During the first ever regional African Women’s Writers’ workshop in Uganda in 2014, the question “Why don’t African women write their stories?” was a popular one. The workshop was attended by African women from across the continent and co-organised by African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and Uganda Women Writers (FEMRITE).
We have had some autobiographies coming out of Uganda – Janet Kataaha Museveni’s My Life’s Journey (Fountain Publishers, 2011), Miria Matembe’s Miria Matembe: Gender, Politics, and Constitution Making in Uganda (Fountain Publishers, 2002), Elizabeth Bagaya’s Elizabeth of Toro: The Odyssey of an African Princess (Simon & Schuster, 1989)*- but there are not enough. There is need for more.
And according to sources, we might be getting some more. Here is a short list of Ugandan women in the public space who we hear are working on their stories, and whose stories we look forward to:
Nabagereka Sylvia Nagginda, Queen of Buganda
Wonder what the title of this will be? “A Queen of Modern Buganda”, or “A 21st Century Queen of Buganda”? Looking forward to reading about her work and her role as queen in as old as Buganda during times like these. Will there be mention of Semakookiro, or will the old men guarding the kingdom edit such information out?
Joyce Mpanga is one of the women who in telling her story will also tell us about where we have come from. (Although this is true for most of the autobiographies we are looking forward to.) Mpanga has a long history in women’s organising, serving as a Minister of State for Women and Development (1989) before there was a Ministry of Gender. She was also Woman MP for Mubende District (1996-2001); one of the first to hold the office after the seats were created in the 1995 Uganda Constitution. She served as Chair of the National Women’s Council (1986-1988) and so far, we have only read her story from newspaper articles and references from books. She recently turned 83 years, and her son David F.K Mpanga said on Twitter that an autobiography was in the works. The foreword, by the way, will be written by the Nabagereka.
Margaret Sekaggya was the first chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission after it was established by the 1995 Constitution, leading it from 1996 to 2008. She is currently the Executive Director of the Human Rights Center Uganda, a non-profit aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of human rights defenders. Her story is important because of her prominent role in the legal profession and protecting human rights. It would be interesting to read what she thinks of the evolution of human rights in this country.
Rhoda Kalema’s story would be interesting if read alongside Joyce Mpanga’s, not because they are similar but because they were very active in similar eras and would complement each other. Kalema, the daughter of a Buganda Katikkiro and she went to school when families were not big on educating girls. She went on to serve in government positions, including as a junior minister in Ministry of Culture and Community Development in Binaisa’s government. In the National Resistance Council of 1989, only two women won open seats: her and Victoria Sekitoleko. Kalema tells part of her story in The Rising Tide: Ugandan Women’s Struggle for a Public Voice 1940-2002 (FOWODE, 2002), a collection of stories from 34 Ugandan women, including Joyce Mpanga.
We have read the stories of all these women in newspaper articles, books, journals, and short profiles. But none of those beats a full-length autobiography. As such, we really look forward to the publication of their autobiographies.
*This is not a comprehensive list. Many women have also written their stories in anthologies.