I am a Ugandan, and have lived and worked in Uganda, Zimbabwe and Northern Sudan. I am currently based in Nairobi where I work as Executive Director of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights – Africa.
As far back as I can remember, I have always resisted the subordination of women and girls at the family level and in the community. My earliest recollection is when I confronted my father and told him that he would never negotiate for dowry for my marriage. As an adult I ensured that it did not happen. I also remember my anger at the fact that Zimbabwean women had been rounded up because they were unaccompanied by men and were assumed to be commercial sex workers! This anger pushed me to join meetings that led to the formation of the Women’s Action Group.
Throughout my adult life, I have sought to empower myself and other women to be able to negotiate our way through life, and to challenge the male domination in our families and communities. As an activist I contribute to advocacy for greater and more meaningful participation of feminists in finding sustainable solutions to the armed conflict situations and other crises that wear a woman’s face in Africa. For the past 12 years, I have helped document women’s experiences in armed conflict in order to ensure that future generations understand the power relations that exacerbate violence against women in conflicts. The documentation is a means of ensuring that women’s voices and issues become part of the historical record. I am involved with a range of organisations that build women’s capacity to participate in conflict early warning, peace building and conflict transformation, and in advocacy campaigns for the respect of human rights for all women.
In the course of my work I have realised that too many women still fear to stand out as different, and will stay for too long in abusive or intolerable relationships if only to be seen as married and therefore “complete”. In addition, the rise of religious fundamentalisms means that we still have women on the continent who believe that women’s subordinate status is God-given!
In this journey there are sisters who serve as my role models and I am not afraid to seek out their wise counsel. My mother and grandmother warned me of the evils of patriarchy at a tender age. I remain inspired by their wisdom. We as African feminists of all shades of opinion and different generations are strengthening our spaces. Feminist funds are emerging on our continent and these will ensure that our organising gets the requisite resources. Feminists are standing up to be counted, and they are standing for the rights of all women in Africa, in small but sure steps. There are many young women who are not afraid to identifying themselves as feminists. There is still so much to learn, to do, and to enjoy!