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Miria Matembe on What Inspired Her Fight for Women Rights

Miria Matembe (L) speaking at the Gender and Feminism
Symposium at the Uganda Museum on Saturday

Gender rights activist and former legislator Miria Matembe has commented that ignorance among women is the biggest limitation to the struggle against women oppression and gender inequality in Uganda. Matembe said women must liberate themselves from illiteracy and also reflect on God’s purpose of creating them after every other creation.

“God made a woman from a man’s rib which was harder compared to the soft clay from which a man was molded. This implies that even after creating man, order the world was still missing something – a woman,” she told participants in a symposium on gender and feminism held at the Uganda Museum on Saturday.

The one day dialogue was organized by Friedrich Eshbert Stiftung Uganda and attracted women activists, lawyers, artists, media personalities and professionals.

Matembe shared her personal experience growing up as a girl child who had been discriminated against by her father over her brothers. The father gave priority to educating Matembe’s brothers while she spent weeks seated home due to lack of school fees.

“Each time we were chased from school, my father did whatever was in his power to get school fees for my brothers but I had to sit and wait because I was a girl. But surprisingly I was cleverer in class than my brothers.”

“When I was 14, in my Senior Two, my father withdrew me from school so my brother would join Secondary school.”

This forced a disgruntled Matembe to seek a bursary to be able to proceed with her studies. She told her mother about it and together they visited Bweranyangyi S.S in Bushenyi where she was offered a bursary up to A’Level.

“Growing up, I was very disturbed by the way women were being treated in my society. Many of them were subjected to domestic violence. Then I often heard people encouraging them to find lawyers who could help them.”

Such are the injustices that inspired Matembe to study law and be able to help defend women against all sorts of mistreatment. However, her choice of career didn’t go down well with his father who insisted Matembe wouldn’t study law because she was a female. This was the common perception in Uganda at the time.

“You can imagine, my father who didn’t contribute to my education was still dictating terms on what I should and shouldn’t study. He told me to study to be a teacher,” she said.

The strong worded and often candid activist intimated that the huddles she encountered but nevertheless achieved indicates that hers was a purpose driven life.

“This injustice and unfairness is the reason we must keep pushing the struggle,” Matembe noted.

The self-proclaimed ‘radical conservative’ however lashed out at feminists who encourage women to shun marriage. She said marriage is every woman’s aspiration and nothing else supposes the joy that the union brings to women.

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