I am a woman and proud to be one. In as much as I am proud of being one I do not need to be reminded I am one. Because I already know what I am. I did not apply to be one, but that does not mean I am not happy that I am a woman.
Some of the people around me have tried to make me feel I have to do a lot to be a real woman. I am expected to consent to what all the men around me say and always stay below the man in all I do. The woman that I am does not let me stay down when i know i can rise to the top just like anyone social, economically and politically.
We are already women – yet we are asked to do extraordinary things before people appreciate us for the women that we are.
I am writing this post as a reminder to all of you out there, who keep reminding me and so many other women out there to be a ‘Woman’. The society that I live in does not want to look at the potential in me but at my potential as ‘a Woman’. Coming from Uganda, this has happened to me very often - but I have a feeling I and Uganda are not alone with this problem. What do you say? I hope this will spark a discussion.
Let me tell you a couple of stories about how I have experienced this myself.
The clearest memory I have of being told how to be a woman is when I had to contest as a guild speaker of Makerere University student’s guild. As I campaigned there was a common question that was posed to me: ”You are a girl/woman how are you going to handle that position?” Many of the people that asked me that question also went ahead to say the position needed a very tough boy (man) who could handle the pressure of chairing a controversial parliamentary session.
This did not stop me from going on with my campaign. To my great surprise, I noticed that a small group of boys supported me as the candidate. This was quite encouraging! Some boys thought different, I thought. However, when I was finally elected the motive of their support became clear. This group of boys only supported me because they thought I was a ‘Woman’! According to them, I would be a weak link in that office and therefore they would be able to do anything they pleased.
Indeed they were in for the shock of their lives, when I facilitated a process to reprimand some of the guild executive members who were abusing their offices. The immediate outcome of this was the executive started to follow the right procedures and respecting the office of the speaker that was monitoring their work.
My being a woman got me to another twist. A lot of people started telling me how chances are that I would probably never get married if I didn’t start to be a woman. Taking our African society setting, a woman has been conditioned to being a ‘yes-woman’. Regardless of whether you believe in what a man has said, the response should be affirmative – always in favour of the men. The young boys around me did not see this in me at all. They hated that I asked why, what, when, how, who? Instead of saying “Yes, let us go with what you think is right”.
This has followed me to date - not least with these particular boys, whom I have served with in the various leadership positions. Not long ago I updated my status on Facebook, saying that I was in love. One of the responses I received from these old friends of mine was a surprised: "You also fall in love!?” I laughed so hard.
I was forced to share this experience with some wonderful women from Uganda, Kenya, Italy ,Greek, who were gathered in Uganda for the midterm review of a project I am part of: the Unpaid care work project. The responses I got were very encouraging. One of them told me something that really inspired me:
“Never let such people to put you down. They do not measure to your standards and as a result they are trying to lower you to their standards to be able to interact with you. Indeed a woman remains a woman.”
I am sure she has no idea, but those words continue to echo in my mind and it's the reason why I write this blog. They made me want to reach out and encourage my few sisters that have been put down – only for some man to rise.
Stand your ground for what you can do and what you believe in. And we shall also get our space in this world as the women we are rather than the Women we are told to be.