Log in
Updated minutes ago

Why we can’t forget Barbara Allimadi’s bra

Barbara Allimadi

Expecting Barbara Allimadi to be loud and aggressive, Quick Talk is surprised to find the 40-something engineer, who famously participated in that bra protest in 2012, quiet, courteous and willing to be led! 

Quick Talk meets Allimadi during a shared course unit – Allimadi is pursuing a master’s degree in Human Rights at Makerere University. Quick Talk notices how Allimadi sits quietly in class, courteously greets and wishes her ‘course mates’ a “blessed week”!

Surely, this is not the same woman who, following the pinching of FDC’s Ingrid Turinawe’s breasts by the police while arresting her in 2012, joined other activists to turn up at CPS with exposed bras. 

Where do you draw your passion, Barbara? 

I think it is just my personality. It came out in 2012, but a friend told me, following that 2012 bra protest, that I was always an activist. She said that if I deemed anything unfair at school, the activist in me came out.

I can’t imagine that your activism at school endeared you to the school authorities. What schools did you attend?

I went to Nakasero primary school after which I went abroad. [Barbara had just joined Gayaza High School in 1985, when the Obote II government, in which her father Eriphas Otema Allimadi served as prime minister, was overthrown and the family went into exile.]

I did a degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering at London Metropolitan University [oh, that explains her accent].

Engineering? Wow! Did you ever practice it?

I did actually and I enjoyed it. I left engineering following some years of practice and engaged in private business.

What are you currently doing?

I work for an NGO and the main thing I do is try to get people lawyers. It is very challenging: people can’t afford lawyers yet we can’t help them all. People are languishing in jail as a result.

Oh dear! That is sad especially when you read that Luzira Upper prison was constructed to house only 500 inmates but it is currently housing thousands.

True. Inmates say that they sleep while seated.

Oh dear! So, the 2012 bra protest was your first….

It was. I did not know that I would ever protest. Some people mistake me for a politician; they think I have ambitions, but I was happy being a private citizen and I wanted it to remain like that.

Allamadi (R) and other women in a bra protest at Central Police Station (CPS) in 2012

When I saw what happened to Ingrid, however, it shocked and offended me. I spoke to other people who were passionate about human rights and we wondered what we could do. Somebody proposed the bra protest and I said ‘no’.

I would say ‘no’ too.

[Smiling] Ingrid’s incident occurred on a Friday and I had the weekend to think about the suggestion of the bra protest. I slept over it and thought about it on Saturday and I realised that nothing we could do, other than the bra protest, would match the gravity of what had occurred. I started warming up to the idea and by Sunday, I said, yes, this has to happen. 

Weren’t you afraid?

No. At that point, I was seriously offended that a police force that is supposed to protect us had assaulted a woman in front of everyone. I had lost fear and respect for the police and I was not afraid to show my bra [yeah, the image of those fierce women in bras is a lasting one].

Haha, not afraid to show your bra! Sounds funny. Did you make sure that the bra you wore that day was beautiful?

All my bras are beautiful.

How did the policemen react to you?

They were definitely caught off-guard. 

Some people have said that while you were asking them questions, they were too busy staring at what was in the bra.

I haven’t heard that. But you see how trivial people can be!

Uhmmm. Was your family offended by the protest? [Barbara’s father died in 2001, while her mother, Alice Lamunu Allimadi, passed on in 2007, prompting Barbara’s return to Uganda.]

Actually, my siblings said bravo. I am sure there are one or two family members who felt offended but they did not tell me about it. Some people understood the reason I did what I did: I use taxis and taxi conductors would let me go for free.

That is support from the least expected quarters. What do you enjoy outside activism?

Well, I am a very private person; I have a few friends who I go out to restaurants with. I also like to spend time with my partner; he is passionate about human rights and we talk about how we can improve the situation in Uganda.

That sounds like a very serious relationship. What is in your bag at the moment?

Are you serious?

Yes, I am.

Well, without a doubt, I never go anywhere without my constitution. [Shows it to Quick Talk and tells her:] I hope you have one in your bag.

Uhmmm, I don’t.

You need to get one. I also have my purse [which is inscribed with the words: ‘Keep calm. I know the plans I have for you’.]

What type of music do you enjoy?

Reggae.

Rebel music!

Rebel music. I like music that has meaningful lyrics. Listen to Lucky Dube or Bob Marley; Bob Marley was like a prophet.

Quick Talk ends the interview on that note. But before she does, Quick Talk finds out that Allimadi is shy [yes!!], is never arrested by policemen because she insists on policewomen, and that she was part of the 2013 One Voice campaign, a campaign meant to end impunity by making Ugandans realise that they can cause change. 

Allimadi, alongside Concerned Citizens, was also part of the efforts that saw the release of those imprisoned for the 2009 riots that followed the kabaka’s blocked visit to Kayunga.

 

dnabiruma@observer.ug

 

Comments are now closed for this entry