A Letter to My Hero: Dr. Miria R.K. Matembe

| April 30, 2013

miria matembeDear Hon. Dr. Miria R.K. Matembe,

Today I reflect on that moment when I first had a touching encounter with your words in the 1990s. Politicians, activists …talk outrageous words and it is the usual. Your stern statement “Men are in possession of a potentially dangerous instrument which should be cut off unless it is properly used”, “castrate men who defile and rape girls and women” will remain a landmark. This took many people by shock. But this was a reflection of the outrage of the affected. Like the saying goes ‘When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is news’. This was the situation.

I remember as a young lady, these words of passion, energy and voice put me in a sober moment to gather myself and rethink what really was contained in your words. From then, I began to follow keenly debates on gender issues and this has shaped my personality, broadened my judgment and understanding generally.

Indeed today, I have no doubt that your ability to voice the universality of women issues and consistently stand up against unjust situations that need correction, without compromising the need to contextualize women’s oppression in different settings, has yielded positive results.

No wonder you have earned a gallery of strong adjectives describing you. “You are: a professional conversationalist, political evangelist, senior concerned citizen, avant-garde preacher, governance specialist, hard core, bitter truth vendor, moralist, women rights activist, avowed feminist, voice of the voiceless African woman, wife, mother, …name it, the list is endless”.

Dr Miria Matembe, you are one of those brains that has shaped the legal environment and constitution of Uganda and, today, we have one of the best gender sensitive constitutions in the world. To date, at least one third of women are in political offices. You have made women visible and audible.

While in Parliament you stood up and demanded fair treatment of views of women to be heard and not treated as intruders in the House. To you, it was serious business in Parliament; hence you were labeled “alarm-clock” for waking up sleeping Members of Parliament. You were vocal against use of sexist remarks and promoted use of gender-neutral language in Parliament. Today, women can stand up and demand to be respected and heard (including myself) in any sphere of life without being shut down.

Hurray! You championed the ‘1.5 Struggle’ on the education of the women and girls in Uganda. The introduction of affirmative action for girls’ education is a policy that enabled me to pursue my university education. Many women will attest to benefiting from the 1.5 additional points for admission into an institution of higher learning. Otherwise, I would have not joined university then.

You championed the amendment on spousal co-ownership of the marital home and land used for daily subsistence of the family in 1998. You put up a spirited fight that saw the Domestic violence Act; the Female Genital Mutilation Act and the Trafficking in Persons Act passed. To date, refund of dowry and Female Genital Mutilation are outlawed. I now understand and value that I’m not commodity or a good to be priced and paid for, neither is my daughter.

You have always stood for the truth such as opposing the constitutional amendments that did not favor democratic principles of governance in Uganda such as removal of Presidential term limits something you termed a form of corruption. As minister of Ethics and Integrity, you were vocal on corruption and called for zero tolerance and stern action on all those found unethical and corrupt. I today appreciate that it is women and children who suffer most from the effects of corruption and detest corruption.

You started and have continued mobilizing women to participate in development, leadership and politics when society saw this as insubordination and taboo. A multitude of women have over time gained the courage to take leadership and political offices at all levels and founded organizations. I remember while at university, every Friday, your organization ACFODE held meetings with undergraduate girls grooming us for leadership roles. To date many of us are in various leadership positions in politics, organizations, and communities. It’s in these meetings that I started pursuing my leadership dreams and goals.

You have led this journey through bravery, faith and focus. We are already half way through the journey and we cannot break ‘Our pot of water’ when we are just at the door step. Together (men and women) we shall deliver the ‘Pot of water’ home. Together, we shall continue conquering unjust treatment, oppression and tyranny against women, one day at a time.

I will forever be grateful to you for inspiring women, with consistency, comprehension and grasp. You are an inspiration to me, many others and generations to come.

You are my HERO and CHAMPION. I celebrate your triumphs.

God bless the woman

Yours in the struggle

Grace Ikirimat

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