Marren struggled tirelessly towards the improvement of women's participation in politics and the reduction of women's poverty at the household level. She advocated for inclusivity and the revival of the women's movement in Africa.
On Sunday, 1 October 2017, the women's movement in Uganda was shattered by the news of Marren Akatsa-Bukachi's passing. At the time of her demise, Marren was the Executive Director at the Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) and served as a committee member of the NGO Commission on the Status of Women, Africa (NGOCSW Africa), among others. Akina Mama wa Afrika on behalf of the Uganda Feminist Forum celebrates the pathfinder that Marren has been.
Marren has been an inspiration to many for her unflagging passion and commitment to women's rights and her fight for justice for all women. She epitomized our struggle in many ways through her exceptional leadership, her work and her strength as she dedicated her life to making a difference for women, blazing a trail for the women movement with courage and conviction.
Through her work, Marren struggled tirelessly towards the improvement of women's participation in politics and the reduction of women's poverty at the household level. She advocated for inclusivity and the revival of the women's movement in Africa. The success of the Gender and Development Bill for East Africa is one such process Marren led with persistence and resilience. She facilitated women's engagement in cross border trade in the East African Region in a safer and profitable environment.
Marren was an artist who found time through her busy schedule to do what she was passionate about: making beautiful jewelry. She moved countless people and touched thousands of lives through relentless advocacy for women: turning their stories into actions, to stand up for ourselves and for one another, and facilitated the transfer of knowledge and skill through organizing, investing in, and fighting for a better world for all women.
As Marren said in an interview at the African Feminist Forum "... no one can mistake me when they meet me because I exude my feminism in what I say and in what I do". She lived everyday true to her words. Her words always spoke to solidarity, intersectionality, and the love for women. It is her strength, perseverance, eternal beauty, intelligence, unflagging activism and compassion that we shall remember her by.
"I watched as some politicians got divorced because their husbands and clans could not stand the thought of a woman wearing trousers. I was made a stronger woman through these experiences and I credit them with the turning point when I became a truly baptised feminist. I became very angry. I am still angry."
A true African feminist, Marren did not at any point waver through her feminist journey; not even her ailment could stand in her way for gender justice. With courage and commitment she served on various national, regional and international bodies passionately working to advance the feminist agenda at every opportunity. With her charm, she brought warmth into feminist spaces, challenged and inspired us to lead and dismantle forces of patriarchy.
Marren Akatsa-Bukachi was born to the late Senator Shelemiah Mbeo Onyango of Mfangano Island, and the late Councillor Loise Auma Mbeo of Oyugis, on 22 October 1958 in Kisii, Kenya.
Marren had a Master's degree in Public Health Leadership from the Uganda Christian University (2009), a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from the University of Delhi India (1979), a certificate in International Policy Advocacy from the School of International Training, Washington DC - USA (2010), and a certificate in Project Administration and Development from the Kenya Institute of Administration, Nairobi Kenya (2008).
Marren was an acclaimed feminist, gender, peace and security, trade and development specialist with more than 20 years' experience working at local, national and regional levels for government, development partners and civil society.
There is no doubt you lit so many feminist candles that will continue to burn for generations to come. You were a succesful mother who taught your children and everyone around you to live and excel. You fought a good fight!
Rest in power sister Marren, rest in power! Until we meet...
* PAULINE KAHUUBIRE is Communications Intern at Akina Mama wa Afrika organisation, Kampala, Uganda.