FIVE YEARS OF GRACE !

Dear Femme Forte Uganda,

Where does time go? How is it possible that one can blink and time is gone ? I remember yesterday so vividly, excited young people , no office space, no money , dreams so heavy they could have broken our backs, or maybe they did …….and so much energy and determination to change the world. How is it five years already? How did you grow up so fast ? I have enjoyed watching you evolve into this beautiful soulful space. You have become a little more comfortable with independence, not needing so much baby sitting and oh, how you enjoy the company of the bigger sisterhood. I have watched you test and push boundaries, do so many things your way even when you were frowned upon, i have watched you dare.

As you grow older, i still believe that a small group of people acting locally and using creative approaches can make a huge difference. I still admire your commitment to serving women and helping them foster effective resilience to break barriers and reach new heights for themselves. I look forward to a time society will afford equal opportunities to both men and women but until then, i am proud of the gospel of feminist theories and principles you continue to preach

You have grown in patience and learned to manage other emotions that constantly creep up on you. The tantrums have slowly faded away and you have gained better comprehension of the world around you. I have watched you fall and fail, some falls more brutal than others , some failures i was afraid you wouldn’t recover from but oh, how proud i am of you today!

Five big years of courage, of strong will, of curiosity, of outgoingness! I have watched you do things very afraid but still trusting that the universe would hold you and ground you in good measure. My heart could explode right now from the emotions and feelings i am catching as i pen this down, so i will go ahead and say it before i ruin everything with tears and waterworks.

Happy fifth birthday my beautiful. As you transition into this new year, I speak five things over you.

1. Trust – one of my favorite scriptures is Habakkuk 2:2-3 “ write down the vision, for it awaits an appointed time, and if it seems like it is delaying, wait for it, for the vision doesn’t lie” i have totally paraphrased it but in all you do, trust the process. It may seem impossible, it may be painful sometimes, learn to trust!

2. Consistency – Build everyday, add a brick , be patient , be true to your call – consistency is a reward for

3. Hunger – whatever you do, remain hungry, whatever you lose , don’t lose your curiosity. Keep finding avenues to grow and to learn, invest in those avenues.

4. Know your craft – be a master of your craft, grow, learn and spread the gospel according to feminism from a place of knowledge, understanding and experience, and when you think you have mastered all, find ways of repacking what you know and rebuild.

5. Empathy and responsibility- you have been called to serve, when you fail, take responsibility for your actions, when you are winning, lead with compassion and empathy

Our future is bright because of our people, our purpose, our values, and our commitment to feminist Praxis. Thank you to our people, the ones who have stayed to clean up even when the party is over , the ones who have been in the trenches with us, shouting our name in spaces we couldn’t access, we are because you care. And now i must really stop before i get ahead of myself, knowing full well you have to go and celebrate this day , this milestone, this new year as you deserve to.

I love you. I am honored to carry you and steward you.

Penelope Sanyu

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WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT ENDOMETRIOSIS?

I have been found guilty of running my mouth on issues i didnt fully understand, most especially around people with chronic illnesses . Sometimes you catch yourself saying things you shouldn’t , being insensitive , and or even harming people with words that can’t be taken back. Somewhere in the good book it is said that ‘even a fool is thought wise when they stay quiet”, i beg , if you have no kind words – shut it your mouth!

This week i met an amazing lady, Ms Grace – she is a nurse and founded the Endometriosis foundation in uganda to create awareness about the illness, to advocate for best health care services, to support and find help for women in early stages of their diagnosis of endometriosis.

Did you know that one in every 10 women of reproductive age have endometriosis ( a chronic condition where the inner linning of the uterus grows in other places outside the uterus) often leading to infertility? Endometriosis depends on the female hormone estrogen and is therefore rare after menopause and or before puberty. It has four stages and often grows in the fallopian tubes , ovaries , vagina, bladder, intestines, making it difficult for most women with the condition to become pregnant because of the damage to the sites it occupies.

Did you also know that sever period pains are not normal, that painful sex and irregular periods could be a sign, that pelvic pain , ovulation pain, lower back pain among other symptoms we experience during that time of the month but have chosen to normalize, are absolutely not okay? Grace’s story not only opened my eyes , it also gave me the hope that we can all work together to create awareness about this condition and together find some solutions to avert it.

Some of the ways we can do this together is encouraging ourselves to lead healthy lives , excercise regulary, maintain a healthy diet , get enough rest, if already diagnosed , try pelvic massages, reduce alcohol and Caffeine intake, ans above all BE KIND!

Grace and all the advocates for better health care provision on this matter need both you and i to join the fight and create awareness about the condition. There is never enough noise about a matter as critical as this . And the next time you thing to say an unkind word to someone whose condition you understand not, ……think again!

Life is already punching us from every corner, choose to spread grace and kindness !

FEMINISM IN AFRICA

#WinterABC2022 #StoriesOfAwareness – Story by Mariam Satya Cherotich

Feminism as a whole is a very sensitive topic, especially to women as we are the biggest and main advocates of the movement. It’s also a very unpopular topic to many, especially men, for many different reasons. First of all let us define feminism. It’s basically the choice of women, by women, for women. Feminism is also an advocacy for equal rights for the female gender in all aspects i.e socially, politically, economically among others. Now you’d think that a basic fight for social justice and common decency would be strongly supported world wide by majority, if not all, people; but no. In fact one of the most unpopular opinions of all time is usually anything connected to this widespread movement for women to have equal rights, justice and liberty just like the male gender have been enjoying these privileges for as long as time immemorial.

So for a big part of my life I’ve been hearing different opinions on feminism from my fellow Africans. The ones that don’t support it usually justify their dislike for it by claiming that feminism was introduced or “brought” to Africa by “Bazungu”, the Europeans. Somehow this is supposed to show their pan Africanism by showing how connected they are to their forefathers “roots” of oppression of women all the while justifying their hatred for the fight of women’s rights. I personally laugh at such, need I say, primitive opinions. To add salt to the wound, they follow up such claims with statements like “women belong in the kitchen” and “this is a man’s world” among so many others that are really infuriating by the way. Mind you, they do have a point, because so many societies in Africa and across the world practiced these oppressive beliefs as a way of “keeping women in check” but that doesn’t cancel out the fact that there existed martriarchal societies in Africa at the time too. Lest I forget to mention that these people make these claims so they can justify domestic violence, sexual harrasment towards women and general sexism that’s highly problematic to the female gender.

I for one love a good argument, especially if it’s filled with facts. So personally I avoid arguing with people that haven’t done their research on particular topics such as Feminism in Africa. For starters, let’s first get the facts straight. Feminism actually wasn’t introduced for the first time to Africa to many societies as some of them already practised what we now call Feminism. To them, it was just a way of life to treat women as equals. Multiple societies especially in West Africa had women as the body guards of kings and others had women being the general commamders of whole armies. A good and prominent example of this is the Dahomey Amazons who were natively referred to as Mino(our Mothers in Fon). The Dahomey Amazons were an all-female military army of the Kingdom of Dahomey which is now known as the Republic of Benin. In the midst of the horror of the transatlantic slave trade and in times of battle against the French colonisers the Dahomey warriors “were the last line of defense between the enemy and the King and were prepared to sacrifice their lives to protect him” writes Sylvia Serbian.  The popular recent Pan-African film Black Panther actually portrayed The Dahomey female militia by casting a whole army of fierce African women famously called the Dora Milaje and that was Hollywood’s way of bringing Precolonial Africa into modernity. Another famous African warrior Queen was Yaa Asantewaa, a Ghanian  who was born into the Ashanti Kingdom and is famous for leading the Ashanti Rebellion against the British to defend the Golden stool. The Ashanti chiefs were afraid to wage war against the British colonisers but Yaa Asantewaa led an army of approximately 4000 men against British exploitation after inspiring them with a speech as she was not about to accept defeat without putting up a fight. Yaa Asantewaa strongly promoted gender equality as well as women emancipation using her clout as a Queen mother of Ejisu while Prempeh 1 the Asantehene(king) was in exile and she among other women in precolonial Africa strongly contributed and controlled the politics of their African societies. Such shows the dual-sex political system of quite a number of precolonial African societies where women did not come under the authority of men in day to day affairs of their governments and social lives and men and women controlled political institutions jointly. John Henrik Clarke puts it best in his essay on African Warrior Queens in Black Women of Antiquity when he says “Africans had produced a way of life where men were secure enough to let women advance as far as their talents would take them.” in precolonial Africa. 

Then came the White man. Europeans and other Whites around the world back in the day also heavily oppressed women hence the movements such as the suffragette movement among other feminist moves in the 20th and 19th century. The White man that so many Africans perceive to be better than us of darker skin also practiced primitive oppression of women.  In a text entitled The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Martriarchy and of Partriarchy in Classical Antiquity, Diop disputed the Western definitions of martriarchy which strengthen the proof of existence of sexism and gender based oppression of women in Europe. Diop mentioned two world geographical zones: the north and south and he went ahead to state his theory that martriarchy originated in the agricultural south which is Africa and partriarchy originated in the north which consisted of nomadic societies of Indo-European culture. Diop argued against Bachofen and Morgan who described their European notions of family structure through praising patriarchy and disputing the concept of matriarchy by claiming that  matriarchal and matrilineal ways of life were practiced by “barbarian peoples” who had primitive “promiscuous intercourse” while patriarchy and monogamy were practiced by civilized people, in this case the Romans and the Greeks. Bachofen actually had the same point of view emphasizing that matriarchal systems had to do with “barbarism” and “sexual promiscuity” and were based on the supremacy of women. The difference between precolonial Africa and ancient Europe must be very clear by now; in Africa, women had unlimited authority in social, political and economic concepts of society whereas in Indo-Europe,  women had no power whatsoever and were also outrightly denied an authoritative role in society, as Diop states “a husband or father had the right of life and death over a woman”.  When foreigners, Arabs and Europeans, came to Africa they brought along patriarchy and misogyny to these societies that viewed and respected women as equals and figures of power. So there we have it, first and primary fact of the day, feminism was not new to some African societies after the arrival of the Europeans among other foreigners to the “The Dark Continent”. 

There are so many ways ancient African gender sensitive and matriarchal laws and institutions can make the world in general a much better place to exist in for every single one of us. Precolonial African societies deified mothers and considered motherhood to be sacred to the point of African religions symbolizing the power of motherhood through African spiritual powers. In so doing African societies were advocating for women’s rights. Currently in my Africa, problematic issues such as rape, female genital mutilation and domestic violence among other sexist tendencies continue to exist because of traditional male dominace that is predominant in countless societies in Africa, yet if we revive the immense reverence for women some of our African forefathers and foremothers practiced, the progress we would achieve as humanity would have no end.

ALBINISM AWARENESS MONTH

Miss Albinism Zimbabwe Trust: A reflective piece on the daily lived experiences of persons with Albinism

So many people with Albinism face multiple forms of discrimimation world wide . From erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstitions that foster maginalisation and social exclusion. Albinism is heavily misunderstood both socially and medically.

Albinism is a rare , non contagious , genetically inherited difference at birth. Everyone with this condition has a name , they can not continue to be defined by a condition that can be found in both sexes irrespective of ethnicity, across the world .

You and i can both do something about the stigma. Choose today to care , stop and notice, to see with the lens of love.

This little angel is a beautiful reminder to stop the sigma!

THE TRIALS OF BROTHER JERO!

#WinterABC2022: Stories of Africa – first African literature

I love books , i love how they carry you to places , make you feel emotions , broaden your imagination in ways only book lovers can understand .

I do not remember the first book but my most memorable in my earlier days of reading was wole Soyinka’s Trials of brother Jero. This play is still relevant to our times and I still catch myself laughing through every page flip. What a good read !

The main themes in the book include romantic betrayal; religious hypocrisy; the skepticism over the use of religion. Much of the satire and irony in The Trials of Brother Jero comes from the contrast between a self-proclaimed “man of god” and the ordinary community life he finds himself within.

Soyinka captured worldwide issues by using a West African setting. The satirical message in the text is conveyed through ridiculing of the vice and follies of the contemporary Nigeria society via religious institution. His fictive

output belongs to the horatian mode of satire which ridicules the follies with the intention of correcting society.

Through symbolism, comedy and irony, the aberrant and corrupt nature of our religious leaders are exposed. Moral decadence, prevalent in the society is also dealt with. The text centres around a bar beach prophet Jero who pretends to be a true prophet but in the actual sense, he is à cheat, a rogue,

and in fact the devil’s incarnate. As the play unfolds Soyinka presents prophet jero as a representative of hypocritical religious and political leader. He presents him in a humorous and comical way that we see through the front

of the holy hermit which he put on for the benefit of his deluded worshippers. The wrong mentality or orientation of some so called prophet is brought to the force prophet hood ought to be a call to selfless and sacrificial living towards God and mankind.

However, prophets like jero don’t have this mentality. To Jero it’s a business, a profit making venture, the easiest way to meet ones material needs, in one word a trade just as he call it. If you took a minute to shine a light on todays prophets and religious leaders, they are everything foretold in this beautiful book and more.

Because someone might drop by …….

In many spaces world over, you will know without being told that there is an African in the building, literally! You can tell by the choice of music, the elegance in clothing , the purity of laughter ,the genius dance moves , the ability to light up a room with nicely woven stories , great vibes and energy, the command of presence, the variety in food display, the energy in arguments, tone of voice, accent , yes i am stereotyping much but ……….eish …..you just have to belong, even by mere association to understand what i am talking about.

I grew up in a home where we prepared extra food , laid extra beds and haaad extra clothing , just because someone might drop by. Please understand that we were no where close to wealth, we were broke, we couldn’t afford life ………..but there was always extra for that unexpected person or people that might just drop by. Preparing for unexpected guests is labelled wastage,both of resources like time, food and money and of energy. Not in Africa. Actually let me qualify that with not in the pearl of Africa. Every homestead you visit in Africa has something to offer. Its like a ritual , prepartion of some sort of offering before hand, because someone might drop by. An offering of a cup of Water, laughter, food, stories ,folklore, music, a package to leave the hometead with……….it is like the never ending road of givers to giving.

You will visit ten homesteads and be offered something to eat at all the ten homes and then some! Saying no is a sign of dishonor and disrespect, you must atleast drink a cup of water or porridge or eat a banana. If you manage to resist the food, you must carry something away with you, some cassava, bunches of matooke , sweetpotatoes , eggs etc. You just can not leave the same way you came . It is no wonder therefore that we are considered the most hospitable humans alive.

Who wakes up and their first thought is , “You must make sure the food is enough for about 30 guests” just incase someone decides to drop by. The heart that gives shall not lack. And Africans are never in lack. Material things we may lack every now and again, but we are never lacking of the important things, love , hope and faith. The way african families give is not in any way a representation of riches but rather of the spirit of community. We are constantly looking out for one another in ways subtle and loud but one can not mistake the fact that they are cared for. And deeply in the most meaningful ways.

One of my biggest fears is ever leaving this continent for good. I can not imagine a life where i need an invitation to a funeral, or an appointment to check on my people, a structured , pretentious way of life. How an one survive in any place where they do not have the privilage to just show up, no appointment, no prior planning , be fed, be loved on, refill their social capital tank, and even have stuff to carry back home with them? Who can mess with such magic? And there is always more where that came from. Such magic is rare and must be treasured.

Some day i will write about how that magic has somewhat kept many lacking for physical things but very wealthy at community and at heart. But today, i celebrate,our African spirit of generosity. The generosity of our time, our treasure and our every resource. And everyday, becasue someone might drop by, choose to be a blessing, choose to give an offering.

YOU CAN TELL WHAT IS IN OUR HEARTS BY HOW WE GRIEVE .

I got some news last week, rushed home very quickly, poured a glass of wine , as is always the norm, lit a few candles and fell back on my amazing pouf, notes in hand , ready to fill up my gratitude jar. Jotted down about 6 things i was grateful for that day and it hit me , I hadn’t shared the news with anyone ………. Rushed for my phone and dialed …. Number kept going off and i thought why, so i called my friends sister, after all they lived together, ……….i could hear her heart beating so fast through the phone, and after a long awkward silence , Jane (not real name )softly managed with so much concern in her voice to ask , penny are you okay ?

I responded yes , with so much enthusiasm , i have never been better, why ?

Jane : Penny! ……….long and awkward silence again …………Rose died five years ago. You were there remebember?

Silence ……..tears ………pain………shame ……..anger ……..more awkward silence ………i hang up.

Did i know Rose was dead? Yes ! I had buried her . I had mourned her so long and even when the tears stopped coming , i never stopped grieving. I wailed so bad my dog sky came and wailed with me . It was fresh all over again. The stories , the laughter , the dreams , the last days with her ……………i fell apart. I could neither leave my bed nor talk to anyone the following few days, numb and lost in grief, i sat in the darkness coverring my room and heart and wept. While all this was happening , i was not alone, i felt sorrounded even when all else was falling apart, the circle of sisterhood was present. Not caring how much i was broken, not asking questions, just present, incase i needed anything. Once in a while a joke seeped through, or some random story………..that, was the true meaning of being held!

Covid 19 changed the dynamics of grief and celebration for many, but for Africans, it killed our traditions. The past few years have been nothing short of awkward. The ways of living and doing things that we had become so acquainted with, were shuttered. We have carried pains and burdens i can not explain the gravity of . Our cultures. And traditions and rites of passage were heavily disrupted by the famous “COVID-19” pandemic that fulfilled the “let the dead burry the dead” narrative. Some of us are not even ready to face the fact nor come to terms that some of our loved ones passed away during this horrible season where we were denied travel, access, proximity, rites of passage!

Grief has a way of revealing our hearts , whether it comes out in how we choose to respond or not, it just somehow always finds a way to sip in /through and cause unexplainable disruptions . You can tell alot about the heart of a man by how he grieves. By the wide range of things we grieve that are not death. There is grief that is beyond death, beyond imagining , beyond words ………………….that grief that unsuspectingly creeps up on you while you are busy minding your business and trying to stay afloat. That unapologetic kind that shakes you to the core and leaves you helpless. When grief takes on the form of shame , anger , fear and other forms along that line,…….. that’s the easy part of grief . But there is grief that just happens. You have no choice , it just keeps happening. That level of grief requires community. Solid sisterhoods and brotherhooods that sorround you and overwhelm you with a love stronger than grief. That is Africa , that is who we are!

Today as i thought baout Africa, i saw community. A level of togetherness in how we are quick to cover, to sorround, to shield, to provide , to protect ………espcially with how we grieve and celebrate. Our rites of passage are the true definition of UBUNTU. And as you deal with whatever grief you carry, my you be reminded that you are sorrounded, you are held, you are loved. Because at the heart of Africa, is ubuntu.

TIME…..TIME……..TIME…….

Day 2 #WinterABC2022

“Afripod; What role do African storytellers play, if any in keeping the history of the continent alive?”

Our propensity to tell stories increases as we grow older. Our ability to tell worthy and life giving stories is shaped by our experiences amd our curiosity from childhood.

As far as I can remember, my grandmother always told stories, with the food she cooked, the choice of clothes she wore, her hairstyles, the choice of table linen or floral arrangements for the Sunday service at the local church , the songs we sung as we harvested millet inter the scorching sun , the rhythm of the Motor and pestle as we ground cassava or millet flour. It all makes sense now!

It all aways started with “Mbaganire mbaganire”(once upon a time ) , and a resounding “tebere” (time, time , time ) . A ring of fire and a cup of tea with some raw potatoes to roast in the ash under the burning fire. These stories , these moments are what unlocked family secrets , family traditions and recipes that were passed on from generations.

It was in these moments that we learnt about how life was for our parents, and their parents and their parents . Generations of knowledge passed on through folklore, dance , play , laughter , fire , rituals , everyone in their own unique way, telling their own unique stories , that eventually tie into everything that we are and authentically identify with today .

The biggest way to pass on knowledge is through stories and my do I love a great story. Everything I am , everything I dream of , has been in one way or the other , shaped by the stories I was told and or participated in telling as a child . The role of story tellers can never be overstated !

AMAHEMBE G’ENTE

Day 1: #WinterABC2022

As we start this Winter ABC challege, I am here to express my village excitment for the privallage to be a part of this. For all our sponsored topics, I will always share the topic on here.

Bhala writers; Short story in an African city of your choice, in which a particular landmark plays a crucial role.

“ Amahembe gente “ the welcome symbol to mbarara city! For those of us that are not familiar with the uganda landscape – Mbarara is the second largest city in Uganda , after kampala. It is located in western Uganda. The horns of the cattle monument(Amahembe g’ente) depicts the commonly attributed narrative that Mbarara is the land of milk and honey.

Mbarara is believed to have assumed its name from the local tall green grass locally known as emburara(hyperenia ruffa) that then covered the entire surface area. Right at the heart of this beautiful city is pedestalled long horned cow that is the pride and symbol of the mighty city’s heritage . And the symbol of a beautiful long horned cow is the pride the mbarara city dwellers carry from cattle keeping and maintaining generational wealth.

I was born in this amazing city, along what is known as the “high street “ to be precise. If you must know, this street just like its name was always high with activity, drama, traffic, people, among other things. Everyone knew everyone and every adult along that entire street had the right to discipline any child , afterall we belonged to the community and not our parents. One of the beautiful memories i carry with me, is how we would run to the famous monument and play “ringa ringa roses “ , laughing and telling fake stories about things we had heard over the grandparents little radio, or evesdropped from adult conversations . Those were good times.

Truth be told, You have not arrived in the city if you have not beheld the “horns of the cattle” monument .

Todate- nothing after a long four hour drive rings like home until you have seen the “amahembe g’ente” or driven past the “high street” .

FIND HELP, YOU ARE NOT OKAY!

Systems of power are designed to make us unhappy, so why do we keep feeding them to thrive ?

I have not written in a long time, i am not going to delve into the why because that’s a whole blog on its own , however, I would like share a few thoughts I have been battling with, par-adventure someone shares the same thoughts or a contrary view they care to enlighten me with.

Don’t we all at any given point carry at least one secret desire we have never or can never admit to anyone ?

I have been so intrigued by how ,When two people meet, the power dynamics in their lives quickly shift to one or the other even without knowing it. The myth of equal relationships is evident when power comes to play.

Even when it’s out of pure love, we are constantly trying to meet the other party/ persons needs and wishes so desperately, we forget and most times stop hearing our own voices. We give up who we truly are and hide behind the walls we have built so high up to shield us . We convince ourselves that as long as no one gets to “ find us out (The real verdion of us),” we are safe . But are we truly safe? Are you okay?

Our instinctive desire to dominate or submit to other people is constantly tucked away in our sub-conscience. We play dumb or act strong to keep the other party or person comfortable, putting up a show, sometimes unconsciously to not create anarchy or disagreements. So scared to face our personal fears and admit them, we slowly drift from Netflix and chill to a Cold War zone no one knows how to end .

And eventually, then suddenly, we snap. Fearlessness and tremblembling overwhelm us and we begin to entertain evil thoughts. Feeling betrayed for falling for charmed speech and never dreaming anyone would turn on us. We are overwhelmed and consumed by a grief so hard to bear. You see, if it be an ememy, you could take it, if it were something unknown, you would seek to understand it, but it is your heart . It always is your heart.

You shuddder from head to foot , longing for an escape .

An escape to a place of peace , maybe a cabin in the woods or a walk in the forest , a dire desperacy for change engulfes you from the rage and unpredicatbility around you. You cut off things and people you have spent time and heart building, you drop them off the face of the earth and kill them, their essesnce, their memories , their representation. You think you are happy – only to see misery in the mirror everytime you wake . You see, what is happening is that you chose to trust and now you have been broken. Some of those pieces can never be put back but trust me , you will mend well.

All of a sudden the big secret is out, you are ashamed and the shame is making you angry. You must prove a point to the world that you are okay and everything you are doing is out of your free will but your heart , your heart knows the new secret. You deeply want it to be over , you want to stop playing by the foolishness of your fleshly desires , but you must be seen to be strong, to be in charge , to be the winner. Are you okay?

Is it worth it , Is it really , Must you always win, are you really okay?

You say you love yourself but are constantly willing to believe the worst of yourself. You tell yourself the truth in the secret of your hiding place but its not the truth you want to hear, so you dust yourself up and carry on with the pretense – you tell yourself it is okay, you fake smile and hide tears everyday to prove you are okay.

Its time to stop.

STOP !

see you and be you!

Find help – you are not okay.