Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda Edited by Christopher Conte

Title: Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda

Editor: Christopher Conte

Print Length: 180 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1507680228

Publication Date: August 30, 2015

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ASIN: B014QBPALM

*I was gifted a copy of this book by the editor*

Crossroads is a fascinating anthology comprising autobiographical essays by several Ugandan women. I loved the opportunity to learn more about the Ugandan culture and the upbringing of African women and how it is different (and in many ways similar) from the upbringing of Black women here in America. Rarely do we hear of what these women endure so it was refreshing to read about it. All of the stories have a common Coming-of-Age theme where the women discuss their experiences coming into womanhood among the customs and traditions of their country. We learn about their childhoods, sex, marriage, career, and livelihood.

All of the stories were compelling but there were a few that really stuck out for me more than the others. I enjoyed the opening story, for instance, about the meaning of names and the cashier treating the woman unfairly because of her name. Personally, I can relate to having a unique name myself and I am often asked the same questions that Nakisanze Segawa was asked.

There were two stories that had the biggest impact on me above all the others. The young women taken from their University without a word, abused  and forcibly imprisoned was heartbreaking. I also found the customs surrounding the Ssengas both fascinating and also odd.

By custom Ssenga’s are paternal aunts who assume special responsibilities and help to guide the women, their “nieces” in the ways of society. They teach the women how to behave, submit to a man, how to display class and grace, they monitor their manners and their ways around the house.

Ssengas teach young women about their bodies, about hygiene and sex and ultimately prepare them to be good wives. I love the concept of having someone there to mentor young women and to ensure they grow to be respectable wives and mothers. The fact that the Ssengas take over this role and not the mother is interesting to me. I found myself wondering if it would help for young women in the States, especially young Black women without mothers, to have this kind of guidance and support instead of having to figure things out on their own or in the street.

What I enjoyed least about the role of the Ssengas is that their teachings go too far, at least based on the testimonies of the women. It’s one thing to teach young women about their bodies and how to be wives but the extent to which these women are obligated to serve their husbands is, in my opinion, oppressive. Some of the acts, in fact, were downright disgusting and unnecessary. I should be clear that I am all for submission. I believe that women are to submit to their husbands like the bible instructs and that the man is the spiritually ordained head of the household.

The problem I have is ways in which Submission has been portrayed, defined, twisted, and distorted all over the world. Not only do women in America have a concept of submission that is not, in my opinion, accurate but so do women in other countries. Submission is not slavery and a man’s authority over his wife does not exempt him from certain duties and responsibilities or give him the permission to be abusive. Men are to love their wives as their own bodies and a wife respects her husband.

I believe that if done properly, submission and authority can work well but if not done correctly, can easily look like slavery as it, sadly, often does.

There are some great qualities that are promoted in Uganda that many women across the globe can benefit from but then there are some things that we may find strange if we didn’t grow up that way.

In what way does earning degrees and having an education balance with being good wives? Do the women defy tradition or follow it?

This book sparks great conversation about the lives of women and is relevant considering the social and political climate of our time.

Movement / Strength: 5/5

Entertainment Factor: 5 /5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda is available now on Amazon


About the Editor

Christopher Conte is an American journalist who spent fifteen years as a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal before beginning a freelance career. He has traveled extensively throughout Africa, eastern Europe, and Asia, as a consultant for the World Bank’s International Finance Group. Conte has also worked as a trainer and mentor to journalists in Uganda, and other locations throughout Africa and Asia.

Guest Feature – The Blackman’s Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman- Shahrazad Ali

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• It is difficult to get her to listen to new information about a new approach to living her life because she is so certain that she is justified in being out of order. She is mostly a lot of mouth. She can be a number of things, as already proven, but she cannot be a man.
• By nature the Blackman cannot submit to the woman.
• All the good things she says she wants would be immediately available to her if she drops her defenses, drops her suspicions and allows herself to melt into the waiting arms of the man who loves her.
• When the Blackwoman attacks the Blackman publicly she inadvertently gives the entire world permission to attack him also.
• It is not easy for a Blackman to be motivated if his woman doubts him, or if their relationship is so stormy that it takes his head and robs him of the ability to concentrate
• The Blackman can tell which woman is his by the way she submits to his ideas and instructions. And by the way she works to make him happy. His Blackwoman should take the position that his success is her success—their success, and work as a team.
• By letting the Black man be the head of the family she could revive him, and by getting behind him and supporting him he could be free.

A Bone to Pick with The Feminist Movement

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The world as we see it, and as we know it, is a Feminine world. It is a place where women are first in everything. A place where strong men are constantly emasculated; any sign of strength taken and softened to fit the approval of clean faces and man bags. To qualify as a “good man” he must do everything for her, but she is not expected to give anything back. A man does not have the right to defend himself when his life is threatened if it includes women; yet, women are allowed to fight alongside men in brutal and violent wars. A woman cannot naturally produce seed without the sperm of a man, yet, she can abort a baby without him because it’s her body. No one will inquire of his opinion. No one will seek his feelings and beliefs. No one will bother to search out his heart about what he helped create because women do in fact, run the world. Lady Liberty is a Queen. She stands unmoved in the middle of the New York Harbor as the symbol of the world’s leading country, the United States of America; her head is covered with a crown and her arms are raised to shine the light of illumination on mankind. Even in marriage, when the two become one the man must propose on one knee; he must bow in submission of his queen.

Indeed, I have a bone to pick with the feminist movement…

Young man proposing to a woman.

As is my custom, I don’t like making these articles extremely long so we’ll cut to the chase here. I’m going to purposely skip past some information because contrary to popular belief, the feminist movement is not about innocently advocating for the rights of women in the context that we should be treated with love and respect. It is not simply a movement to help women to understand their worth as human beings and to understand the signs of abusive situations with men. Truly I wish it was that simple. But this is not what the feminist movement is about.

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In truth, The Feminist Movement in general has to do with authority and role reversal. Whether we are talking about a series of campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women’s suffrage, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, all of which fall under the label of feminism, at its core is the desire for women to be equal in authority with men. It is women who believe they are deserving of the same level of authority as a man.

The problem however, is that when man was initially created he was given a level of authority that was not given to the woman. It does not suggest she does not possess authority, it does not mean she is inferior, and it does not mean she has no place, it just means her place does not surpass that of the man’s. He, the man, was created first, and she is his helpmate. For this reason, because he was created first, it is impossible for her to lead him. Despite whether or not his masculinity has been compromised, a woman cannot be a man and a man cannot be a woman.

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The line that separates the role of men and women have been blurred, twisted, and manipulated by members of the Feminist Movement for quite some time. It is a misunderstanding of submission and authority. It is taking abusive men and saying that men cannot be heads of households because of him. It is taking the abused woman, and saying that she is the embodiment of submission. It is giving of movies, TV shows, magazines, speeches, advertisements, music etc., and creating an image of the woman’s role of submission to that of weakness, and a form of slavery. But it wasn’t until the Feminist Movement and its portrayal of certain images and definitions of words that men and women started to take on the mindset that if a woman does not have the same exact role as the man that she’s somehow inferior. While  before these images women, especially the so called Black woman, understood the power of being on one accord and establishing order within the household.

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A great misunderstanding of a woman’s role and it’s confusion with household chores also took root and became mainstream. We were taught that submissive women stayed at home, raised the children, and cooked dinner while the man worked outside the home, came home and did nothing. While there’s nothing wrong with a woman who stays at home full time to care for her family (it is a great responsibility that should not be looked down upon), as the ad suggests, it was as if a man who ruled his household like the days of old didn’t cook; it was as if he didn’t clean and had no say so in the raising of his children. As such women gravitated toward the notion of feminism because we were taught that for a woman to work outside the home it made her independent and free. The truth is however, that where a woman chooses to be of service does not define her submission. Men can cook dinner, raise the children and wash dishes and still be the head of his household. Under the same token, a woman can work outside the home and still fall under submission to her husband. It is not where she is of service, it is her attitude while of service. But, by outlining these erroneous differences, something as simple as household chores were applied to men and women’s roles. In this way, Feminist were able to craftily defend their position that if a woman is not given the same authority as a man she is being abused. Words like Obedience and Submissive got changed into images like Slavery and Fool and what woman wanted to be a fool? What woman wants to be someone’s slave? And so therefore we have women latching on to the FM under the simple understanding of equality and freedom. But what they didn’t tell us was that this freedom is to release the woman from her natural position in life as helper and counterpart to the man until she now despises this very prestigious position. She thinks she is a queen, but she has been reduced to a fool. Ironically, she has become in her disobedience the same slave she thinks being obedient to her man  makes her.

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I will soon come back to this topic when I have more time. But at the end of the day, whether we’re talking about role, duty, clothing, etc., the purpose of The Feminist Movement is to supply the woman with the same level of authority as the man. This seems innocent enough in terms of rights, but it’s deeper than that. Of course men are to respect women, but women are also to respect men. No matter how we look at this, what The Feminist Movement sets out to do is to disrupt the natural order of things.