I almost did not make it to my first birthday – not many people know this because I was born in peaceful times and if my mother was not so bent on naming me after her friend, I could have very easily been named Peace. A bullet shot right through a window and hit the wall right next to where my sister, who was in Senior Four vacation and stuck on babysitting duty, sat with me. My father carried the bullet in his pocket for years after.
Unlike older siblings and unlike contemporaries in other parts of the country, I grew up with a certain sense of security. Until there wasn’t any.
Peace is not something that is just there. It is sustained, with deliberate efforts and there are points where it runs away from us and we have to grab it back up. Recent events have exposed pockets of insecurity and terror in this country, and as in most cases, women and children are most vulnerable. Now when we go out on the city, we really have to text people after getting home or search parties are sent out.
I managed to laugh about it one day when I woke up to find my family in complete terror because I had not texted anyone. The laughter might have been self-preservation and some helpless (stupid?) way to keep ahold onto sanity in a time where I knew how possible it was that I could have gone missing. That no text might not mean battery dead, but that another woman has been kidnapped. And might be killed.
The expectation is that the powers that be would have task forces, situation rooms and all the CSI works for this.
When women’s bodies were found across Wakiso, mutilated and discarded, I had friends come over and they said they didn’t feel safe. As they drove to the airport, they asked “where is it that they found the body? I read it was somewhere on the road.” The then Inspector General of Police said that women who were in relationships should register themselves, and it seemed so incredulous, I paid it no attention. How would a registry of relationships help? Why even are women supposed to now be the ones to bear the burden? Were we not the ones dead and thrown out? Many of the women were not the ones that would get front page, until we had the kidnapping and murder of Susan Magara. Magara was of a higher social standing that made it a more urgent matter, and brought the people’s attention to how scared we all walked.
And we know how to walk around scared. We are women born in a world that continues to remind us that we do not belong in it. We are catcalled on the streets so we learn early to look down and walk fast past the boda boda stage. We are grabbed at so we know which streets and times are safe. We hate it, and we fight it every step.
And now, because the police that is meant to protect us will instead refuse to hear us, we know we’re fighting for our lives without their protection.
That’s why the Women’s March is important. Women shouldn’t be fighting for their lives. They are law-abiding citizens that deserve to walk around within the borders of this country without fear. Our families should be buying us yaka units when we don’t text instead of fearing us dead. We shouldn’t be buying six padlocks for additional security after a press conference on security with all the top bosses because it only made us more scared to see how little they cared for our security.
Systems are supposed to be in place to protect the citizens that pay to keep them functional. Women need to know the murderers and kidnappers of our sisters and children are behind bars; and that we can walk without fear within these borders.