My dad passed away when I was 7.
He used to tell me I’d be Miss Uganda and the President of Uganda at the same time because I was left handed and as good looking as he was (its ok, roll your eyes all you want). Of course he had no idea how that opened a door for me to dream of all the endless possibilities that could be my future, he probably just wanted me to smile and feel special. I have over time wanted to be an astronaut, a pathologist, a choreographer, a pilot, a journalist and now finally studying to be a lawyer. I can’t wait to know what I’ll want to be at 35.
Nothing for me is reserved for men.
I remember how after he passed away, my mum took on the burden of raising me alone. We still went to our paternal village for the holidays. And while there, mother still only went to the kitchen hut as and when she wanted to (children dint enjoy the same luxury of course). She also continued to sit at the men’s drinking circle dishing out her opinion- a big deal back then.
My mum has been studying all my life: I know she started out with a diploma. She had just began her undergraduate course when my dad died and has since gone through most of the other works and now has the proud burden of the ACCA certified accountants annual fee. For her, a girl MUST have an education. She says men never respect uneducated girls.
I remember in primary school, telling my mum how I was being bullied and teased by some boys and all she told me was to go and beat those boys up then ran to a teacher if I wanted them to stop messing with me. No sympathy. No pity. No consolation or hug. And for good measure, she pointed out how she had to walk kilometres to her primary school, barefoot, carrying Bab on her back. (I dint take her advice, but my sister Bella did for the both of us. Looking back, they stayed away after that)
A girl crying, for my mother, has always been a big sign of weakness, and it always earned you a frown and a lecture about learning to be stronger. If she caught you in the wrong and was caning you for it, crying only made her cane you more.
The first time, I experienced a flat tyre was with my mum. She was driving us back to Kampala from Tororo when it happened and all four passengers were women. I got out looking for a man that I could stop to help. She got out and gave me an oral crash course on changing tyres. I changed that tyre and have changed every other flat tyre I’ve got since. I also change my own bulbs and manual search for my TV stations. Until recently, I was still the first person my mum called when something wasn’t working J
My mum would never consider herself or my dad for that matter, a feminist, most of you wouldn’t either. I’ve also just always considered her a really strong and independent woman, and my dad the tallest strongest man ever, until today.
Every time the words feminist and feminism come up, immediately to most people-especially men, pictures of loud women screaming for their rights, lonely divorced women, overly outspoken and uptight women in trousers and women beating up their husbands for coming home late, come to mind. In Uganda, its images of scary successful women with dreadlocks and big cars kicking men’s egos like balls, single miserable middle aged women that refused to marry in their ‘prime’ and now can’t find a man, and against culture single mothers that MUST be struggling to make ends meet.
It seems every young girl or woman aspiring to be called a feminist should work towards falling within one of the categories.
Why the story of feminism must be told in a hard, discouraging and downright patriarchal way is something I think needs to change. What a sad picture of feminism we’ve painted.
My parents were the beginning of the definition of what it means to me to be an emancipated woman. Equality can be earned in many different ways-they taught me to think beyond my gender box, they planted the seeds of feminism in me. I love my father for thinking I could be president, a dream of me a skinny 6year old girl doing a man’s job. More than anything else, my mother has taught me never to be afraid to do the things men do, it’s not rocket science. She’s such a feminist. I’d put her right up there on my feminist chart smiling next to Sylvia Tamale and my best friend Godiva.
And I know there are women like her out there, changing lives, unconsciously making other women stronger through their actions, through their unknowingly emancipating demur. There are men out there, who do not hit women, who respect women’s opinions, who encourage women to be more; who through the respect and love they show to the women around them unconsciously make them set their own bar that other men must meet because they have seen a possibility through him.
Tell me reader, don’t you know a feminist?
I think it’s about time we thank the silent feminists in our lives.