There are somethings that are so unbelievable that you have to either witness or experience them yourself in order to believe. The situation I am about to describe is one of those things, that should ideally not happen to anyone.
I have just returned from a conference in Tripoli. The conference considered the issue of African migration specifically to Europe and a key point for discussion was the circumstances in which we live in are dignified enough and if not is it time we returned to our home countries.
The speakers were of a very high caliber drawn from all over the world, there were African Americans, folk from the Caribbean, African Kings and Queens, politicians, and descendants of Malcolm X, Nkrumah, Lumumba, the AU commission, European parliamentarians of African decent and yours truly!
My remit was to talk about my work with East African women involved in textile and handicraft production and the key challenges faced by women in diaspora. I spoke about the Women of Kireka, Gahaya Links in Rwanda as well as the search for clean water in Ruhanga
At the end of my talk several people came to speak to me but one woman left me so shaken that I haven’t recovered from the shock nearly 4 days after the event.
Her beef with me was made up of several issues, She was angry that
- I used the Women of Kireka as an example of why civil war is bad as it displaces innocent women and children such as these women
- As far as she was concerned I was using these women for personal financial gain and
- as woman from Western Uganda (in her opinion) I had no right to do so and
- I was there as a spy for Uganda’s president Museveni
- I was so insensitive to their plight as people from Northern Uganda who had endured 20 odd years of the LRA war which she said had been designed by the government of Uganda and I as Museveni’s agent, that is
- why I was dressed in yellow
- I should have been speaking about something else not my work and
- I was being individualistic and yet
- I was meant to be representing all women
When I protested that I am not from Western Uganda nor a spy for the government she asked me then WHY ARE YOU ARE YOU DRESSED LIKE THAT?
I cannot begin to tell you how gutted I was by this and at this point I shut up and just let her have her say, other people standing by tried to stop her but I stopped them as I felt it was important that she got stuff off her chest. Unfortunately when she was done, she was not so keen on the response I had to give as she walked off.
She had a friend with her who stayed and listened to what I had to say which was that I wish they had asked me as to how I came across these women and why I am involved with them then we could have had a more civilsed discussion.
I had the chance to give her some background of what I do, my parentage and the fact that I had bought the dress I was wearing for my cousin’s wedding in Uganda and it had nothing to do with the politics of Uganda. I also told her that I can’t truly appreciate the magnitude of the suffering folk from Northern Uganda had endured during those 20 years however that my skills are limited to what I am doing with grass root women’s groups so I cannot take on the politicians.
A day later and I receive a snide comment from a man from the same tribe. At this stage i have had enough so I fight back. I asked him if his dressing in a suit made him a white English man since that isn’t traditional African dress and this saw him off. I felt terrible for having to resort to this type of behaviour!
All of that aside I felt a great sense of disappointment as I realised the implications of all of this.
Here we were at an International conference discussing African Unity and I was being challenged by folk from my country of origin about the right to represent and the tell the story of women that are not from my tribe!
I mean should my tribe or dress matter when it comes to helping those that are least able to help themselves? And I mean Really? The way I see it the continent has one or two challenges that need solutions but are we going to waste our skills and knowledge on working out which tribe is entitled to help which tribe and discussing people’s dress sense?
As Jim Rohn used to say I AIN’T SIGNING UP FOR THAT CLASS