Many programs to help elevate the position and significance of women have been done in this world. Women have a fully-fledged agency in the United Nations Organization focused on their issues. Currently, very many employment and education opportunities have clauses in them encouraging women to apply to the point that even male-dominated STEM fields are encouraging women to do the same. In Uganda, the country from where I hail, we have many initiatives like UWESO that was set up by our First Lady, FIDA and many more all set up to support women and their fight for significance. During the ’90s, to encourage women into the professional and service ranks of Uganda, the government started an emancipation program for women which had initiatives like every district having a woman member of parliament and 1.5 additional points for women as they are joining university—an initiative that has eliminated the number of male students qualifying for undergraduate program of law on a government scholarship. However, even after such pronounced interventions by the government(s) and many international organizations, the discrimination against women remains. Sometimes blaming the governments is not the solution. There is still a level of inadequacy in these programs that have left many women and girls especially those from poorer backgrounds behind. In this article, I suggest a few reasons that could be behind the inadequacy of some of these government programs and also stand to suggest that the problem might not even be anatomically affixed within our society especially at the initial phases as we are being raised as children in our families, women’s mindset, government’s role, and the gospel.
The peril of having only girl children
If you run a random survey through Uganda, you will find out that very many parents are not satisfied with having only girl children. This is not only a rural attitude; it’s an attitude even among the urban elites in Uganda. You’ll hear almost every parent—both male and female saying in Luganda “…. Tonazalla musika” translated as “…. You have not yet given birth to a successor.” These words are normally directed to parents that have only girl children. This attitude has been carried on from the older generations where it was an omen for a woman to only gave birth to girls. The woman would become a laughing stock in the village to the point that everyone would encourage the man to look for another woman so that he can have male children. Such attitudes are usually ingrained in peoples’ hearts. The most disturbing thing is that this attitude is even still among the elites and is one of the reasons behind justifiable extramarital affairs. No blame whatsoever is placed on the man yet he is the one that determines sex according to genetics. Having a male child gives women rest in their homes. You realize that this issue is deeply ingrained in society that women who have given birth to only girls feel worried that they could lose their husbands inheritance in case of their husband’s death yet the laws of Uganda protect them as rightful heirs. If a boy is finally born into such families, they are treated differently compared to the rest of the girls in with outrageous and barbaric lines like… now the man’s line is preserved. It creates a sense of entitlement on the male gender, a subtle reality that affects the position of the girls. We must as a society fight hard to take it in that all children are blessing and they should be treated equally. There are very many families where girls have turned out to be the light. This is a problem that can’t be solved by the government but can only be dealt with by parents (families) intentionally teaching their children to be equal. Of course, there are some cultural norms that we should uphold because they identify us, but these should be considered as roles of men for example during the customary marriage, the roles of the boys and uncles; the roles of sisters and aunties. However, these shouldn’t be used to stereotype women and give them a position beneath men. We have had cases where people have used these as a reason for not giving their daughters inheritance—this is wrong to the core and could be responsible for the unchanging status of women in society. We cannot tell the power of changing certain attitudes until when we change the attitude.
The mindset in women
I have worked with children in a sponsorship program in Kampala. This has given some access to the poor neighborhoods within my city. Many of these children don’t usually end up reaching the university due to the very high cost of university education. This is the point where you notice that there is another mindset amongst the girls and their families in such neighborhoods. At this point, most of these young people are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. This is an age where most people are making decisions about their careers and what they want to be. If a boy fails to get tuition at this point, they will look for work maybe join the transportation industry (Boda and conductors), logistics (turn boys), manufacturing, etc. and most of the advice that comes to them is to make money so that you can pay your tuition or so that you can become a man. For the ladies, it’s the opposite many parents will push them into marriage. They will make statements like go and get married so that a man can take care of you. Strangely, many women have been weakened by this to the point that even the elite women feel incomplete when they have no man taking care of them. Even the bible doesn’t teach that people must get married. Women, need to understand that they are not just childbearing machines taken care of by men. They are more than that. Women can also like boys be trained to make their money and be strong women. We might be created differently but we all have minds that can produce great things in this world irrespective of our gender. Like young girls are being encouraged to join male-dominated fields like STEM, they should freely change their mindset and understand that they can also contribute heavily to the community not just to the “sente ye kikazi”
The Ugandan Law
If there weak laws and directives that I know of in this world, it’s the laws of Uganda. And I know that almost all people from African nations identify with me on this particular issue. Governments will pass a law, and it will only work when the government has a case against you. For example last year, a sexual harassment law was passed and people were educated about it but because our nation’s implementation of laws is weak this will not. The constitution only works if it is upheld as a whole. If criminals walk free from high-profile cases like corruption, murder, and many others, how do we expect the law to deal with a “side” issue like sexual harassment? It’s expedient for governments to understand that if all the three arms of government —the executive (the president and his cabinet), the parliament (the members of the house) and the judiciary (the courts of law) are not working independently to fulfill their roles the constitution (which they all pay allegiance to) has been failed because all these three work to uphold it. There is a tendency for all the arms to be under the forceful hand of the executive in African Countries and we have seen the results. This means that the women’s rights that are drafted from and within the same constitution will not work because we fall back to a constitution-less society. Governments especially in Africa need to start respecting their constitutions at all times if they are going to fully uphold them. If any law that is broken goes unpunished, it sets precedence for breaking another. The position of women will continue to be weak as long as the constitution is not respected. Nations that have upheld their constructions at all times have found it easy to fight the abuse of women’s rights
This seems controversial yet it is the most powerful message in the world. The gospel is different from religion because it [the gospel] presupposes that all people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It presupposes there is inherent prejudice in us and we can’t be better on our own but rather need a savior from whom we draw our assurance so that we can look at all people with the same love that has had mercy and grace on us. It is the gospel that can see men and women as equals. It’s recorded from stories where muscularity was dominant but it still gave a place to women and when contextualized in the right way to this generation women will have a far much better place in this world. It doesn’t put men above women in terms of morals or position but it takes in the fact that we are all created differently. For example, on the issue of marriage, it cites the fact that men are supposed to love their wives—a reality that we know that women desire to be loved in relationships. It tells women to submit to their husbands—a reality we also know that men need only respect. The power of the gospel calls men to love as Christ did: Jesus gave his life for the church. Men are supposed to love. The most balanced homes where the issues of stereotyping start from, have men that love their wives they can give up their lives for them. Such women have no reason to be insecure. When a father loves a mother, it’s very hard for the boys in that home to treat the women any different. The gospel teaches us that our lives are not our own but they are for Christ—this teaches us to treat others better.
In conclusion, as we continue dealing with the issue of women stereotyping and discrimination, there is a need for us to start it at the grassroots: in our families when the women and men are still young so that a culture of respect and significance is raised amongst them. Most intervention programs by governments are introduced at a mature age and usually fail to deal with the problems engrained in childhood or they create other adverse problems. The mindset has to be changed early. To be honest, the only intervention program that can work at any age; old or young is the gospel. I know it’s not easy for it to be received but it works.