Face to Face with the Struggle of Women
By Jeana Rogers
Nairobi to Iganga
Friday, June 23rd, 2006 we traveled for 13 hours from Nairobi, Kenya to Iganga in Uganda. I watched the scenery out of the window like a kid on the first trip out of town. A lot of the time I was amazed by the beauty of the countryside. Other times I was amazed at how people survived with so little. I did not seem to notice a consistent infrastructurealong the way. It varied from town to town, from village to village.
In Uganda there isn’t enough electricity for the whole country so is is alternated between area’s every other day. On the day we arrived in Iganga there was electricty. But even on those days that we have electricity power surges are common. It’s a challenge to keep camera batteries and computers charged. The hotel we stay in is very nice. We have running cold water and flush toilets. Hot water for bathing is (Caption: Mount Longnot found along the east African Rift Valley in Kenya)brought to you in a giant thermos and poured into a large plastic tub for you to bathe from. Most people who live here walk a long way to draw water from wells or bore holes. This is the water that they later heat over flame to use for drinking, washing and cooking.
One of the problems we encountered along the way was driving over the highways that were pitted with potholes. The roads are congested with heavy trucks carrying fuel and goods between towns. When a vehicle breaks down on the road they use branches from a bush or tree as hazard signs.
The common means of local public transportation is by booda booda (bicycles and motorcycles), matatu (14 passenger vans), “special hire” (similar to an American taxis) or walking. Buses are used for longer distance trips between major towns. I was amused to find cows, goats and chickens, roaming freely in the villages and towns.
Saturday, June 24, 2006, we arrived at the headquarters of Shifting Ideas Through Education for African Women (SITEAW) in Iganga about mid morning. This was a day they had been anticipating for almost a year. Ugandans are some of the most polite people I have ever met. Many came to us to introduce themselves and greet us one by one. As I set up equipment to film the day’s events, I heard ululations and singing getting closer and closer. Soon a small bus arrived packed with women and children, singing. Shortly after that, a small truck came overloaded with people. More trucks loaded with people arrived in the next few hours. For this special occasion, friends of the Women’s Awareness Center were making trips from miles outside of town to bring people to the Center. Many more arrived from town by foot. By mid-afternoon there were hundreds of men, women and children there to meet the visitors from United States of America. Then the Awareness Event began.
They made presentations of songs, dances, drama and poetry that depicted the difficult situations and struggles of women in this area. Among the themes featured were (a) those of men neglecting their families and using the family income for drinking (b) domestic abuse, (c) confiscating family property after the death of a husband, etc.
The presentations were done very well, honestly and at times with great humor. I found Ugandans to be a fun loving people. They use music and dance to express and articulate their different situations very well.
Among the attendees for the event was a Police Inspector, a Police Officer, Micro Finance Officer, Consultant for Development Initiative International, Regional Agricultural Implementation Officer, Gender Officer and School Principals. All of who encourage the Center and the right to education for women.
I can see now for myself that we have only heard about the tip of the iceberg. There are MANY here that have worked hard to build this organization and are willing to work hard to expand it so that more women can be educated.
One of the main concerns is that, according to local sources, women make up 80% of the population and do 80% of the work in the family. Up to the present day many women in Uganda have been deprived of education. One of the objectives of the Center is to work with the local people to enhance and implement educational programs and skills development.
I was amazed at the interest in SITEAW from the local people and government workers, but it was very clear that very limited resources handicap them. SITEAW therefore welcomes any and all assistance in this endeavor.