Zimbabwe was hounoured with the presence of Professor Sylvia Rosila Tamale from Uganda. She gave a talk at the Zimbabwe Women’s esource Center Network (ZWRCN). The room was packed to capacity with a mixture of older feminist/activist and quite an impressive number of young women activists too. It was an hounour for me to be present in that room and listen to this magnificent woman speak.
Professor Tamale is the first woman dean in the Law Faculty at Makereke University, Uganda. She has done several work, some of it including ‘African Feminism: How Should We Change?” and also “Eroticism, Sensuality and “Women’s Secrets Among the Baganda: A Critical Analysis” Feminist Africa, just to mention a few.
She spoke on ‘SEXUALITY.’ As she started to go deeper into the power dynamics and how women should embrace sexuality and the key and core aspects of all power and sexuality people could not help but agree.
I realised so many dynamics to Sexuality and how we have not used the power of our sexuality as women to free ourselves from the rule of Patriarchy. The professor spoke about the need for ‘transformative change’ and also how we should begin a process of unlearning and relearning as women.
She emphasised on how as women we need to unlearn all the aspects of our sexuality that has been socially and culturally constructed, all the perceptions and how they have been used to control us.
The process as she described is not an easy, it’s difficult and it has a lot of backlash as well. She emphasised the need for critical thinking and questioning what we know as the ‘truths’.
What was very interesting for me is the way she highlighted the different power dynamics, economic, race, class, gender, sex, social status and all and in the middle of them all the main core issues that’s present in all these spheres in Sexuality. More often than ever in life as women we never realise how ‘our bodies’ are the main source of power we have and yet we let patriarchy control, dominate and abuse us.
In unlearning the ‘truths’ we then realise that we have to question everything, why we as women are the ones who do all the work in the domestic arena and all this is done and there is no payment for that. She compared this to the public sphere dominated by men and how they are remunerated and use that to control the women. Why is it that when a woman is a single parent, has more than one sexual partner or has sex with other women or is a sex worker she is ‘LABELLED’ by society? Who determines these labels and according to whose yard stick are you judging or setting morals? Whose morals are these?
I was quickly reminded of how we, as a women’s movement, advocate on how we have to be ‘WOMEN CROSSING THE LINE’. Sylvia Tamale is one woman who has crossed many lines; hence she was voted the ‘worst woman’ of the year in a national paper in 2003 in Uganda. I feel , if crossing the line and challenging patriarchy makes us all ‘worst women’ then lets wear that label with pride as we strengthen the voice, visibility and collective power of women.