I have a Life Skills class I teach. My students are P5, P6 and P7. We’ve been learning and talking about how to be a good friend. The words you should use when giving advice and the appropriate times for advice. Last week we read a story about a girl who was confronted by a shopkeeper who wants to have sex with her. I asked my students to write their advice to this girl.
Most of my students had good advice about telling someone, not going to that shop anymore, etc. However, one of my male students had this advice for the girl: “I advise you to stop wearing small shorts and skirts. You should stop using eye pencil because you will get HIV.” The story never once said anything about the way the girl was dressing. All we knew was that she was in P6 so around the age of 12. At first I just wrote on his paper that he wasn’t giving her advice for the specific problem which was the question, so I was giving him a zero. Then I kept thinking about this answer and I got more and more angry. His answer was saying it is all the girls fault that this shopkeeper is asking for sex. It’s not the shopkeeper’s problem but the girl's. Sadly, this is a typical male Ugandan response. Men are rarely responsible for their actions. They are provoked and they can’t help what happens. They are never to be blamed.
I went next door in a rage, flapping the boy’s paper up and down trying to vent out my anger to Annet. She just smiled and said, “Yes, Amanda, this is Uganda.” Then she produced a story of her own that shared the frustration of Ugandan men. After a time she told me a story she heard from a friend. I don’t know if this is true. She told me that in Sudan women are topless and they paint their chests. She also says men are barely clothed themselves. If a man makes any sexual gesture to a woman that is not accepted by the woman, the village will then beat the man. She says the men and women respect each other there. Men do not hold the same respect for women here.
We decided we should introduce this custom to Uganda and maybe some medieval torture treatments like gouging eyes out when men look at you wrongly. I’m not sure how that will go over in Uganda. I’m also not sure Annet will really go through with it considering if she tried she would probably be killed. And as for myself, I’m in the Peace Corps, peace being the operative word here, so I’m not sure it would go over too well either. Minor complication right?
And so I’m back in patriarchal Uganda; back to those great frustrations and struggles. I’m thinking our next unit will be on gender.