SAMANTHA MWESIGYE, a Ugandan lawyer, used to take offence when people called her a feminist. Everybody knew that feminists were loud, rude and a lit
SAMANTHA MWESIGYE, a Ugandan lawyer, used to take offence when people called her a feminist. Everybody knew that feminists were loud, rude and a little bit mad. But then she decided to go public with allegations against her boss, the deputy solicitor-general, who she says ridiculed and victimised her after she would not have sex with him. He denied it—while claiming that her clothing was “unacceptably revealing and seductive”—and was later cleared by a committee. Feminist groups took out a full-page advert in a national newspaper declaring that they believed her. She wept when she read it. If that is how to get heard, she says, then “hell yeah, I’m a feminist.”
A new wave of activism is spreading in Uganda, rippling through WhatsApp groups and Twitter hashtags, as young women push back against harassment and unequal treatment. Those who call themselves feminists are a tiny minority. And Ugandan politics are still largely a power struggle between men. But Ugandan feminists are determined to make their views heard. “Political change is nothing if there’s no social change in the way men perceive women,” says Rosebell Kagumire, the editor of African Feminism, a website.
There is much to do. At Makerere University, young women recall their time in high school. One was trained to sit and talk “like a woman”. Another recounts how older boys would vet potential…