By Agnes E. Nantaba
Miria Koburunga Matembe is a former member of the Pan-African Parliament and Ethics minister. She spoke to Agnes E. Nantaba about her advocacy for women’s rights
Any three things we don’t know about you?
Few people know about my kind heart; many people know me for my tough exterior. But my entire reliance on God revealed to me that my tough exterior protects me from exploitation. I was a teacher but the moment I would walk in class some students would not come back after the first day on recognising that I am their teacher. The people who get through my hard exterior can get the softer interior. It’s the reason people call me all sorts of names like controversial woman, breaker of marriages and iron lady. I am a radical conservative. For instance, I love family and so don’t want any marriage to break up. I love decency to an extent that I don’t want people to see the boundaries of my body. God promised me two things; I will never disappear in oblivion and that I will never run out of supplies until it rains. With Jesus in the boat, you smile at the storms.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness is not an appropriate word for me because it depends on happenings. I prefer perfect joy that doesn’t depend on circumstances and is never shaken. This joy comes from knowing Jesus Christ as the giver of life.
What is your greatest fear?
One thing I fear most is offending God because I want to remain immersed in God’s love.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Talking too much yet I listen less; I would love to talk less and listen to others more.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Dishonesty; I want people to speak the truth without pretence.
Which living person do you most admire?
Joyce Meyer greatly inspires me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
A beautiful watch; I have many but I still can’t stop buying more. I used to love three things; beautiful shoe, bag and watch but I can spend more on a watch if I have liked it.
What is your current state of mind?
Peaceful and nothing more.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Ugandan society has become too materialistic- which explains why many people have sold their souls for things.
On what occasion do you lie?
I don’t want to associate with lies and it’s largely why Africans still lag behind.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I used not to like my mouth because it’s too big but not anymore after discovering it is the reason I exist. For now, my big upper arm makes me uncomfortable so I resent wearing sleeveless.
Which living person do you most despise?
People who can’t stand for integrity and face the truth
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Humbleness; a man should look at himself as a normal human being not to expose his manhood like African traditional society is raised.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Know, love, and assert yourself.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
When I was a minister, the moment I would say, ‘Let me tell you’ or excuse me, my presence would be felt.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My sons with their wives – daughters in love.
When and where were you happiest?
The moment I won a seat in parliament.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being a voice for women to make them visible and audible; when I pass on, I want my grave to be marked ‘here lays Matembe who made a difference in women’s lives’.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
The same Miria Matembe who fights for women’s rights.
Where would you most like to live?
Not anywhere else apart from my country, Uganda.
What is your most treasured possession?
My mouth and the voice; it is the source of my life. I wouldn’t want to live without it.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Being so sick to the extent that one is incapacitated to take charge of his or her physical personal affairs.
What is your favourite occupation?
Talking with, for and about women completes me and brightens me up.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Toughness and non-compromising.
What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and genuineness.
Who are your favorite writers?
Joyce Meyer for her practical writings, John Maxwell for his principles of good leadership and Mary Baxter for things in the realm.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott; she set up the movement for Martin Luther King.
What is it that you most dislike?
Dishonest people and men who don’t value women.
What is your greatest regret?
I regret the fact that I was not able to pass the law of marriage and divorce through parliament. It means I never achieved what I set my mind to achieve in my dreams.
How would you like to die?
Without suffering; no long sickness but I also don’t want to die mysteriously leaving my people in shock.
What is your motto?
May the joy of serving others be truly rewarded.