To never have to start a sentence with "I wish I would have..."


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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Third Gender

Being a woman in Uganda is challenging. Living here has made me realize how much I took for granted being a women in America. Uganda is a country where women are still seen as lesser than men. This is apparent when you see any Ugandan woman greet a man...she kneels down, lowers her eyes, and shakes his hand. It's the way the culture is here and while I may not agree with it, I'm by no means in any position to try and change it.

What's more challenging is being a white woman in Uganda. Sure the sexual harassment and the negative attention are a lot to deal with, but I've learned to tolerate them (most of the time). What I still sometimes struggle with is being part of a "third gender." The Ugandan man is definitely at the top and the Ugandan woman is definitely at the bottom. Based on the color of my skin and all that it implies (that I have money, that I'm educated, etc.) I fall somewhere in the middle where I'm not quite equal to a man but I'm treated with more respect than a woman. I understand this, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Sometimes I am treated like a man out of respect but I definitely don't get the same privileges. As a woman if I speak my mind I have to be very careful of what I say and who I say it to. If I have an idea that I know will benefit the community I need to make sure it comes from a man if I every want to implement it. Other times I am separated from the women, again out of respect, because as a "visitor" you are expected to talk and eat with members of higher class, ie men, and not those who prepare the meals and clean, ie, women.

Just something interesting to think about. Uganda is behind America in terms of gender equality (Ugandan men can't believe male Peace Corps volunteers cook for me or help me wash dishes!). Being a part of this culture has made me appreciate how I am viewed and treated in America. Definitely something I'm looking forward to coming home to.

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