On 4th October 2018, Prof. Ruth Mukama, formerly member of staff in the Department of Linguistics, English Language Studies and Communication Skills in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences delivered Makerere University’s maiden Valedictory Lecture. The lecture was held in the University Main Hall and was presided over by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, Dr Ernest Okello Ogwang and the Chairperson of the Makerere University Inaugural Professorial Lectures Organizing Committee, Prof. Elly Sabiiti.
Held under the theme “Changing the World through Language: Efforts and Prospects”, Prof. Mukama’s Valedictory Lecture ensued from systematic qualitative research into the gender issues pertaining to language use in universities globally, specifically at Makerere University.
Referring to global guidelines, Prof. Mukama analyzed the extent to which Makerere University has adopted the use of gender-inclusive language. The guidelines on the use of gender-inclusive language indicate that the use of man, men and mankind as generic terms to describe both genders should be avoided; the use of gender-exclusive pronouns like he, him and his to refer to both sexes should be avoided; all forms of stereotyping women and men should be avoided; language users should disassociate themselves from pejorative and demeaning language like “all people are equal but some are more equal than others” and that all gender ascriptions to inanimate objects and abstract concepts are undesirable.
In her presentation, Prof. Mukama noted that although Makerere had made several strides in the use of gender-inclusive language, a lot more needed to be done. “The inconsistencies and limitations that shroud the use of gender-inclusive language at Makerere University are largely due to lack of a gender language policy. “The language policy void is in turn unlikely to change if the Makerere University Gender Equality Policy continues to be held in abeyance. It is the gender language policy that would guide or reinforce the requisite language use practices in the Institution. The Makerere University Gender Equality Policy that was approved by the University Senate in July 2009 and by the University Council in August 2010 would have invariably catalyzed the formulation of a gender language policy for the University had it not been shelved indefinitely,” she explained.
Prof. Mukama challenged the University leadership to rise up to the challenge and implement the Gender Equality Policy which she said will in turn facilitate the revival of the Gender Mainstreaming Programme. “The implementation of the Gender Equality Policy will invariably have to be reinforced by the development of a Gender Inclusive Language Policy to inform the transformative process. Like all other transformative processes, the engendering of the University and the streamlining of the use of gender-inclusive language do not have to be rushed. The important thing is to get started,” she advised.
At the national level, Prof. Mukama commended the designers of the 1995 Constitution on the use of gender-inclusive language. “The 1995 Constitution is indeed a paragon of the use of gender-inclusive English. Utmost care was taken to ensure that nearly all positions of leadership and responsibility dealt with in the Constitution catered for both women and men,” she said.
Prof. Mukama noted that language is one of the most effective ways of changing the world without bloodshed. “Language is an instrument of social control and maintenance of unequal power relations,” she noted.
Prof. Mukama appreciated the University Management and all her colleagues for their support towards her valedictory lecture. She expressed willingness to support the University in developing and implementing the Gender-Inclusive Language Policy.
In his remarks, the Chairperson of the Makerere University Inaugural Professorial Lectures Organizing Committee, Prof. Elly Sabiiti described Prof. Mukama as a woman of many firsts and a trail blazer whose academic and professional journey is marked by excellence. He thanked the offices of the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs for the support towards the event.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs noted that the valedictory lecture presents the University an opportunity to appreciate its own. “Today, the University recognizes and appreciates Prof. Ruth Mukama. When scholars put together in a single paper what has been the essence of their life’s work, and go ahead to present this work in a gathering such as this one, it represents the sum of all the Teaching and Learning, Research and Innovations, and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and Networking they have undertaken. This collective sum, it is hoped, can contribute to our quest of building for the future. It is only apt that we celebrate Prof. Mukama’s legacy as she bows out of Makerere University to take on further assignments beyond our gates,” he said.
The Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira commended Prof. Mukama for her outstanding contribution to the field of Linguistics. Prof. Mukama was instrumental is designing key new programmes and launching the teaching and institutionalization of Kiswahili at Makerere University and other public and private universities in Uganda.
Who is Prof. Ruth Mukama
She is a Professor of Linguistics. She is a graduate of the University of East Africa (B.A, 1970 and the University of York in England (D. Phil, 1973). In her heydays she was a committed result-oriented performer who was continually called upon to undertake numerous tasks institutionally, nationally and internationally.
She was a member of Senate, Council and the Appointments Board. She served on various committees including the Senate Committee on Gender Mainstreaming, the Joint Board of Graduate Studies for the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, the Female Scholarship Initiative Committee, Mawazo Editorial Board and the Gender Policy Development Committee. Prof. Mukama was the first woman Dean at Makerere University.
In 2005, the State recognized her leadership ability by entrusting her with the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into Bunyoro issues. Further, her endowment with writing skills endeared her for unprecedented editorial and rapporteur work as she edited books and other documents for national NGOs: Action for Development (ACFODE), the Eastern Sub-Regional Support Initiative for Advancement of Women (EASSI), and Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA). She has also done a lot of editorial work for the Office of the Auditor General. The Makerere University community too benefited greatly from her editorial expertise: she edited many documents and reports for the Department of Women Studies, the Graduate School, the Gender Mainstreaming Division and Makerere Institute of Social Research. Rapporteuring enabled her to officiate at historic conferences, such as the Social Science Conference (2000) and the Women’s World (2003).
In 2009-2014, she represented Anglophone Africa on the High Level Panel for the Pan Africa University. She translated Julius Nyerere’s book: Uhuru wa Wanawake into: Women’s Freedom and serves on advisory and editorial boards of several journals.
See Prof. Mukama's detailed presentation in the book below.