5 Minutes with Daisy, ‘The Luo Feminist’
Daisy Aketowanga (25) takes great pride in selflessly advocating for the rights and welfare of the girl child. A native of Gulu, Northern Uganda, she is the firstborn in a family of seven. During women’s month, we caught up with her for a friendly conversation about feminism. She also shared a snippet of her advocacy efforts.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a lawyer and human rights advocate, primarily for the rights of women. I also generate all necessary initiatives to ensure their empowerment. I’m passionate about it and am never afraid to face a challenge.
What’s feminism to you?
Feminism is a movement that can be individually driven and geared towards the promotion of equal rights and opportunities for all genders through the promotion of principles of equity.
What inspired you to become a feminist?
The ravaged state of women in my community and the patriarchal state of affairs led me to join the movement to fight for gender rights.
Why should everyone become one?
Everyone needs to be a feminist to uphold human rights. This will reduce the risks that come along with gender inequality like domestic violence and segregation at work, among others. Countries that promote the rights of women through education, for example, have better economies and healthier citizens.
What are some of the misconceptions that you have encountered in your community?
The most common is that it is a war between males and females. This is not correct. Feminism is all about upholding equal rights and opportunities for all to improve their lives in the community without making one feel superior to the other. It’s also unfounded to think that feminism is only for women, a fight for power between men and women to exact a matriarchy.
Is there anything you have done to address some of the misconceptions?
Whenever possible, I try to defend feminism and sensitize those who have misconceptions about it. Most of the time those that truly understand it, both men and women, join the movement.
What is the attitude of young people in your community towards the idea of feminism?
Young people think feminism is a movement you should only turn to when you’re struggling through heartbreak from an intimate relationship or any other reason to hate men.
What should be done to ensure more young people join the movement?
Intense sensitization has to be done to enable them to understand the whole essence and meaning of feminism.
Any campaigns/activities/interventions you have been part of in advancing the welfare of the girl child?
They are quite many. I participated in the Photovoice Campaign that advocated for the unpaid care rights of women. I was also part of the Menstrual Hygiene Campaign that was held to sensitize young girls in the community about menstrual hygiene and access. They were trained on how to make reusable sanitary towels. This would end all archaic myths surrounding menstruation that prevent girls from attending school during that period.
I joined the Abortion Rights and Access to Reproductive Health Care Rights Campaign. In addition, I was part of the team that undertook the Body Autonomy Campaign. The focus was on women maintaining their body dignity and not being a centre of shame in society.
What do you think are some of the prominent bottlenecks in the ways of the girl child in your community?
The patriarchal nature of African society makes women feel less significant and privileged while making male dominance the order of the day. Traditional norms have likewise prevented women from standing up for their rights, claiming it will amount to disrespect. Girls are also largely unaware of their rights. In addition, there are limited platforms to link women and girls to access remedies in case of breach of their rights and entitlements. It is also widely prevalent that women do not have access to reproductive health education, as well as basic resources like pads and menstrual hygiene education.
How have the bottlenecks affected the girl child?
Limited access to reproductive health education has greatly contributed to increased rates of teenage pregnancy and consequent dropout from school. Inadequate access to materials like pads has also prevented many girls from attending school on days when they are undergoing their menstrual cycle. This has resulted in them wrongly opting to get pregnant as a solution. The patriarchal nature of society has hindered many girls from striving beyond their comfort zones to live as expected of their rights. This is because this act will be considered indiscipline.
What are some of the workable solutions to the aforementioned bottlenecks?
Some archaic laws require constant advocacy. This will enable them to adapt to current situations and respect the rights of girls. Advocating for equal opportunities for both genders is a reality that can be achieved with a concerted effort.
Is equality something that can be achieved?
Equal rights and equal opportunities are achievable and admirable goals. We should delve into the principles of equity to achieve the same.
How would you describe a world without feminism?
A scary one with no one to stand and fight for the equal rights of all. An era of terror that would dim the progress already achieved.
How about the boy child? How is it of benefit to them?
They should be trained to know that feminism is not a war against them. It is a healthy education for the equal rights of all. By teaching consent rather than abusive control over the girl’s body, the boy is taught to be more disciplined. This leads to a well-mannered society with mutual respect.
Final words to fellow young people?
There is nothing negative about feminism. It is neither a fight nor a war against one gender. We are simply trying to bridge the gap that was long formed between them by creating equal opportunities for all and ensuring respect through policies of equity. Get involved in the healthy run and concert efforts to end the stereotype that equal rights for all is a myth. Empower yourselves and once you have occupied space, empower that woman too. Period!
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