Development, Society, Uncategorized

How to raise feminist sons

Boys washing plates

Many of us must have watched this commercial that seeks to promote a new women’ television station and are wondering how come the regulator has not recalled it nor has there been massive public outcry.  Yet it is sending the wrong message to our children on gender stereotypes. It actually exemplifies the pervasiveness of misogyny in our society. It goes “who does all the chores?” and the answer “girls” who takes selfies and the answer “girls” and on and on it goes.  When little girls and boys watch this absurd commercial, they don’t just accept this as the norm but it shapes their long term perspective. This is how stereotypes hurt all of us and are passed on from generation to generation.

In fact my sons have already started to refer to this advert to challenge some of my efforts to reject gender stereotypes. The generation of kids we are raising need feminist men and women more than ever. And not just “oh, men and women are equal” but feminist men who will stand to men who aren’t and say “No, that is not ok”

In previous engagements, many feminists have shared that it is critical for us to begin early to create gender awareness. Between the age of three and five the consciousness of gender transforms into solidified opinions informed by the culture around children. What they learn about gender at this young age will shape their world view. For example, Dr. Maggie Kigozi who has broken many ceilings, being among the first woman in male dominated sectors, at recent Women in Leadership platform asked why girls are given dolls to play with while boys are provided with science gadgets to stimulate their minds and then we continue to decry the dominance of men in STEM.

As mothers it is also important to lead by example and show our sons that women are just as strong, smart, just as capable. We have to share stories of amazing things that women have done historically and doing now. The other critical thing is to ensure that when they say things that uphold oppressive social norms is to immediately correct him. I know kids pick up a lot of stuff at school but we can counter it. When my sons go to school and their friends’ call girls names, I want them to be able to say “Man that is not cool.” On the other hand I will also let my sons know that it is okay to cry and help them redefine strength if his instinct is to clench his fist.

We also need to de-emphasize labor division in the home and the whole stereotype that girls cook and do dishes while boys sit and watch television or help daddy wash the car must be tackled head on. There is no women’s work. There is no mans work. There is work and we are a team. Every member is valuable.

There is definitely no silver bullet as to how to raise sons to respect women, but instilling the value of gender equality from birth means that our sons will be better equipped to operate in a world where women are increasingly and rightfully in positions of power. I can only hope that by planting seeds which grow into the movement that will.

Eunice Musiime

 

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Development, Society, Uncategorized, Women Rights

How Can Women Lead Better?

On leadership

As a women’s rights activist, my heart warms up when I meet, read and hear about women leaders that are transforming people’s lives and society. I get delighted to learn more about their leadership journey, triumphant stories and struggles. In addition, I most importantly want to learn the lessons to avoid the pit falls they have encountered.

Often, what we see and hear is the success story. We hardly get to hear the story behind the story. The behind story includes overcoming marginalization, stereotyping, rejections, betrayals, the days she felt like giving up, the burn out, depression and the traumatic experiences amongst others.

A research conducted by Akina Mama wa Afrika with support from Hivos East Africa revealed that one of the reasons women shy away from taking up positions of leadership is that it confers added responsibilities. Yet, it is in these arenas that women can influence the reversal of their prevailing predicaments.

Women need to know that taking on added responsibilities as a leader obviously comes at a cost. These include: time away from family and friends, long hours at work, limited time for self-care and personal development, etc.

It is a fact that success does not come easy.Thus, as women we need to find ways of mitigating the negative costs if we are to sustain the gains of getting more women in power and decision-making positions.

What support mechanisms are we putting in place to enable women leaders perform optimally? How are we transforming our systems and structures to address the structural barriers? Are we creating spaces for reflection and learning for women in leadership to share experiences or peer-to-peer reviews? How are we creating spaces for mentorship and coaching to groom new leaders? Are we addressing the right attitudes needed by women in taking up critical leadership positions?

The support system need to include women role models for others to emulate. These role models need to write their stories to inspire the others into leadership. It should not only stop at this but to have empowerment drives for every woman from the lowest to the highest strata of authority. The intentionalityit is, the better the women will lead.

This year 2017, Akina Mama wa Afrika is celebrating 20 years of feminist and transformational leadership development through its African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) that has thus far graduated over 4,000 African women. Our alumni have since taken up various positions of leadership and are effectively influencing the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights on the African continent.

As we push towards gender parity in leadership, we need a renewed conversation on how we can support women to lead better, effect change in their own lives and communities and effectively participate in leadership and decision-making.

-Eunice Musiime

Development, Society, Uncategorized

Raising Activist Children

children making a difference

A friend of mine, her daughter and son are on their way to climb mountain Muhavura in Uganda to raise funds for Grace Villa a home for orphans and vulnerable girls in Kabale, Uganda. My friend’s children, Asante and Leo, who are 10 and 16 years respectively, are already seasoned activists who have raised money for rebuilding their church among other charity work, and we have their parents to thank for that. Such occasions are critical to ingrain deep values in our children that shape our children’s world view.

A story is told of the writer and activist Grace Paley, who had a lot to say about war, race and women, among other things. In her essay, “Traveling,” she first described her mother and her older sister traveling on a bus from New York to Virginia in 1927. It was an express bus, and so it stopped only in Philadelphia and Wilmington before it picked up passengers in Washington, D.C. At that stop, the black people who had boarded in New York or Philadelphia “rose from their seats, put their bags and boxes together, and moved to the back of the bus.”

Paley’s mother and sister, confronted for the first time with the practice of enforced racism, remained in their seats, which were near the back of the bus. When the bus driver sighed and told her that whites had to move to the front of the bus, Paley’s mother said, quite simply “No” He asked her again. And again, she said, “No”. For the third time, he told her she had to get out of her seat, and while Paley’s sister trembled, her mother said, calmly and without expression, “No.”
Fifteen years later, 20-year-old Grace Paley was on a bus from New York to Miami Beach, where her brand-new husband was training to go off to war. Miles and miles she rode, and somewhere in the South – she didn’t remember exactly where – a black woman carrying a sleeping baby boarded the crowded bus. Paley was in the last “white row,” and offered the mother her seat. “She looked to the right and left as well as she could,” wrote Paley. “Softly, she said, ‘Oh no.’ I became fully awake.” Paley then offered to hold her sleeping son.

While formal education and extracurricular instruction matter a great deal, it also matters that we raise children with big hearts. The best way to do this is to model a life of compassion and engagement. This takes time and effort, but the good news is that everyone, including the parent, benefits. Standing tall for something bigger than ourselves breeds an expectation that we will serve, and girds the spine for whatever life brings us.

-Eunice Musiime

 

 

 

Society

Restoring the leadership position of the first born child.

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If you are a firstborn child in your family, undoubtedly your upbringing profoundly deferred from the rest of your siblings. The privileges and responsibilities were drawn from religious, cultural, and social norms. For instance, in most of our cultural and legal frameworks, the firstborn were the ones who received a double inheritance and would inherit the father’s role as the head of the family.

Continue reading “Restoring the leadership position of the first born child.”

Development

My struggle with conquering procrastination and lost opportunities.

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At the beginning of this year 2017, I was exposed to the process of self-assessment to identify areas for growth. One of the areas, I clearly needed to address sooner than later was regarding the issue of procrastination. Wikipedia defines procrastination as the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.

The effects of this grave sin have manifested in different forms in my life. Countless times I have lost opportunities due to missed or forgotten deadlines, poor time keeping and disrupting other people’s schedules, a few missed flights, poor or delayed communication regarding an important project, poor resource management, loss of income, poor health, among others.

Aware of the negative effects of procrastination, I set out to deal with this issue once and for all. I began with an honest self-examination of the root causes. A review of my weekly to –do list clearly revealed that my goals can sometimes be very unrealistic. The superwoman syndrome of wanting to do all and end up doing nothing. Not only was I setting ambitious goals, but they were equally too big and intimidating. I could add that they were equally not well thought out and planned. It is not enough to just merely write out what one was going to accomplish without thinking through the how.

For instance, one of my goals at the beginning of the quarter was to raise substantial funds for the organization that I work for. Unfortunately, I did not break it down into details. Actually, it was not clear at all how I would go about fulfilling this goal. What exactly would it take? Would that require writing 10, 5, or 2 proposals? Schmoozing with 10, 5, 3 potential funders, or enhancing the brand and visibility of the organization.

John Maxwell in his 15 invaluable laws of growth illuminates on the law of design as one of the ways to maximize growth. He asserts that more accomplishments in life come more easily if we approach them strategically. Rarely does a haphazard approach to anything succeed. What has been lacking in my case is a failure to develop a system that supports me to address my key tasks in time.

For those who could be struggling with beating procrastination, the first step is to become self-aware of the root causes. Further, we need to develop systems that will help one to become more organized in scheduling and setting priorities. Equally important is to learn from the past failures and design strategies to deal with barriers to personal effectiveness.

At a personal level, I have made a pact with myself that the issue of procrastination must be dealt with decisively. For starters, I am adopting simple systems like setting weekly goals on the first day of the week to offer a minimum agenda. Of course, procrastination will definitely not change in a few days, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with but one.

Development, Society

Leadership: You can’t give what you don’t have

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Uganda is engulfed with growing public outcry and heightened conversations about the deteriorating state of leadership at all levels –family, community and national. It is a known fact that the prized values cherished over the years like integrity, authenticity, service, courage, and nationalism are grossly lacking in many of our current leaders.

At the national level; the President, cabinet, parliament and the judiciary have been severally condemned for having lost it. So to speak in today’s lingo. For instance the 10th parliament in comparison to previous sessions has fallen to record lows. The political parties seem to be walking on a very steep slippery slope to disintegration. The civil society is grappling with questions of legitimacy and transparency. The religious leaders have not fared any better, in that they are re-defining holiness.

Continue reading “Leadership: You can’t give what you don’t have”

Society

Who are your ride or die friends?: Keys to cultivating lasting friendships!

At a recent gathering of leaders, we were challenged to consider whether in our life journey, we have intentionally cultivated relationships with at least four people who we would consider our do or die friends. Ride or die friends are the kind who will be present by your side at the most critical of moments. The kind who will defend you in your absence like their life depended on it. The kind who will not fear to tell the truth as it is when necessary.

They’re the ones who are there through thick and thin, over months and years and decades, across miles and surrounded by memories. That kind of deep, lasting friendship is one of the most beautiful gifts in life.

Continue reading “Who are your ride or die friends?: Keys to cultivating lasting friendships!”