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Miria Matembe: Gender Politics and Constitution Making in Uganda. (Book Reviews).

Matembe, Miria R. K. and Dorsey, Nancy R. (2002) Miria Matembe: Gender Politics and Constitution Making in Uganda. Kampala: Fountain Publishers ISBN 9970 02 337 3

Contents: Introduction Rural Childhood, Childhood Dreams--Becoming an Activist in the Struggle for Women's Rights -Action for Development (ACFODE)--Constitution Making: The Uganda Constitutional Commission--women in the National Resistance Council and the Constituent Assembly -A Feminist Lawyer in the New Millenium--A Moment of Reality: The Land Act 1998--Past, Present and Future-Conclusion--References--Index.

This Autobiography starts with what the writer terms 'Rural Childhood, Childhood Dreams'. The chapter shows the first impressions of sex role differences, the socialization of the writer and her aspirations, convictions and what she believes are the foundations for what made her into what she is today. Including primarily, the role her parents played in her life and secondly that played by her siblings and environment. This chapter indicates from an early age the author's interest in working to improve the conditions of women's lives.

'Becoming an Activist in the Struggle for Women's Rights' is the name of chapter two of this book. In this chapter the author reflects on this period of her life (the 1980's) as the time of real awakening. In that previously, she had little understanding of the global dimensions of either women's problems or of the growing women's movement and also the significance of the incumbent National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government in her life. She describes her inauguration into Ugandan politics, the experience and problems that she faced and the back up and support of her husband of her in public life.

The women's organization 'Action for Development (ACFODE)'--the third chapter of the book--was founded in the wake of the International Conference for women in Nairobi. The chapter goes on to discuss the establishment of the organization and the contributions it has made to women's emancipation in Uganda. The writer portrays her experience in becoming aware of sexist language and going on to adopting gender neutral language, the implications of choosing a motto 'breaking through, building up, and binding' which was appropriate and indicative of their'aims. She goes on to indicate how ACFODE endeavoured'for action and not passivity.

Chapter four of the book 'Constitution Making: the Uganda Constitutional Commission', gives insight into the, problems faced by women in the male dominant political arena. This chapter focuses on the writer's experience of being in a minority situation and fighting for personal convictions and the courage it takes to do so.

Chapter five of the book entitled 'Women in the National Resistance Council and' the Constituent Assembly' heralds the challenge and overcome of the milestone 'of women entering parliamentary politics in large numbers. This chapter tackles the issue of the challenge of creating a gender sensitive constitution through real unity, collaboration, strategizing and lobbying of both women and men. The writer ends this chapter by questioning that after gaining the constitution, the translation of its provisions into a reality still remain to be seen.

Chapter six under the 'title ' A Feminist Lawyer in the New Millenium' describes the Writer's understanding of what feminism is, how it is understood in Uganda, the controversy around the subject and how she came to accept the designation of being a feminist. She states the disappointment that she felt between theoretical thinking and reality as she had lived it in Uganda after studying for her masters in Britain. She concluded her studies believing that law is more detrimental to women than balm for their problems. This chapter narrates three different case studies whose outcomes were successful. This chapter comes to a close with what the writer analyses as, the five main constraints to legal strategies for the empowerment of rural women in Uganda

Chapter seven 'A moment of Reality: The land Act 1998'- Considers Women's unequal access to land and its implication on Ugandan women's lives. After having achieved a 'women friendly' constitution, the application of the constitutions provisions into reality still remain, specifically to the controversial land issues in relation to women. The fight for a Land Bill that would secure women's right to land, the land that sustained a couple to be co-owned is shown within this chapter.

Chapter eight 'Past, Present and Future'; analyses the knowledge gained, mistakes made and looks forward optimistically to the future. The writer stresses the point of women's support. The journey for women to top positions is only facilitated by both men's and women's support. The gender question has to be tackled by both men and women especially in African cultures, where culture plays such a dominant role in women's lives.

Chapter nine 'Conclusion' wraps up-herstory--Miria Matembe's long journey from a rural girl -with an unfulfilled dream to become a lawyer fighting for women's rights, who later on went on against odds to fulfill this dream- to attaining the status of Minister of Ethics and Integrity. The writer acknowledges the strength of women and calls for solidarity in her hope that women achieve what she has achieved and maintain sustainability in their togetherness.

In Conclusion this book is well written, easily comprehended and appropriate to those studying politics, gender studies or literature. It has been written with a good comprehension of gender issues. It holds insight and experience for women and enlightenment and knowledge for men. It has a refreshing approach, including synopsis from different people who are an intrinsic part of her life including close friends and her husband. The book is written with a sense of humour and is very enjoyable. This is a book of experience shared by an African sister to her fellow sisters. If you have the chance, please do read it!
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Author:Alim, Leena Omar
Publication:Ahfad Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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