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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gender Issues with David Batema

As our last speaker of this Sustainable Development course, David "Sister" Batema came and spoke to us about the many biases that continue to exist within the Ugandan culture that inevitably lead to the ever-present gender inequalities within the country.  Although human rights are nicely laid out within the Ugandan Constitution, Mr. Batema stated that the issue with upholding these rights comes from the idea that when masses of people deem certain aspects of society as "normal", these traditions become embedded within the culture, then migrate into religion, until finally transpiring into laws.  Such is the issue with the societal construct of gender and the inequalities that exist between the laws and expectations that govern the people.

Throughout Sister Batema's speech, I was able to clearly see the the inequalities that surround the women in Uganda, from the divorce procedure they must follow, to them being expelled if they become pregnant out of wedlock, to female students getting a 1.5 GPA point addition. However, although Batema drew to our attention the many unfair circumstances the women face, I feel that he failed to actually explain what he does to change this, and instead he almost just reinforced some of the traditions that hinder human rights development.  This made me question what progressivism looks like in Uganda vs. the U.S. and I believe that it demonstrates just how powerful an impact culture has when it comes to moving towards sustainability.

Questions for Drake and MUBS students:

How do you think the idea of being "progressive" varies based on the U.S. culture vs. Ugandan culture, and are people like Mr. Batema on the road towards making Uganda sustainable in regards to human rights?

How do you feel about female students getting an automatic 1.5 GPA point increase?  Do you think that this helps the students or does it inherently teach them that they are less and cannot/are not expected to achieve as much as male students can?

What does it say about the current state of gender inequalities that Mr. Batema addressed women in the household for a long period of time, but did not mention women in the workforce until he was asked a question about it?  Can his focus lead us to believe that he may have hidden biases that hinder him from being the best women's rights activist?


  1. Great reflection Autumn! To answer your second question, a 1.5 GPA point increase reinforces the stereotype that women are not as smart or as capable as men. By giving them the advantage, women may feel that they don’t have to work as hard and men will continue to believe that women are weaker. This difference in expectations harms both male and female students as perceptions continue.

  2. Thank you for your post! I definitely agree with the perspective you made of Batema in that he spoke of the apparent gender inequality issues, however nothing was said in reference to how he combats those barriers in his profession. In an attempt to answer your third question, I think the stereotypical roles of men and women are so ingrained in the traditional structure of Uganda that even from a 'progressive' judge's standpoint, his views seemed to stray pretty far from a US perceptive of what we see as being progressive. I think removing all biases when discussing this topic would be extremely difficult, yet Batema could have expressed various sides to the inequality issues, providing the presentation with a more well-rounded viewpoint. Batema is not what I would call a women's rights activist but maybe that was an underlying point of this presentation. Being unable to recognize progressivism in this country might reveal just how far behind they really are, their form of progressivism is unrecognizable to us.

  3. Great post Autumn! In regards to your second question, my response is similar to Sophie's. The speaker was referring to affirmative action, which I agree with in some cases, but in this case not. To me, it seems degrading to be giving girls in school an extra 1.5 because they have menstrual cramps. Personally, it makes me feel lesser of a person compared to a man because having cramps once a month is seen as a handicap. However, we are also looking at this from the U.S. perspective where we have access to sanitary pads and such, pain medication, heating pads, etc. to help us with this time. Many girls in Uganda do not have access to these materials, and even through Days for Girls, there was not enough for each individual. Perhaps the 1.5 is added to accommodate for times that girls fall behind because of having to miss class due to the insufficiency of feminine products. However, instead of the 1.5 addition, I do think there should be investments in helping girls during the menstrual cycle, not adding quick points at the end as an accommodation.

  4. Great post Autumn! I believe that the view of progressivism is very different between Uganda and the United States. While David Batema may appear progressive in Uganda, under our U.S. perspective, he did not seem this way. By the way it was explained during the talk, I believe the 1.5 GPA point increase through affirmative action is harmful to the societal expectations of women. It ingrains the stereotype that women are weaker and inferior to their male counterparts in that they could not receive the same GPA without help. Maybe there are other reasons this GPA boost is in place, but the way it was described to us made it seem that it was merely reinforcing biases.

  5. Thank you for your post, Autumn. This talk was a tough one to sit through. I think the idea of being progressive definitely varies from culture to culture, which is probably why some of the things David Batema said did not resonate well with the group. I think Batema is making progress in womens' rights in Uganda, but I do not think it is sustainable. While he has identified some biases that need to be dealt with, some of his own biases were very apparent in his rhetoric and because of this he is not capable of moving womens' rights forward beyond a certain point. Some examples of Batema's own biases included his failure to acknowledge women in the workforce, and a very apparent bias against non-Christian religions.

    I think the 1.5 GPA point boost is similar to Batema himself in the sense that it acknowledges a bias against women, but does not do anything to solve it and instead moves in the opposite direction. After discussion with many of my Drake peers, it would seem that this point boost actually tells women in Ugandan society that they are not as capable as men, and therefore need a point boost. Overall, this talk was slightly upsetting but definitely produced constructive dialogue afterwards.