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Breastfeeding puppies: NGOs are right to speak

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th June 2009 03:00 AM

The article by Jenn Jagire in The New Vision June 4 raises issues about the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in democracy and good governance and how Africans in the diaspora can help or hinder this.

The article by Jenn Jagire in The New Vision June 4 raises issues about the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in democracy and good governance and how Africans in the diaspora can help or hinder this.

By Atuki Turner

The article by Jenn Jagire in The New Vision June 4 raises issues about the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in democracy and good governance and how Africans in the diaspora can help or hinder this.

First of all, it is insulting for Jenn Jagire to state that forcing a woman to breastfeed puppies is not “such a big issue.”

Injustice does not know a person’s gender, creed or race. That is why there was an outcry from society about the ‘breastfeeding puppies’ story.

The second insult is to suggest that NGOs have ‘appropriated’ Alupot’s voice and are “driving out her potential.”

Fortunately, Alupot happens to be a client of Action Aid that are on the ground in Pallisa. Through their intervention, she has been able to understand the violation of her rights and the Government’s responsibility to act.

Agitation by NGOs has led the Government machinery to act by suspending the officer who mishandled the case and initiating proper criminal prosecution procedures. Could Alupot have done this on her own without the help of NGOs? The answer is no, because she had already been written off as mentally disturbed.

Against this background, Africans who live abroad need to be humble enough to take the trouble to brief themselves on what is happening at home before making blatant alien accusations.

In the case of bride price, MIFUMI has been at the forefront of bringing out this difficult and hidden problem into the public domain.

MIFUMI draws its mandate to address bride price, first from a district referendum in 2001 presided over by the Local Government under the auspices of the Electoral Commission and the recent Tororo district (Bridal Gifts Ordinance Bill No 2 of 2008), passed under the Local Government Act.

Clearly these are structural reforms that Alupot alone could not effect and NGOs can bring about for the benefit of many more people in Alupot’s situation.

All the NGOs championing bride price reform are not western NGOs but home grown. This fact aside, the world is now so interconnected that local issues have international impact and repercussions which is precisely why Jagire could comment about the puppies story from Canada.

To suggest that the example of Abraham Lincoln is not right is to deny the facts of history. We know that most revolutions have involved insiders working against the establishment to secure democratic concessions for the oppressed. This does not invalidate the legitimate struggle of the black slaves. If I say, it may take a man to liberate women from bride price, it does not invalidate the struggle of women. What it means is, to sort a problem, you need a few good men or even one good man to catalyse or precipitate change.

For example, F.W. De Clerk released Nelson Mandela from prison. Yitzhak Rabin held the first face-to-face meeting with Palestinians over the two state solution. Jesus Christ worked for the salvation of the Gentiles.

To become more constructive, people like Jagire need to be encouraged to stop hiding behind whatever fears they have and naming these fears “African values.”

They should stop criticising NGOs who are grappling with complex situations of violence against women amidst poverty, and societal attitudes that encourage the subordination of women.

If they want to help people like Alupot, they should stop preaching to us, give up their privileged existence in the West, come back home and get their hands dirty like the NGOs. Only then will they be able to speak with authenticity and authority.

The writer is the executive director of MIFUMI

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Breastfeeding puppies: NGOs are right to speak

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