March is the Women’s Month and I feel that we have exhausted almost the conversations that we needed to have in regards to where we are as a society. We have sung, and celebrated women for who they are, highlighted their triumphs and victories – but we have also had that introspective look. That has allowed stopping and examining ourselves as a people and asking rather uncomfortable questions. I have loved to see some of these conversations evolve and it has been amazing.
However, what has been very evident is the fact that we are a people that not gender conscious.We have become so used to the exclusion of women in certain aspects of society and it is okay. It is okay not because it is a rule written somewhere or as an allowed principal but rather an unconscious decision we make – an invisible line that we cross. And every time that we do – it further alienates the cause of women.
In Teso region, Amuria district, Acowa sub county, Agnes wakes up every morning and prepares for her day. She will take her child to the school where she works as a teacher. Because of UPE,her son Walter, the last born is able to go to primary school. She otherwise wouldn’t afford to take him to school because she doesn’t earn much. But being a teacher in the same school at the Parish gives her that advantage. He follows in the footsteps of his two older siblings who also managed to complete Primary School. Florence the first born is in the city working as a house maid, George is the one who remains at home and occasionally tends to the gardens. Agnes and her son Walter make the journey every morning on a bicycle. In this part of the society – women do all the work. The men are almost invisible because all they do is drink Ajon – the local brew. They start at it every morning by 9:00am. Her main aim in life is to make sure that her children are fed and clothed. She would love for Walter and his siblings to have better education, better ambition in life.
When going over her story – I keep wondering if there are any policies in favor of her. What would she able to accomplish if she was empowered? Her tale is not new at all. She represents a big part of Uganda’s rural women. As I think about her – I wonder what women’s day could do to help her situation. Because while we get to laud Women Politicians, Women who have made it big and women who have accomplished much –Agnes does not make the list. Because she is not known and yet she is the real hero. Every day –she wakes up to being a mother, wife to a man that doesn’t respect her and a teacher while being the breadwinner of the home. She is not recognized because, she is doing her job, or performing her roles and responsibilities as expected.
We are not a gender conscious people, if we were A gender conscious society is not brought about how many women there are in politics. Uganda is one of the countries with the most women in political fields. We must note that there is a there is a difference between a numerical increase in women representatives, and the representation of women’s interests in government decision‐making. We are yet to see the latter, particularly to see our representatives making a case for women like Agnes.
And while she may never receive any accolade for being resilient, strong and for providing for her family – she deserves a better shot at life. The law should be able to fight for her – but that too is not in her favor. And it is women like these that should keep us awake at night because they matter. As a society we need to be conscious of the role that they play, their existence and their needs. That’s what balanced societies do.