Learning from our African Feminist Sistas

With Christian music in the background, I am finally finding the time to write down all the thoughts that have been floating around my mind these past couple of days. Today was my second day of attending the National Women’s Week Conference called “United Women Can” to reflect on 50 years of women’s contribution to Uganda’s development. This is an interesting time in Uganda because Tuesday marks Uganda’s 50 years since independence, which is called the Jubilee. Of course, it is a public holiday and there are many celebrations that people are preparing. But, there is also a sense that there is not much to celebrate at all, especially at the women’s conference. There is so much more that needs to be done to promote women’s rights. It is inspiring to be around these determined ladies and feel the energy, frustration, and annoyance with the current politics.

The MEMPROW Girls led a great session today on “Generation Y” emphasizing that young women need to be included in the actions of the women’s movement so that they can learn lessons and become the leaders of tomorrow. There were many opinions and contradictions during the discussion. Should the girls be angry that they are not included? Or reduce their temper so they can work with others? Was it the girls’ responsibility to seek out mentors? Or the responsibility of the elders to teach the youth? All this movement building talk has really had me thinking of the women’s movement in the US. Or the lack thereof. At another session, we were to think of a feminist leader that inspires us and I had to think hard of a feminist from the US that I would consider as inspiring. Ironically, at the same time, my dear friend Polina, posted on Facebook that she wanted to organize something for a new women’s movement, and I couldn’t agree more. Why is that we are able to sit back and think that all women’s issues are solved? Aren’t girls in the US also affected by mass media images diluting our body images? Aren’t our sexual and reproductive health rights and education under attack by conservative politicians? Aren’t we lacking strong women leaders to challenge the current system? Aren’t we lacking intergenerational dialogues among the young and older women? I think the most important thing that women are lacking in the US is collaboration and the spirit of working together and creating one agenda. If women around the world can come together and organize, why can’t we do the same in the US? I’m not sure when and if I am coming back to the US, but if this resonates with anyone, please get in contact. I would love to work on organizing something.

My friend Sayid asked me yesterday during a boring lecture, “Why are you here?” A simple question and one that I have been thinking a lot about lately. I am here to learn. Firstly, I want to learn from MEMPROW and specifically Dr. Tadria on how to run an organization that empowers young women and educates them on their rights. Realizing that how one does the work is just as important as the work itself, and seeing that Dr. Tadria practices what she preaches. Secondly, I am here to deepen my mindfulness, yoga, and meditation practice without leaning on the yogi community that I left behind in San Francisco. I must make time to practice during my day and dedicate myself to the practice. It also means passing my teaches onto people in Uganda, which I have been subtly doing with the people I work with and will more directly teach when I go up country on Wednesday. Lastly, I am here to have fun, dance, and soak in the Ugandan culture.

Last night was quite an adventure in Kampala nightlife. Sayid took me to an outside reggae concert of some guy called Conscious from Jamaica. I could tell from the moment we parked that this was going to be a big event given the massive amounts of people. After waiting in line for a while, a guy came up to us and told us for a little money he could sneak us to the front (not so obviously, but it was implied). Once we got to the front, I thought stampede. People pushing, shoving, falling down the hill. Oh geez….but we had made it this far and we were going to get inside. And we did! A breathe of fresh air and dancing to be had. It wasn’t quite the electronic concert that I am used to, but the hip-hop and reggae was not bad. We decided to leave a bit early to beat the crowd, and good thing we did because Sayid’s car wouldn’t start. I thought it was a boda-boda night for me, but anything is possible with a bit of money. He asked the guard to find someone who could jumpstart the car and before I knew it there was a taxi that jumpstarted the car. It was great and I was so ready to go to bed.

Tonight, I am going to take it easy. After the conference, I went with Sarah to the City Centre to get some nice work clothes and malaria medicine just in case. We are leaving on Wednesday for this 3.5 week trip to the North. I will try to write before, but if not, peace and love to you all! I miss you and think of you often. You inspire me to continue with this work and I hope you are healthy, happy, and peaceful wherever you are.

With Evelan’s (MEMPROW Girl) Peanut Butter, yum yum                       Opening Prayers

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2 thoughts on “Learning from our African Feminist Sistas

  1. Kim, I love reading about your experiences! I’m so glad I signed up for your blog posts. What you learn with MEMPROW will be lessons you can take anywhere you go, in whatever work you’re doing for women and girls around the world.

    I know it seems that in the US there appear to be disjointed efforts around a collective feminism. There are a few that you may know of, but want to offer up anyway in the case that you return and want to connect: NOW (national organization of women) has local chapters in many cities, NARAL pro-choice also does. Miss Representation is a growing movement stemming from the documentary with the same name. Lastly, there remain a lot of women, myself included, who are stalwart feminists doing what we can given the capacity we have. I get a lot of news from the orgs that I just mentioned as well as from AWID.

    I know for me I have to feel connected to a larger movement, which is why I am so glad to see you doing what you are. By reading of your endeavors it helps me stay in touch with feminist sisters outside of the US.

    Safe travels and adventures during your next several weeks!
    With deep solidarity and compassion.

    • Thanks so much Dan! I’m glad someone is reading this besides my mom and dad (although that is still enough reason to write 🙂 I realize now that I was sort of on a rant earlier. You are definitely right! There are many organizations in the US that are actively working to promote women’s rights. I’ll never forget my first protest when I was in high school and my mom took me to Washington DC to March for a Women’s Right to Choose that was organized by NARAL. I also really appreciate the work of the Miss Representation movement, which directly confronts the impact of images of women in the media. I am more frustrated that there aren’t spaces for feminists of all ages to come together in the US. There is nothing like being in a room with empowered women working on the same agenda. I also feel that the women’s movement is not reaching out to younger girls and women and also that we are always on the defensive rather than creating our own platform. I would welcome a US Feminist Forum, as they have started in Africa or any conference of this sort. But, then again, I am not even in the US right now, so I am not sure how righteous I can be about this, hehe. Thanks for your support and guidance! I feel better knowing that we are all in solidarity on these issues.

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