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Saturday,September 19,2020 13:22 PM

Dear Katikkiro Ssemwogerere

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th January 2002 03:00 AM

A word or two for Buganda’s prime minister on the status of women

A word or two for Buganda’s prime minister on the status of women

By Opiyo Oloya A GOOD teacher always looks for a teaching moment, that precise instance when the learner is most open to receiving new ideas. To the little child who has just witnessed a kite swoop into the courtyard only to fly away with the beautiful chick hatched yesterday, a terrible thing has happened. To the teacher consoling the child, this is the teaching moment to talk about the never ending cycle of life in the food chain-how the earthworm eats part of the earth, and the chick eats the earthworm, and the kite eats the chick, and people eat the chicken, and so forth. Good teachers thrive on such moments and make lasting impact on their young charge. Alas, last December while addressing educationists and head teachers from various secondary schools at the commissioning of the second Buganda Education Commission, you not only missed an excellent teaching moment, but also helped reinforce the sexist notion that the only worthy vocation for women in general, and young girls specifically is that of pleasing and serving men in society. The New Vision story quoted you as suggesting to the audience that Baganda parents instill moral values in their girls in order to make them more marketable to European men tired of marrying “fellow men” since white women regard themselves as equal to men. Apparently, your audience guffawed with merriment. Naturally, there is disagreement about what you actually said-press assistant Naome Nabanoba dismisses the newspaper article as inaccurate while The New Vision is sticking by its story. Mr Katikkiro, even if you did not promote the view reported in the newspaper, your pregnant silence in the face of such a sexist affront indicated that it was okay to continue to put down women and to ignore their many contributions toward human development. Regardless of who said what on that day, as a man of great stature, you had the perfect opportunity, in fact a responsibility, to set the record straight on two prevailing misconceptions. Foremost, you needed to confront the archaic male view that women are “only good for the kitchen and the bedroom”. As a well traveled and educated man, you know that women are already celebrating major victories that include the right to education, vote, own property, choose a career and enjoy the life of full citizenship. These achievements did not come as a result of women simply sitting pretty while waiting for a white knight to show up. In North America, Europe and many developed nations, women are prevalent if not dominant in education, medicine, engineering, law, politics and so forth. Following in the footsteps of female role models, schoolgirls are scoring higher than boys in just about every subject including Math and Science. For example, the 2001 A-level result in the UK showed girls ahead of boys. A breakdown of the statistics showed that the number of girls awarded A grades was 18.1%, up from 17.4%. The figure for boys was 17.5%, unchanged from the previous year. Uganda examinations statistics at all levels show girls gaining fast and, in some instances, doing better than boys. The reason for this unprecedented success is that in Uganda today-from the little girl running to school to the woman doctor at Mulago, there is a certain unwavering focus, some would even call it a drive, to succeed on the basis of hard work. Politics aside, surely some of our most notable citizens are women with distinguished records-Julie Sebutinde, Edith Ssempala, Cecilia Ogwal, Miria Matembe, Winnie Byanyima and Specioza Kazibwe, just to mention a few. The second misconception which your speech or silence condoned is the ridiculous insinuation that it is a big achievement for Uganda to supply European men with docile, do-as-your-man-says wives with old-world moral values. For one thing, such a view smacks of the colonial era when the highest point of achievement for the poor native was to serve and please his white master. For another, I would speculate that interracial marriage between a European man and an African woman is based on mutual respect and love rather than some cultural inferiority complex on the part of the African woman. But let’s be clear on one thing-the African woman has amply demonstrated first and foremost that she is intelligent, capable and no pushover. Mr. Katikkiro, it was your duty to speak clearly into that microphone and categorically say that Uganda women are not cows to be marketed to the highest bidder in the European meat market. Instead, you either laughed with the rest of them at what was clearly not a funny joke, or simply kept quiet. Pointedly, you chose to be an accomplice to the dinosaur-like view that women get ahead by sleeping their way to the top. In so doing, you clearly missed your teaching moment on that day, and undid years of hard work to promote women’s education and acknowledge their many contributions to the development of Uganda. Many have quietly defended you as a honourable open-minded gentleman-now come out publicly and show it.

Dear Katikkiro Ssemwogerere

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