In ‘The New Times’ of Wednesday September 10, I was misquoted because parts of my sentences were left out, giving the complete opposite of what I said, and most of all; the citation in general gives a very erroneous view of what I myself believe in concerning women’s place in society - be it in Rwandan Culture or outside Rwanda.
I’m disappointed because I’m a firm believer of the recognition of women’s rights and a firm believer of the fulfillment of women’s rights through self-expression.
Possibly Ruth Kang’ong’oi misquoted me because I spoke on the phone.
The following is what I said:
During that conference in 1999, myself and another resource person had commented on Alice Karekezi’s beauty and elegance, and I privately commended her obvious intelligence and eloquence.
However, after she had given her presentation on Gacaca, the lady besides me commented that Ms. Karekezi’s eloquence made her much less beautiful, and that it was such a pity, she should have kept quiet.
I thoroughly disagreed with this and found it a silly and backward attitude towards women.
I didn’t quite believe that other people could have such an attitude, but as the years went by, I’ve realised that such a negative attitude is actually widespread in our society, believe it or not, even here in Kigali.
I spent many years in Kenya and Uganda and met women who were as vocal and intelligent as their male counterparts.
I found the same here in Rwanda; but I noticed that though women will express themselves easily and openly, and lobby for their rights in political, economic/trade and religious forums; it’s not really the same in smaller social settings.
When women are with their male escorts in social gatherings, they tend to take the back seat, and many men do not approve of their wives expressing themselves loudly and being assertive in such settings.
In such social settings, it’s a paradox because most women who are outspoken, eloquent and obviously knowledgeable still need to be accepted in their societies.
The following was my conclusion (and I stated this clearly to Kang’ong’oi):
When women allow themselves to carry such negative attitudes, i.e. that they shouldn’t speak out in public for fear of being considered ‘unattractive’ and becoming ‘social outcasts’; they only hurt themselves and their society by passing on the same negative attitudes to their daughters and other young girls.
In passing on such backward attitudes, they push backwards the drive to recognise and fulfil women’s rights to an active voice in all public forums; and the right to play an active role in all forms of our society’s development.
Otherwise I was correctly quoted as follows: “I have learnt to first listen, not to speak aggressively and study my audience as a social technique or a clever way to finally air your views”.