Humphrey Fellow alum Igoye: "How My Father & I Fought for Gender Equality Together"

Agnes Igoye / World Pulse @WorldPulse March 4, 2016
World Pulse is a social networking platform connecting women worldwide for change. 

In my culture in Uganda, girls are seen as 'debts.' My dad wanted to change that

When it was time for my mother to give birth to me, my father rode a bicycle carrying my expectant mother to Pallisa hospital, in eastern Uganda. My mother held a lamp on her lap so my father could see the small path amidst the darkness. Deep in the night, they made their way, looking out for the lion that lived in the surrounding jungle.

This was the first of many times throughout my life that my father would take a risk to help me have a better chance in life.

I was born in the wee hours of the morning and my paternal auntie was the first person to arrive. She was on a mission to find out the sex of the baby. I am told that upon discovering I was a girl, she exclaimed with disappointment. “Apesenin bobo!” which literally means ‘yet another debt’.

When this auntie delivered the ‘bad news’ to the village that my mother had delivered a girl child, my father stood up in support of my mother. Without his support, she might have been pressured to leave the marriage for bearing six girls. Instead, my parents teamed up to ignore the ridicule that many women who bore girl children in my village experience. They responded with kindness, opening up our home and offering food and hospitality to those who had ridiculed us.

As I grew up, I saw how my father’s many acts of support for the women and girls in our family were changing the way things were done in our village. Upon my grandfather’s death, my father was appointed heir to the clan. When he chairs clan meetings, he gives women a voice to articulate their issues. He is using his position to gradually change attitudes, championing women’s rights and empowerment.

There is much that needs to change. Growing up, I witnessed mothers of girl children scolded, beaten, and given ultimatums by their husbands or even clan members to either produce boys or return to their families. Traditionally, girls are seen as worthless, not worth educating. We are only meant for marriage.

In the Teso culture a bride price is gifted from the family of the groom to that of the bride before the bride is officially handed over to the groom. This takes the form of cows, goats, and sheep. Because the bride price paid for us must be refunded if the marriage fails, girls are debts waiting to happen—a burden to the clan.
© 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement