How did MIFUMI’s bride price campaign begin? People usually want to know how something started, how a story began. We did not set out to fight bride price. The struggle against bride price began with a chance remark by my mother, when she looked at me with that keen look in her eyes and said, “You know what Atuki, If you really want to tackle domestic violence, you cannot avoid addressing bride price.”
The dream of MIFUMI came about to support the efforts of the community that was trying to build a simple three roomed school made of mud walls and grass thatch in Mifumi village from where the charity derives its name. When the charity was established in 1997, we started by providing loans to women to set up small businesses under what we called the Revolving Loans Scheme. However, over time, we noticed that the women’s businesses were not thriving. My mother, then the Chair of Nagongera Women’s Guild explained the reason, “The women’s husbands take things on credit and when they ask for their money, they beat them up.” Without knowing it, she had taken domestic violence out of the private and placed it in the public domain. This was a time when gender issues were not discussed in Uganda, and I dare say in Africa, and particularly not in rural areas. Domestic violence was not considered a serious matter and less still a crime. As a result, MIFUMI established the first domestic violence advice centre in Uganda, at Kirewa sub-county near Mifumi village. And shortly after that is when my mother made her chance remark to me about needing to address bride price, if I wanted to end domestic violence. This remark came as a surprise to me because I had always considered bride price a harmless, even a cherished practice but when we investigated cases reported to the Advice Centre, we found that over 60% was related to bride price and that’s when MIFUMI embarked on its bride price campaign that lasted 15 years and culminated in the landmark Supreme court ruling in 2015 when the Supreme court outlawed bride price refund.
As you are by now aware from my previous blog post, MIFUMI’s bride price campaign was very much linked to my mother. As my sister Jane said, ‘she was the brains behind the campaign.” But there was more to come, much more, concerning the influence of bride price in my mother’s family. My new year’s resolution was to post a blog everyday about the story of MIFUMI. Since 1st January 2023, this is only the second blog I am posting. How come I stalled? Maybe because I was approaching it the wrong way. This memoir about my mother has shown itself to be the way to approach MIFUMI’s story. Things in life happen for a reason but that is not an excuse to stall your new year’s resolutions. Just do what you need to do but also remember you can’t do what you don’t know. Why do I say that? At breakfast this morning, at the writer’s residency in France, La Porte Peinte, where I am camping for a month, my fellow writer, a young lady from LA, asked me if my mother knew I was writing about her? Alas no. Last month, my sister Evelyn whom I was with in Bristol, asked me something similar – ‘Why did you not make Mum’s film while she was still alive? What happened?’ I felt guilty and sorry all at once, but later I recalled we were still in the aftermath of the campaign, which my mother was part and parcel of. The thought had not occurred to me that I would one day make a film about her. You can’t do what you don’t know – but when you do know, do it.
12 April 2023
La Porte Peinte