March 13, 2018
It is the first anniversary for my imprisonment on remand at Luzira Women’s Prison.
Last year, I spent thirty-three nights on the floor of Ward 8 in this maximum security prison. It was a really wonderful opportunity for me to learn first hand about the experiences of inmates in Uganda.
As a professional ethnographer, I am eternally grateful for being locked up in Luzira Women’s Prison.
One day before I die, I would like to work with prison services.
I spent a lot of time with political prisoners discussing the rotten misrule of Yoweri Museveni and daydreaming about the post-Museveni era.
I spent time with hardcore criminals, some of whom were in the condemned section where they were awaiting the death penalty.
I spent time with petty criminals who were arrested by KCCA for hawking merchandise by the roadside.
I spent time with women who were on remand for years; women such as the beautiful Maureen who had never been presented to any court for five years.
I spent time with mentally ill prisoners such as Adyeeri who called me her daughter and occasionally had to be locked up in solitary confinement after being injected with psychiatric drugs.
Patience who admitted burning up her three children in a house, also loved to chat with me.
A woman had a miscarriage after being instructed to collect firewood although she was in her third trimester.
Another woman delivered her baby in the dark night on the floor of my crowded ward. The prison wardens blamed her for miscalculating the age of her pregnancy and thus failing transfer to the maternity ward.
I plaited the hair of pregnant Ayikoru, in preparation for her post-natal period.
I also enjoyed carrying Joweria’s baby who was delivered in prison. I remember two prisoners fought over a quarter packet of sanitary pads that went missing. One blamed the other for stealing her sanitary pads.
One of my best friends in prison bled non-stop from uterine cancer in its final stages. *Women issues remain critical even behind the bars of prison.*
We often talked about our children and wondered about who was taking care of them. During daily fellowship, women prayed earnestly for the protection and provision of their children left back in deserted homes.
Some cried in the night and called out the names of their children.
I met a beautiful murderer who still had to serve twenty more years. Her greatest regret was not having conceived before incarceration. Whenever we talked, she wondered whether she will not be too late to conceive when she eventually got released.
There was a group of women who loved to converse with me about their desires to meet new partners and get remarried upon release from prison.
Today my thoughts are with all those women who taught me about the *humanity and womanhood of prisoners.*
This cartoon by *Chris Nkaruha Uganda Ogon* aptly captures the sweet kaboozi I banged with inmates in Luzira Women’s Prison.