The notion of women and girl child empowerment makes my head throb in wonder. We have consistently prepared our girl child for emancipation but left out the boy child who again is raised in a patriarchal environment, where the man’s say is final and women can’t afford to decide. Honestly, this boy child isn’t ready and prepared to meet this emancipated girl child. It remains irrational then since it will be complicated for this girl child to put up with this boy child as a father, brother, or husband because these are informal yet instinctive relationships! My thinking is that, as feminists and other advocates for gender equality, we should consider both the girl and boy child to make peace and better relations free from gender-based violence and discrimination.
Every day comes with a lot of questions in my head. During our young feminist meeting at freedom square, one of our young feminist leaders Iryn raised a very pertinent issue just by saying that men are ungrateful. She told us about how a man called her to his house without sending transport money. Although we had no idea about their relationship till the end of her narration, she hated the fact that again this man never gave her transport back after spending the whole weekend at his place.
Her story reminded me of my high school days and my eighteenth birthday to be specific. I was eagerly waiting for my eighteenth birthday just to be called an independent adult. To me, making eighteen was the only qualification to be independent even when I was still being fed by my mother and still followed her ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. That same year I was in my Senior Four looking forward to completing O’ Level and saying goodbye to short-sleeved shirts. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything called independent until during my Senior Six vacation when I got my first job at Sunrise supermarket in Bukoto. I planned very well for my one hundred thousand and started saving some after buying a few things, but still, I could hear some voice telling me how I was not yet independent since I was not sheltering myself.
After a long time of reminiscing, I asked Iryn how prepared she was in case the ‘dude’ proposed to her. Or whether she was ready to propose to him. Her response shocked me the more when she said she had nothing to prepare for since it was the ‘dude’ to get the cows ready, get money for the three traditional ceremonies and the wedding.
‘But he has to first apologize for not giving me transport money.’ She added.
My curiosity got fueled by the money since the two are in the same age bracket, but the young man must prove beyond reasonable doubt that he can take care and providing for the young woman even when they are both working and from well to do families. My friend Abaho asked Iryn if she was ready to be submissive since the husband might be ready to be the provider, a question which received a big NO followed by a chuckle. ‘In marriage, we must be equal, and he must have constructed a house in Kampala.’ She spoke. Iryn’s response left me wondering whether as feminists we are doing enough sensitization regarding gender equality.
A friend of mine Tom once told me that he wouldn’t love to marry an independent-minded woman, who can provide everything for herself. ‘It feels good when you provide for your woman’ he said. The same statement was supported by Edgar who says he can never marry unless he has enough money. I don’t know what amounts to enough in his dictionary and I didn’t ask.
Don’t you think this kind of thinking will be passed on to our children? Don’t you think we need to change something in the upbringing and maybe the education both formal and informal? How about if we told our boys and girls in kindergarten that they’re equal and that equality does not start after starting a relationship or even after marriage?
During a Youth Camp in Northern Uganda in 2019, I went for a walk one evening with a group of girls and boys. With my appetite for roasted chicken, we walked up to Vjeeyz club and when the chicken was ready, I got money from my pocket and paid. Something that shocked everyone including the seller. Alex, who was next to me had pulled out his wallet to pay for my chicken. I don’t know why he felt embarrassed by my action and my fellow girls gave me glares that I never saw coming.
The shock silence lasted for a few minutes until Alex asked me the reasons for my action. It was then my turn to be angry and shocked, ‘Did we make an agreement that you were going to pay for me?’ I asked him and he got angrier. ‘Are you a feminist?’ he asked raising his voice bitterly. Even when I didn’t know much about feminism by then, I felt like I was more than a feminist at that moment.
Sometimes, I think men wanting to prove that they are men according to the standards set by society is the root cause of all the problems the boy child is facing. Is there a difference between being a man and being a man? Is it measured by how much they can provide to women? How about being a woman? Is it being dependent on a man that defines how feminine one is?
Writer: NIWASASIRA FORTUNATE, Feminist, and Gender Equality Advocate.