A collection of testimonies compiled by the members of FEMRITE, the Ugandan Women Writers’ Association, brings human-rights violations to light.
The women telling these life stories range in age from 13 to 70, and all of them have been scarred by the injustices inherent in societies that enforce women’s inequality. Gaining access to refugees forced to flee their homes, wives who have contracted HIV/AIDS from unfaithful husbands and candidates for female circumcision, the FEMRITE activists allow women who have long been silenced to speak freely about their experiences. The fact that so many of these experiences convey horror and betrayal makes for grim reading, yet some women do express gratitude to the humanitarian organizations that have sprung up in Uganda in recent years. Others find comfort in religion or children; almost all struggle daily to bear the physical and emotional pain sustained from improper medical care, unhappy marriages, war atrocities and unrelenting poverty. The editors have grouped the anecdotes into four chapters. The first addresses marital abuse and discord; the second, HIV/AIDS diagnoses; the third, war’s effects on women; and the fourth, female genital mutilation (FGM). The latter two chapters, in particular, vividly portray the agony with which these women struggle on a daily basis. To read these stories is to witness how African women bravely voice outrage and sorrow in the face of censure from those wishing to uphold entrenched cultural norms. As one woman eloquently puts it, “I wondered why culture and customs are always invoked and become sacred and unchangeable only when women try to fight for their rights.”
Bleak yet inspiring evocations of hope in the midst of misery.