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Monday, June 6, 2011

Gender Equality and the Source of the Nile

Today, each of us awoke in our personal suites at Kingfisher Resort. After a buffet breakfast, we rounded a corner to find ourselves in a conference hall with Judge David Batema, who had come to give us a lecture on gender equality in Uganda, despite a personal loss that had recently occurred within his family. We were all grateful that he was still able to share his presentation with us, because it was extremely enlightening and inspirational.

His Worship David Batema graduated from Makerere University Law School in 1989 only to realize that the laws in Uganda had male standards and came from male perspectives. He began preaching gender equality to magistrates before he even became one. He lives with the belief that “All human beings are born free and equal,” and he continues to spread this message to anyone who will listen, as well as some people who try not to.

To us, he stressed the difference between “sex” and “gender,” stating that sex is biological and natural while gender is the social construction of the differences between man and woman. These differences are created in our minds and often have to do with how we were brought up. These differences in upbringing became apparent when students from MUBS and Drake were posed with a simple question: “Whose daughter are you?” Students from MUBS replied with only one name, that of their father, while Drake students included the names of both parents.

His Worship David Batema also commented on the religious aspect that leads some people to justify patriarchy. He explained that in the Bible, God created man first and gave him the Universe, which is why many believe that God gave all of the power to man. However, woman was not created until after this happened, which would mean man’s rule does not go as far as to include woman. I found this to be an extremely profound interpretation of the Bible’s teachings. Christianity is prominent in the Ugandan culture, and often leads people to believe things just because it says so in the Bible and without any additional education on the subject. I am glad that there are people who are forward-thinking enough to analyze the Bible and find the messages within rather than taking everything at face value.

I think that gender equality is an important aspect in the sustainability and development of any culture. For an economy to grow, all of its citizens must be respected. The fact that one man is working so hard to improve gender equality in Uganda is inspiring. In a culture like Uganda’s, women can preach against domestic abuse and sexual harassment all they like, but men will pay no attention to them and things will never change. For a man to try and change the perspective of other men is very important and will be the best way to move this society forward.

After our gender equality presentation, we all climbed onto the MUBS bus to take a trip to the source of the Nile, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Jinja. It was incredible to see the beginning of the longest river in the world. The force of the current at the source was astounding, as would be expected for the only river that flows South to North. We all got our fill of picture-taking before heading back up to the bus, stopping to do some last-minute souvenir shopping at the variety of stores along the way, of course. We boarded the bus with all of our new items and memories and back to Kingfisher Resort we went, for an afternoon full of relaxation and fun.


  1. I really enjoyed "Sister Batema's" presentation today. It was uplifting to see one person stand up against a cultural norm. I liked what you wrote about the religious aspect, and justifying patriarchy. It is interesting how the Bible can be interpreted differently, depending on socialization, or the way you were brought up.
    This biased interpretation is also apparent in Parliment, where the constitution is frequently twisted to empower men.

    The legal framework is in place to enforce gender equality, now the challenge is changing the mindset of the culture.

  2. The presentation on gender equality from His Worship David Batema was the perfect note to end on. After many presentations on a variety of subjects throughout our trip, in this final presentation David engaged us and kept us interested in his topic by asking questions and had us participate in an activity.

    One of the take away messages that I picked up on was the idea that you can't change people's perspectives and attitudes right away. It takes time and patience, and you first need to change your own attitude. It will take time before the perspectives and attitudes of the people of Uganda change regarding gender equality, but it is one of the biggest challenges that individuals such as David are working on. If people live by example and by experience, others will follow. Having gender equality laws implemented and followed will bring Uganda a step further to sustainable development.

  3. I thought the card activity that His Worship David Batema had us do was very interesting and eye opening. It really showed me how people in society place value on other people. It can be luck of the draw as far as how valued you are by other people. Sometimes people automatically place a value on someone just based on gender or skin color. This is an attitude that must change.

    Gender equality needs to be practiced in Uganda for them to get closer to achieving sustainable development. Ugandans need to change their attitudes and ideas about a women's role in society. Women can contribute to the economy in Uganda if they are given the same opportunities as men.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree that Judge Batema was a brilliantly enlightening person and that he was single handily doing amazing things to change the anachronistic thought and practice derived from culture and tradition. I feel privileged and honored that he took time out of his busy life, and in the wake of so much tragedy to come and talk to us, to talk with us, and possibly enlighten those who may have harbored such feelings and thoughts of exclusion. I also was left in awe at Batema's interpretations of the Bible to use it to preach inclusion. I thought this was extremely clever and useful for changing tired ways and influencing a new order of thinking. It takes an advocate from the other side of the original order or authoritarian majority to advocate for the rights of the other. Otherwise all efforts will fall upon deaf ears and fade off into the void of the unreasoned. David Batema is a wonderful person and the world would be lesser with out him

  5. I loved this presentation. I'm so glad that we had it at the end of the trip, because to be perfectly honest, I was having some problems understanding and accepting gender roles in Ugandan society. "Sister Batema" gave me some hope and a new look at why things the way they are in Uganda. It helped me comprehend just how large the culture gap is between the United States and Uganda.

  6. All trip I had gotten mixed comments as to what Ugandans thought about gender equality. I loved David Batema’s presentation. I think that gender equality is very important and that it would certainly help Uganda become more sustainable. When Patrick Bitature spoke at the beginning of the trip he talked about how important entrepreneurship is to grow and strengthen an economy. It is important that men accept women as equals and let them help to grow the economy as well. I am so thankful for people like Batema and others that challenge people to think in a different way.

  7. I also agree with the above comments, and would like to add that I think the gender issues discussion needs to stay a part of the program for future years. I think everyone was able to gain something from the discussion, even the professors. It was a great way for everyone to really get a good view of how people from different countries and tribes feel that individuals should be treated, and is something that is better learned from first hand experience than from reading it out of a book.