Call her “Kadaga”, “Honorable”, “Speaker”…anything but “Iron Lady”

Since Uganda is busy legislating against people in the name of “Africanness”, can we also ditch the label “Iron Lady” “because it is western”? Seriously.

When Jennifer Musisi was going about her business of making Kampala look beautiful, she was uncompromising in her methods. She wanted to accomplish what she wanted to accomplish. If she were a man, we would have applauded her and said what a determined person she were. We would say “star taffa” and other colloquial phrases that would praise her resolve.

When chaos became the order of the day, Erias Lukwago was announced with “Omuloodi waali”, while Jennifer Musisi- when praised- was called “iron lady”.

But the KCCA drama is not headlining anymore, we have a different lead story that stars another woman in power: Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga.

And again, we got the “Iron lady” remarks.


As shared on Facebook.

It is most famously used with Margaret Thatcher, former UK premier. The label was coined in 1976 by a Soviet reporter Yuri Gavrilov who was likely writing against a speech in which Thatcher had accused Moscow of seeking world domination. What he wrote about is of little consequence now, but his headline continues to live. It read “Zheleznaya Dama Ugrozhayet,” which translates to “The Iron Lady Wields Threats”.

She apparently accepted it.

Within a week, Thatcher – clad in scarlet – was herself demurely playing it up, clearly delighted at the term.

“I stand before you tonight in my Red Star evening gown, my face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved, the Iron Lady of the Western world,” she told a guffawing but adoring audience at a dinner of her constituency party association.

“Yes, I am an Iron Lady. After all, it wasn’t a bad thing to be an Iron Duke,” she said in a reference to one of her heroes, the Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. [Source: Reuters]

But that was 1976. And Thatcher was probably trying to prove that she was good enough for the role of British Prime Minister. A woman had never served, and after, she still remains the only woman to have held the office.

I could construct an argument about why the label “iron lady” is wrong. I would ask you why the only “iron man” we have exists in the comic world. I would question why we need to give a woman iron to accept her resolve as a leader, as though just being a person in leadership is not enough.

I’m not going to. You can use Google and find a lot of writing that will connect what you are saying (that women need an addition of steel to be powerful) and what you think you are saying (you thought you were complimenting her, didn’t you?).

I am just really struck by how we unquestioningly transport the term “Iron Lady” and make it apply to women in power in Uganda. It is even more ridiculous when one thinks that the argument for the bills we are passing in Parliament is that the practices are adapted from western culture.

Add to the conversation. Tell us what you're thinking.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s