Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Heart Hurts

It's hard to be a western woman here in Uganda. I struggle with figuring out when to take a stand on behalf of women here, and when to just respect the culture.

I understand gender roles here are very different. A woman's worth is, not always, but often, determined by her skills at cooking, keeping the house and her ability to "produce children" as they call it here. (Sounds like the woman is a factory)! I bristle with disdain when this topic comes up, but I generally keep my views to myself unless asked, becasue even the women accept these roles and as I see it, are not all that eager for the kind of liberation I would hope for them. So I respect them.

But when it comes to violence against women, which is unbelievably acceptable here, I get so damn angry, so very, very, angry. And then sad. So very, very, sad. You see, many of my closest, dearest friends here are African. I adore them! But when the culture speaks through them, I just don't know how to proceed. How do I respoind to my brothers, talking about beating the wife they don't even have yet? How do I help my African sisters to be strong, self-confident women, without them experiencing cultural estrangement?

At times like this, I feel really alone. Because they don't understand where I'm coming from. And maybe they never will. But I want them to come to my side on this issue. There are lots of cultural things I can let them have, but this one thing, I cannot accept. And so I feel a rift forming, and it breaks my heart. I never wanted to be the "I know everything" westerner. And I don't want to be divided...will someone help me understand??

My heart hurts...


Heathcote Safari said...

Really feel for you as you face these challenges ... definitely a sticky subject and the worldview runs deep. Thinking of you!

Speaks said...

Hey you. Thanks for sharing so much of you. It is so very hard. I've just been reading some articles a female friend of mine wrote for the New Internationalist about Sex Trafficking. There's so much which cuts you down. I often feel ashamed to be a man. The article goes on to say that the number of men admitting to 'buying sex' has doubled in the past 10 years to 10% in Britain. Given that most issues which are associated with shame or criminal activities are just the tip of the iceberg, it begs the question of the western man's attitude to women is.
Elsewhere, the article talks about how some men, have resented being ‘forced’ to accept liberalisation of women with equal rights, that although everyone deserves equal rights, the fact that it has been ‘forced’ upon them has had the effect of pushing them further down the male supremacy route. From my perspective, when anyone is forced to accept a ‘foreign’ concept, without really agreeing with it heart mind & soul, it often has the effect of polarising the issue, leaving the gap between the parties even greater. It requires great wisdom & unfortunately patience, as mindsets & world views take generations to change. But change we must. I think most of these things are ‘learnt’ through our role models, parents in this situation, along with other key parental figures. I was reading Agnes & Sam’s email earlier in the week. They have a real heart in this area and I believe are great role models, yet humble enough to know they too are flawed. Perhaps you’ve already talked this through with them, but if not I think it would be good for you all if you did. It’s always difficult when, in some ways you are the outsider, but I’m sure they’d appreciate your heart and mind on the matter, along with sharing theirs and how they see things improving. Anyway, that’s my little bit for the day. Thanks for your latest update. Do feel free to write, about anything. I promise lend a supportive ear. Stay well, Love Dave (Speakman)