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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

When girl child is considered useless...

15th March 2012
Legal and Human Rights Centre executive director, Dr Helen Kijo Bisimba

An example given by the Legal and Human Rights Centre executive director, Dr Helen Kijo Bisimba during a training on gender issues for the centre's members during the International Women’s Day, was a vivid example of how even elite men consider women inferior.

Dr.  Helen Bisimba narrated a story of how in one country ministers needed a cup of tea when they decided they did not need a server due to the sensitive nature of their discussion.

According to her,    the tea got there but surprisingly male ministers ordered their colleagues to serve them  to which the female counterparts queried on why they should do so, after all they were all cabinet ministers with the same rights and duties. 

In other words, these guys felt they deserved to be served simply because they were men and the role of women was to serve. Little did they know that these ladies held similar positions as they did.

Other testimonies were also given during the training. One of the most hypnotizing testimony was that of a girl whose father was once a respected man before he died. Her father was charged with making all key decisions in one of the three pillars of the State, the Judiciary. 

His legacy may live forever, but his departure has left his one and only daughter with scars due to relatives mistreating her due to the traditions and of customs of the area.

 Tusiime ( not her real name) feels no longer feels the need to go to her homeland  because she has been denied access to her ancestral land.

“I will never forget what happened  when I went to Bukoba, my uncles and aunts called me with my brothers immediately after we had finished the mourning period of our father.  Few minutes later, they ordered me to vacate the room on account that only my brothers were allowed to remain for the discussion as women or girls had no business being there. 

“I was forced to go and sit to a distant corner at the farm as I watched my brothers match past me as they were being shown the demarcation of the banana farms which our late father had left for us,” she sadly recalls.

According to Tusiime, she remained out there throughout the time and was even served her meals at the very same place. 

“Having finished showing the land to my brothers, they called me and showed me a single banana plant saying that was all I could inherit because of being a girl child.  I left there in sombre mood and told them I did not need it.  I have never been there ever since and I don’t feel like going there as I have nothing to go for.  To me, that is as good as a foreign country as I have no place to call home,” recalls Tusiime.

This was one of the several sad stories that came forward as different members of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) shared their experience on gender issues and on how it affected their families, at a training organized by the organization to mark the International Women’s Day.

Another sad tale revolved around a lady who too preferred anonymity who said her father used to be so rich that she did not expect to live the life she is now living.

“The moment my father died, his relatives sent my mother packing to the village and took me to live with them.  They snatched each and everything leaving us with nothing. 

Their argument was that neither myself nor my mother could inherit as we are women,” she recalls.

We thought we had heard enough, the more we talked the more we heard yet more chilling stories of how some of the ladies had been forced to sit on a mat instead of the coach due to giving birth to a girl child.

There were also stories of how a lady who was a primary school teacher had been forced to give birth yearly and six  children within seven years simply because her husband had stressed that she ought to give birth to a boy child or else all hell would break loose for her.

Another story revolved around Sagito, whose father had left her mother for the reason that she had only been giving birth to girl children.  God taught him a lesson. He fell very sick one day only to be saved by the very same girls he thought were useless. He confessed to his wife that it was better to have more girls in a family because they have a great sense of compassion.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things noted during the discussion was on knowing that gender discrimination was a mindset with no borders as even the elites and educated were involved into it.

George William, an accountant with the LHRC says women are noble creatures and the fact that they can manage to take   care of a child is unique due to understanding unspoken things as is the case for a mother who can comprehend on whether a child has relieved itself or is ill. 

So much has been said and done, the truth is, a child be it a boy or a girl is a gift from God and people should learn to cherish for the great endowment.  Lest we forget that there are people who wish they had a child but are yet to have them.

Perhaps then, it’s about time we shunned away from this outdated perception over a boy child being superior to their female counterparts.  All bad things must come to an end, so will this.  However, bad habits die hard and we hope these too shall pass.

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