When FiLiA received this request, we were only too happy to publish the blog from Diana, in memory of Rosa.
Please find attached an article I have written for publication.
It is a tribute to my grandmother, a woman who inspired me to get onto this path of standing up for myself and my kind.
FEMINISM, SOMETHING OF OLD
By Diana Santiago, The Kujieleza Wall
Every year, when the world celebrates a woman, Rosa comes to mind.
Rosa was my mother’s granny, my great grandmother. All her years, she lived in Yivu, a tiny village in Maracha district in the West Nile Region of Uganda.
Rosa was the truest embodiment of a phenomenal woman.
My very first encounter with her was at a funeral. Her son-in-law Silvano, my grandfather had passed on.
After the burial of Silvano, my siblings and I and other great grandchildren went to her house.
Rosa’s was a homely environment tucked away in the middle of an orange orchard on the western part of Yivu village.
Jajja Rosa as we called her, was a woman in her nineties. Regardless of her age, Rosa had the strength of 10 women.
She walked across the homestead humming to a song which she seemed to enjoy very much as she clicked her tongue.
With a walking stick and a kettle in one hand and pieces of broken sticks in another, Rosa reached for a pinch of dry grass from the top of her grass thatched kitchen which she used to make fire for boiling chai.
Jajja Rosa grabbed her acalaka, a basket she always carried with her to the garden, a hoe and off to the backyard garden she went to harvest some yams that she would cook for us to have chai with.
We sat behind what she called her sanctuary, a house in which she spent most of her quality time when she had no visiting relatives to make tea for.
I remember looking at her with a lot of admiration and fear at the same time for I wasn’t sure if a woman of her age was capable of doing all that yet here she was amazing us with no signs of aches as she went on with her duties.
The chai we enjoyed, the oranges and mangoes we carried home with us after everything are a story for another day.
A few years later, Rosa passed on. My mother and I sat in her kitchen as we shared fond memories of her.
The first and most memorable of all was a famous conversation she (Jajja Rosa) often had with her son, Abu, an uncle to my mom.
Abu had no job and never cared to look for one. He always borrowed his mother’s money without her permission to go get drunk only to return and haunt her with his words.
“You should be the first to eat this food just in case you put poison in it” he would say. “I know you killed my dad” This was Abu’s form of saying the grace before dinner.
“Your dad was an unsightly man. I wouldn’t have wasted my poison on him. There are more important people in the village to poison” she would retaliate.
This characterized their relationship. We both laughed at this Memory.
Rosa was an outspoken woman. Something outlandish for a woman who grew up in her era. Her character and beliefs never settled well with the men.
To the men of Yivu village, a woman belonged to her husband. She was meant to be submissive and always at the service of her husband whenever he required.
It was the norm for a woman to bear the burden of a home single handedly including raising children.
A typical Yivu woman’s day began by waking up to go to the garden in the wee hours only to come back in time to make breakfast for the family and later on, off to the market to sell the rest of the harvest to enable her buy salt and cooking oil that she would use in cooking the meal of the day.
While the man of the house woke up to have breakfast prepared by his wife and then off to the community trading Centre to laugh the day away with friends as they feasted on the local brew.
This was how a normal day went down in Yivu village.
Rosa was not like the others. The feminist in her didn’t allow her to sit back and watch. She called out her husband on all the unfairness she received from him. She demanded better for herself.
Her defiance earned her many names from the men in the village including poisoner.
Not once did she give up on the fight to get what she deserved as a woman.
At the market she was a strength to many women who came to her with all sorts of challenges they faced in their homes. “Fear is the death of everything you can ever become” she always told them.
In the evening, she gathered her daughters at the fire place as she prepared dinner. She told them stories of her own mother and the women elders she grew up admiring.
She subliminally passed down the flames that would later shape the paths of her daughters, granddaughters and those that would come after them.
Feminism is something of old. Then, it was not defined like what we know it now.
Like plants seeking the reward of sunlight, women, for a very long time have been jostling their way to a seat at the table of the human species.
The strength we possess today was passed down to us by those that came before us. The fight we are engaged in is a chain we must continue to link.
It is not something in vogue as it may be portrayed in the tabloids.
Feminism is a woman’s struggle to stay afloat as the world pushes her back further into the deep.
It is my great grandmother clapping back hard at the inequities poured out to her by the men in her society including some she called family.
The frequency in the occurrence of injustices against us and our consequent silence has groomed atrocities into acceptability.
We have stopped dreaming. We have stopped becoming. Have we finally come to terms with where society thinks we belong?
There are those amidst us that are giving up, we must encourage. Those that face indignities, it is our duty to hold their hand through it.
Across this world women are fighting to overcome barriers that oppose their existence and free living.
Enlighten ourselves we must, educate our sisters and teach our daughters. We can do much but most of all we need to take care of ourselves and our kind.
We are the balance of the universe.
It is not our duty to carry the weight of the whole world on our shoulders.
Like the rest of creation, our role is just as significant and should be seen as is.
The world is fast paced in writing off the contributions of a woman. Women overachievers seldom receive the same acceptance.
As a rule of nature, we only fight what we are afraid of. The world is a little panicky of what a free and empowered woman can become.
We are a force of nature and our true power lies in togetherness.