Saturday, 3 November 2012

A salute to the women and girls of Uganda

Today I went shopping. No big deal, you may say, and you would be right. I was walking up the road in our pleasant suburb of Kampala, on the way to the supermarket. Then on my right I saw two little girls, five or six years old, crouching down by the side of the lane. They looked up as I approached. One had a half-full basket of bananas, the other, rather younger, had a nearly full basket of avocados. The bigger girl was helping the little one to rearrange her produce so that the basket would balance properly on her head.

'Please buy from us,' they said.

I always have a difficulty in situations like this. These little girls could barely raise the heavy baskets onto their heads. They were immensely vulnerable to traffic hazards and physical or sexual attack. If I bought, I would be condoning child labour. If I didn't, however, I might be indirectly responsible for any beatings they received at home for their failure to sell.

I bought.

Will life be any different for these little girls when they grow up?

I suspect not. About ninety percent of Uganda's farmers are women. Even in middle class households like those around us, wives are responsible for growing much of the family's food. Women will be the ones to sell the surplus to raise money for school fees, for it is largely women who provide practical support for education  And if they fall short in their duties, they could well be beaten by their partners for Uganda has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse in the world.

In 2011, UNICEF's report The State of the World's ChildrenAdolescence: an Age of Opportunity (2011) noted that 70% of Ugandan teenagers aged 15 to 19 believed that husbands had a right to beat their wives if they burnt the food, argued with them, went out without telling them, neglected their children or refused sexual relations.

Most girls have hard lives ahead of them. However, judging by the hard work, devotion to duty and stoicism demonstrated by my two little acquaintances, they will succeed beyond expectation.


  1. Thank you Elisabeth for this very interesting article!

  2. Thanks, Elisabeth. Yeah, I understand how difficult it is to take the right decision on what to do. And I have the impression of always taking the wrong one.