I once walked into the main reception at Bank of Uganda. As I waited for my turn to be served, my restless wandering eyes looked out around the waiting lounge as a way to familiarize myself with the place. Behind the seats of the ladies at the front desk, up on the wall hung a framed portrait of members of the board of Bank of Uganda. It was a team of very smart senior people. One thing stood out though. There was only one lady on a team of about eight.
In my head, the projector was switched on and slides of capable senior lady citizens of this beautiful country who would make it played one after another. But then I didn’t know the criteria followed in appointing members of the board. I let go.
This particular incident reminded me of a time when Tereza Mbire addressed us as students at Makerere University in 2015. She shared a story of how she was once appointed to the board of one of the leading banks in the country. Like the case with the Bank of Uganda picture, she was the only lady on the team.
When tea break came, she served herself a cup of tea which left other board members uncomfortable. They expected her to make tea for all of them (because she was the only woman in the room).
She had to remind them that with her presence with them as another board member, she was their equal and not a servant. To those who were present, it made a point.
In our society today, men are more privileged to assume and hold given placements in society. Much as this is true, to some extent, it can be contested.
It is only in very rare cases that power is handed down to one on a silver spoon. And even if it were, one has a role of protecting it. The dictates of society to have women waiting for their portion to be handed down from men is the reason for the male privilege.
While at university, I was on two campaigning teams for two different ladies in two different years. They were both competing for the guild. Being on the team exposed me to something I had not thought of. Expectations.
The voting body had the same expectations from these candidates as it did for the male counter parts. The voters did not look at candidates as per their gender rather by who was willing to identify with them and front their demands as a students body. There was no sympathy vote instead there was need for strategy to garner for more support and have the students vote for the various candidates.
However, for every step that a woman makes especially in terms of joining politics, she must be ready to stand her ground and defend her interests and demands just like any man. Like Nicholas Opiyo says, “Women should stop playing victims, …they have to retool and engage their society.”
Politics, like any other aspect of life, requires one to stand their ground. Often times, this comes at a cost. In a situation like the one we have in Uganda where politics is monetized, it increasingly calls for the woman’s sternness to establish her footing, financially.
In Runyankore, there is a saying; “Omushaija obushaija abwetera.” Loosely translated
(A man chooses when to man up). For women to emerge and take center stage in politics, it will take their own efforts. They do not need to seek permission from anyone. In this country, we are not short of women who have made a significant mark in politics and i believe many others can make it too.
Fasi Fasi is a TV show brought together by UN Women, KAS Uganda and ACFODE with the aim of helping young Ugandan women to take up positions of leadership in business, community and politics. It airs on NBS TV every Thursday at 8:30pm. You can watch this particular episode here