loyalty to the men who inherited the state at independence (brothers, husbands, uncles, friends) that determines our first reaction when a critical issue arises-rather than a critical feminist perspective.

Women's participation in the armed resistance became a critical part of the construction of new identities and relationships with the state and civil society, but some of these new relationships are problematical. We need to interrogate the identities we are inheriting and/or constructing: are they productive? are they good and strong? are they rooted in healthy traditions or in very masculinist, androcentric traditions?

African women still do not recognize that we are a political movement. We still behave like ladies at a tea party, and we are often shocked when men are brutal and violent towards us. We need to understand the true nature of politics so that we can change it. In my view, our activism is grounded in four critical elements which I would like to share with you.

One, our Africanness is defined by and through a patriarchal norm which defines Africans through the male. The establishment of authenticity for African women has to become a central tenet of the African Women's Movement in the 21st century. We must not have to derive and or reflect Africanness through any male.

Two, there is the struggle to regain our female identity. African women have no personhood or bodily integrity as an established and recognised norm in any of our societies. Women experience gender violence all the time, female children in particular. It seems so inexplicable. I suggest that the concepts of personhood and bodily integrity can help us understand gender violence in all its manifestations, sexual abuse as well as mutilation. We need new thinking tools, new activist tools in whose design and formulation we are a part of.

Next is our welfarist participation in national projects. Increasingly, the African Women's Movement's programs are oriented to fill the gaps created by Structural Adjustment Programs in our societies. We are taking over responsibilities which the state should be shouldering, and we are not asking ourselves whether this is our agenda or if it is an imposed agenda. Female nurturing can easily become a trap...we need to understand the limits of our nurturing, where we should draw the line in relation to the responsibilities which men must assume, and especially men who traffic in the state.

Finally, there is the question of our relationship with African men; even more critically, we need to ask them to take the responsibility of changing themselves. As political activists, are we going to reproduce the stereotypes of African women on batiks and tapestries sold in the curio shops, the stereotypes of us as either pregnant, carrying a baby on our backs, or both? While African men are represented through images of dancers and musicians, why can't we see African women doing other things besides being birthers and reproducers? And Beyond Our Activism, What Do We See Around Us?

Today, we are experiencing the end of the welfare programs which opened doors for us as women. For the first time in our known story, African women had the ability and the spaces to think together and strategize collectively, because we had programs which recognized the deprivation caused by five centuries of the plunder of this continent. And yet in all of Africa, the doors to opportunity through education, basic health care, accessible and affordable transportation and shelter, basic security to livelihoods, are being shut in the face of the next generation.

Structural Adjustment is reversing the minimal gains which we had begun to make as women these past three decades. In fact, of all the continents, Africa least enjoys the surplus which is universally produced through human productivity; and yet it is the most materially and culturally endowed. The African Women's Movement must face the social, political, economic and cultural issues arising from macroeconomic policies which are imposed upon us and which are weakening the civil society, and weakening and redirecting the Women's Movement as well.

Africa is struggling with a heavy debt burden which, as we all know, plays itself out in the lives of women, especially poor women. On the other hand, there is a very clear connection between the debt and military spending. In all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, there is clear evidence that almost half of national revenues are spent on the purchase of arms (look at Zimbabwe and Uganda ), while almost 60 percent of foreign exchange generated leaves the region in debt-repayment. Those at the helm of the African state are using the bulk of our national resources to arm themselves to the teeth. There may be very good reasons, in their view, to do so. But I will never be convinced that any argument for military spending is better than putting in place the fundamentals for sustainable development. And finally, even as we know that it is in women's lives and on women's bodies that the consequences of civil strife are played out-there are no effective mechanisms today which will bring to book those men who rape and plunder women's physical, sexual and emotional integrity, across the continent and in many parts of the world. Most of the time one feels so overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness when one witnesses the degradation of women's bodies becoming the open fields where men play with their toy guns and penises...We need to do something, but first we must understand what it is which allows them to do it with impunity. The genocide and ethnic violence unleashed against women, children and poor men is a critical issue for all who are concerned with crafting a new society, and it is directly linked with militarization and a fundamental disregard and disrespect for human rights. Around us are numerous cases of failed leadership, dictatorships, intolerance... the failure to secure the most basic rights and needs for Africans, especially for women and children... structures like the OAU [Organization of African Unity] which are completely inefficient and paralyzed and yet they claim to represent the continent... corruption and mismanagement of whatever resources remain... a health crisis which basically shuts down the discourse on our reproductive rights and health.

The crisis of AIDS touches us all, and the African Women's Movement has been, for the longest time, the only effective agent in terms of responding to HIV/AIDS. We have held up the torch in raising issues of confidentiality, access to care, respect for people's dignity and the responsibilities of the state towards AIDS sufferers. Maternal mortality and infant deaths are rising everywhere on the continent, at the end of a century which has witnessed incredible advances in all spheres of human progress. Partly because we are faced with the critical imperatives of staying alive we are not even talking about reproductive rights in the African Women's Movement. We are told by our governments, pushed by the international lobby, that we have to control population growth because Africans are now healthier and living longer. Yet we know that for the majority of Africans, better health is not happening. We are increasingly unwell, mentally and physically and this has major implications for the future existence of this continent. But poverty denies women the space and voice to articulate their needs beyond sheer survival. Poverty has become a very effective silencing mechanism. So, these are some of the most critical issues.

Among the newer scourges is religious fundamentalism. In my perspective, right-wing fundamentalism has unleashed a vicious backlash against African activists who name themselves feminist and who express a feminist agenda, and, who challenges the sacrosanct canons of organized, white-controlled religion. The challenges which derive from this context are monumental, but before I set out some challenges, we need to identify who we are as the African Women's Movement. As I said, the Women's Movement is my home, and I would never leave it under any circumstances. Even when I feel that I am perishing from the nastiness and the burden of resistance, I stay, because there is no other place I would rather be.

When I look at the African Women's Movement, I see two major characteristics; one is our diversity; the other is our differences. We reflect the diversity and the beauty of the continent-in our dress and the colors that we come in, as Black women; in our strengths-we have survived wars, famines, droughts, slavery; and we have to celebrate this ability to survive the worst that has been unleashed on us for most of modern history. We have wonderful nurturing traditions. All you have to do is look into the Movement: when there is pain, we run to catch, to nurture, to comfort. We have kept these abilities and strengths, and even in our societies, we are the caregivers. From our foremothers we have inherited wisdom in healing, music and the arts, in conflict resolution. African women were among the first producers, the first agriculturists of the world, yet very few young women know this. When we see the statistics in the UN bulletins showing that African women feed the continent, we need to stop and ask how we have been able to do that, given all the odds. And of course, there is our dignity as African women, which we proudly pass on to our daughters. These are the treasures which cement the African Women's Movement. We bond whenever we meet, and this is very special, this is the strength which will enable us to deal with the differences.

Because there is the other part of the character of the African Women's Movement-our historical differences which express themselves in several ways that we need to understand. For one, our differing relationships with men and with the state, seen in a historical perspective, across our various cultures. There is too little known about how African women were/are in relation to the African state: precolonial, colonial and post-colonial. Secondly, we mirror the different faces of the same patriarchal culture, and often we see ourselves as the custodians, in fact the main gatekeepers of African patriarchy, through culture. We derive our identity from it. For many of the older activists who are so deeply embedded in their roles as gatekeepers, it is too painful to think of the possibility that they may have to change. But the baton has to be handed over to the young women so that they may construct a new African cultural identity that will challenge African patriarchy in all its forms.

Geographically we are located in separate spaces; we often look different even though we are the same people, and sometimes those looks are used to divide us. But there are two differences which concern me most in the Women's Movement, and these are the differences of age and the undemocratic male traditions which we have brought into the movement. We have taken the assumed privilege of age uncritically and are applying it in our organizations, thereby excluding younger women from the discourse and the management of power. The other difference is the class issue. We belong to different classes and we should be able to discuss the ways in which we approach the Women's Movement and use it to further our specific class interests.

What are the Challenges as We Enter the New Millenium?

Primarily, for me as an activist in the Women's Movement (and every day I remind myself that I am a feminist activist) the most critical issue at all times is making the personal political. Sometimes I get so tired of the anger and the hostility which comes through because I name myself feminist and I work in a place called Feminist Studies Centre. Nevertheless we have to take the step to make the personal political. If we continue to separate the private from the public, our Movement will die, and we will be wrapped up in welfarism, catering to everyone else's needs. We will never reach our political goals. There are several ways of doing this, and I would like to suggest a few. We have to interrogate the customs and socializing rituals which have shaped our identities as women. The rituals through which we are named, which inscribe messages on our bodies, which put us in little dark rooms and make us vulnerable to disempowerment. We all know those rituals. I know that human society cannot function without rituals; in fact, human beings are totally ritualised; we are hooked on the stuff. But it is what we do with rituals which concerns me; how ritual as a process facilitates power relations.

The other way in which we can make the personal political is to realize that our private lives are a political matter when we become leaders. For as long as a woman does not assume the title of leader, she may be able to claim that her private life is not our business. But once she assumes a leadership position, we must be able to take her to task about her private life. All feminist leaders should be subjected to the same principles. In this way, we demystify the boundaries which have been drawn between what is private and what is public. The way in which we live our private lives reflects itself in the broader Movement, and if we are oppressed in private, this stifles the political energies of the Movement. If the man you live with rapes and batters you, there is no way you as a leader will be able to articulate the issues of sexual violation, because subjectively you are violated. And I am unconvinced that there is no connection between these two worlds. So, making the personal political means bringing new energies into the Movement; changing the politics of the Movement and moving to a new place, restructuring our relationships with the men and women whom we live-whether these are sexual, working or parenting relationships. This is critical.

The next challenge is to understand and engage those issues which underlie the tensions among us-the class differences which reflect very clearly in the structures we have built. Although we have to learn to build bridges across our class differences, ideological differences cannot be wished away. Radical feminists in the Movement are not going to go away, and no one who can tell me that the African Women's Movement is only for moderate and conservative women; not when I work 25 hours a day in that Movement. So, the ideological differences have to be confronted. And while it must be understood that we all bring something beautiful and important to the Movement, what is even more important is what we do with what we bring in.

Feminism is a critical force for our transformation. We must have the courage to name ourselves in new ways, to reflect the new locations and new agendas we bring to national and global struggles, to create solidarity platforms through which we can contest, celebrate and envision our new directions, to interrogate and challenge ageism and the privilege and authoritarianism associated with it. In many ways the African Women's Movement reflects the crisis wrecking the broader society around us. For me this presents a unique opportunity which coincides with the end of a millennium and the end of a century, and the beginning of a new millennium. Of course there is much pain associated with this change; some of us have had to leave the Movement after many years of dedicated commitment to the struggle for women's rights and this has put us into a personal/political crisis. The African Women's Movement therefore has to move from the old status quo-where our politics and identity were too closely tied to androcentric notions of nationalism and nurturing, to status which remain oppressive and exclusionary of women's rights and entitlements. It has to move to a new place, where we recognize that we are a political force, that sisterhood is no longer adequate as a construct to deal with the differences and the new challenges, and that this is the only movement which can give leadership to a new African political agenda for the future.

The question then is-how do we learn to let go of "our babies"? how do we learn to manage power in a dignified way, to understand power and to position ourselves within the exercise of that power? We need to democratize our structures and institutional processes and to recognize the critical centrality of newness as represented by the ideas, perspectives and the presence of young African women in the Movement. That is the key and we must harness it without trying to own it. We must also unload the autocratic, male traditions which keep us back and feed the generational tensions and divisions in the Movement. Concerning our participation in the Global Women's Movement, we must redefine the ways in which we enter and participate in it, and challenge the exoticization and objectification of African women in our sexuality and poverty. To carve out an intellectual space and voice for ourselves and to demand respect for who we are and what we bring to the struggle for a different kind of world...A very important part of the challenge is living up to the standards which we ourselves have set. To challenge racial privilege in the Global Women's Movement is another task.

Fifthly, we must become scholars and intellectuals in our right. That is the cutting edge. We must bring African traditions of thinking and problem solving to the Global Women's Movement and participate in the formulation of new theories and methodologies. We are bright and intelligent; we must write about ourselves and speak for ourselves. I am sick and tired of being written for and about; let us say it the way we want to say it. Let us know the new theories and contest the production and processing of knowledge. We can no longer be decorations in the Global Women's Movement, the exotica in our beautiful clothes. We must be our own spokespersons and not allow anyone to appropriate our experiences or our voices.

Prospects for Change

The prospects for our future are very good, living as we do on the most materially and humanly endowed continent on the planet earth. Besides, we have had too much experience with pain to even hesitate about choosing about a different tomorrow. We have nothing to lose by envisioning and crafting a new future, and we have every reason to want something different for Africa in the 21st century. So whatever we take from the past, let us be very discriminating and take only that which will enable us to shape an agenda, an identity that will reflect new ideals and new traditions. Let me warn you, as an older feminist-and I hope the goddess will keep me until I am more than a hundred years old-that the backlash will be real and difficult to withstand. It is vicious and ever-present: patriarchy can be so hegemonic and overwhelming...the isolation, the threats, the violence, in some cases the murder of feminists...the Otherness and the marginalization.

But we have to take it as it comes, and make the Women's Movement a political movement, redefining ourselves as political agents, strengthening and using the Movement to take this continent to a new place. The potential for this has to be unleashed through a process of feminist political discourse and by having the courage to accept this imperative on the part of the feminist leaders. I conclude by welcoming you all to the Women's Movement...to the process of naming yourself differently, of constructing new identities. Remember that your best traveling companion as you take up the journey as a feminist will be your love for Women. That is where you have to start.

Patricia McFadden, born in Swaziland (1952), worked in the antiapartheid struggle for 20 years. She has taught at university level since 1976. Currently she is based in Harare, Zimbabwe as director of the Feminist Studies Centre. Author of numerous articles, she was former editor of the Southern African Feminist Review and present editor of African Feminist Perspectives. Patricia is a member of the Development Alternatives for Women in the New Era (DAWN) and Akina Mama wa Afrika networks, and is also a gender trainer for the Women's Movement and the United Nations system.

Copyright ¨ 1997 Isis International-Manila. This article, originally appeared in Women in Action (1:1997). Permission is hereby granted to use this document for personal use and for training and education activities of women's organizations provided that the article is used in full, the author and publisher are cited, and this copyright statement is produced. Permission is also given to mirror this document on WWW servers.

FROM: http://www.guardian.co.uk/appeal2000/story/0,7369,407925,00.html

James Astill in Kampala

Thursday December 7, 2000

The Guardian

An overloaded passenger truck overturned on the road to Masindi on Sunday, just a few miles from where Uganda's annual celebrations for the international day of the disabled were taking place.

By the time the celebrations come round again, those maimed in the accident will have lost their livelihood, their status, even their names. They will be just "mulema", cripples.

There is nowhere easier to become disabled than Africa, and nowhere where the stigma attached is so great. More than 80% of Uganda's 2m disabled were born able-bodied, then fell victim to road accidents, war or disease. But tradition calls them cursed and has them shunned.

"People say the disabled's family must have been bewitched or that they have offended God," said Agnes Kalibbala, Uganda programme manager of the UK-based charity Action on Disability and Development. "It's difficult even to tell parents that their child is crippled because he wasn't immunised against polio and not because someone has cursed them."

ADD's campaign for disabled rights is changing this attitude. The agency arrived in Uganda in 1987 to find war amputees and polio cripples in every village, creeping around with only branches and broomsticks for support.

Since then it has encouraged thousands of disabled Ugandans, most of them illiterate, to form self-help groups and lobby for themselves.

As a result, Uganda boasts legal provision for the disabled which puts many much wealthier nations to shame.

The story of 50-year-old Simporosa Angella Amuge stands for those thousands. At the age of three, she caught measles and lost her sight. Overnight, she had become a lifelong victim: war and poverty, ever present in Uganda, always affect the disabled worst.

Dragged by her four young children, Simporosa was the last to flee her village when it was overrun by fighting in which her husband was killed. She was still destitute when ADD found her, six years later, camped out with seven other blind refugees in a ruined leper colony.

"When people saw us together they thought we were beggars, but we had a plot of land and wanted to work," she said. "ADD didn't tell us what to do. They said: 'What do you want?' They bought us slashers, boots and an ox plough and we began to support ourselves.

"Before, our hope was only to get food. Now we want to teach our fellow blind the skills we have learned."

Last year, Simporosa was elected to her district council. "Six years ago I was starving. I could never have believed this was possible."

Simporosa is testament to Uganda's affirmative action policy, drawn up after intense lobbying by the National Union of Disabled People in Uganda, which was formed and is funded by ADD. At least one disabled man and woman must sit on every decision-making body, from village groups, through district councils, up to parliament: making a total of 27,000 disabled leaders.

In the cabinet, Florence Naiga Sekabira, herself a polio victim, serves as minister for the disabled. "I say to people, 'see what I am'," she said. "Where would I be if my parents had hidden me away?"

Uganda's government guarantees primary school education for four children from every family, and insists that any disabled children be part of the four. But this is easier decreed than done.

"The problem is parents look at children as their own insurance. They don't consider the need for disabled people to live individual lives," said Ms Kalibbala. "They hide them in their homes and educate their healthy children instead.

"But disabled children need education even more than others because they depend on their brains and if they're not bright, well, if you're prepared to treat them as equals, that's the risk you take."

ADD is campaigning for government resources to implement this policy. In rural areas, where 90% of the population lives, it is still only token, says Ms Kalibbala: without teachers who know sign language, or braille machines, there is no place for deaf and blind pupils.

The disabled must claim these things for themselves, says ADD: on disabled issues, theirs was the most powerful voice. This year, for the first time, ADD trained polio victims to administer polio immunization throughout Uganda's villages and saw turnout increase by nearly 25%.

"The disabled must speak for themselves," said Ms Kalibbala. "In a poor country, you could carry on handing out wheelchairs forever. To guarantee their own future, they have to persuade government to let them participate in working society."

Sometimes, however, a bit of wheelchair-giving is unavoidable, she added. In an oily workshop in Kampala, a small disabled women's group, supported by ADD, made light, folding wheelchairs from bi cycle wheels, canvas and metal piping: all cheap, easily-replaced, local materials.

"Before I made my own wheelchair I had to crawl around town," said 35-year-old Sharifa Mirembe, one of six technicians.

"I was always filthy and people were terrified of me. How can you turn up at an office like that."

Sharifa and her colleagues make eight wheelchairs a month and sell them to organisations and individuals.

In groups like Sharifa's, there is none of the awkwardness which so often dogs the disabled in society: the disabled cowed, the able-bodied embarrassed.

In its place is the happy confidence of knowing there is work being done.

And confidence, said Ms Kalibbala, was the key. "You can go into the villages and tell the disabled they can mobilise themselves, but it takes a long time to convince them. But when someone who was silent, who has spent his entire life terrified of being laughed at, comes out to greet you, laughing, saying 'You are most welcome', that is a wonderful feeling."

Confidence brings strength and with it, wit. Uganda's disabled groups have seized on a hated word with delight. "Mulema" their members now call each other laughingly.

Uganda is a country with some very old attitudes and some very new laws. To end Sunday's disabled day celebrations, a boy, his body twisted back to front by polio, was brought forward to write "a love letter to the president" with his feet.

Rows of dignitaries whooped in amazement, and half a dozen ministers sprang forward to snap close-ups. In Britain, such behaviour would be frowned on. Then again, in Britain, the ministers would not be there.

How they help

Action on Disability and Development helps disabled people in 12 of the world's poorest countries by assisting them to form self-help organisations and influencing decision makers to invest more in their needs.

Refuge offers a national lifeline for women suffering domestic violence, providing accommodation and emotional support. Its aim is to help women and their children enjoy a future free from physical abuse.

Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development provides legal advice on environmental issues, often to smaller countries that cannot afford the fees of commercial lawyers, to ensure they are fairly represented at international negotiations and conferences.

The Place 2 Be sends specialist counsellors into primary schools to offer emotional and therapeutic support to children who are troubled, unhappy and confused.