Women's History Month Lecture Focuses on Gender and Politics in Uganda

Feb. 26, 2016
Alicia DeckerAlicia Decker courtesy photo.

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WACO, Texas (Feb. 26, 2016) – The 22nd Annual Women's History Month Lecture, "Gender and the Politics of Invisibility: Making Historical Sense of Enforced Disappearance in Post-Colonial Uganda," will be presented by Alicia Decker, Ph.D., associate professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies and African studies at Pennsylvania State University.

The lecture will be from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, in Room 120 of Morrison Hall.

"It is important to recognize Women's History Month in order to give thanks to those who have come before us who have worked so hard to fight against oppression in all of its forms," Decker said. "It also reminds us that we still have a long way to go, that women still make significantly less money than men, that women still experience high levels of gender-based violence and that women are still largely absent from most political and economic positions of power. Women's History Month is a celebration, as well as a call to arms."

Jacqueline-Bethel Mougoué, assistant professor of African history in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences, believes Women's History Month challenges us to think differently about what we consider historically important.

"Unfortunately, the experiences of multicultural American women as well as women from various regions of the world are overlooked in most mainstream approaches to global history," Mougoué said. "Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to illuminate perspectives of women that otherwise do not appear in historical records or in mainstream media, such as women from Africa and Latin America."

Mougoué said Decker’s talk will expose students to the diversity of women’s history across the globe and highlight how, during Idi Amin’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, countless Ugandans were forcibly abducted by state security agents, thrown into the trunks of unmarked cars and never seen again, leaving an indelible mark on the women in that society.

"These disappearances were not simply an unfortunate consequence of military rule, but instead, a deliberate ruling strategy," Mougoué said. "Although most of the abducted were men, the violence of forced disappearance cannot be fully understood without serious consideration of women. They were the ones who were left behind, who were forced to pick up the pieces and carry on despite the tremendous hardships. They were the survivors, the ones who traveled near and far in search of their loved ones. And it was they — the wives, mothers and daughters of the disappeared — who refused to be silenced, who gave voice to a crime that was supposed to leave no trace."

Decker, who earned a master's degree in women's and gender studies at Makerere University in Uganda, wrote a book titled "In Idi Amin’s Shadow: Women, Gender, and Militarism in Uganda" that explores Ugandan women’s complex relationship to the military state.

"It is a story that is much larger than Amin’s dictatorship, or even Uganda more generally," Mougoué said. "By calling attention to this troubling form of political violence, by clearly mapping a gendered terrain of visibility, this project initiates an important dialogue about the utility and strategic nature of state-sanctioned terror in Africa."

Decker hopes students who attend her lecture walk away with a better understanding of resilience among African women.

"They have experienced great violence, but they are not merely victims," Decker said. "Instead, they are brave and incredibly strong. We should be inspired by their courageous stories."

The lecture is free and open to the public. Morrison Hall is located at 1410 S. Fifth St., Waco, TX 76706.

by Jenna Press, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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