Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Will Idi Amin ever leave Uganda?

During a law lecture this morning, I was involved in a mock trial regarding Uganda's imposition of an anti-pornographic bill. The bill's main aim is to disallow women from dressing 'indecently' as deemed by the state. I argued the case as a defence attorney. Defence won.

Unfortunately, Uganda's abuse of human rights isn't a mock at all.

The recent passing of the Ugandan bill banning homosexual persons, punishable by offence (perpetrators face 14 year sentences if convicted of homosexual activity), indicates one of the most rife problems in African society: Sexism. Countries such as Malawi have also banned homosexuality, and it's not uncommon to see violent incidents and murder in South African townships against persons who proclaim their sexuality openly.

Uganda, however, seems to be walking backwards in policy and mentality. 

Take Uganda back to the time of tyrannical despotic dictator, Idi Amin. Slicing off the legs of women who dared open their legs for men, disallowing dressing he deemed improper, raping and allowing women to be raped by the military, xenophobia (banning South Asians), repressive murders; Idi Amin imposed harsh laws on Ugandans, his supposed interpretation of what religion decrees to humankind.

Amin banned the wearing of miniskirts and exposure of intimate bodily parts, a law contained within the now-imposed anti-pornographic bill. The state argues that the bill protects the rights and dignity of women, and restricts sexual enticement in an effort to reduce rape. The bill will also see into effect the monitoring of TV an internet exposure, disallowing indecent dressing by actresses or performers ("Beyonce and Madonna" used as examples).

Is Uganda is under the assumption that women in full-covering will never be raped? Maybe. The close mindedness of Uganda, amongst many African countries, are one of the reasons women are so oppressed. Uganda claims to be protecting the rights of women, but freedom of choice is being directly infringed. Freedom of expression through choice is no longer an option. Privacy within your home is being taken away directly with activity monitoring. It only leads the path to more rights being infringed.

Let's see how:
Bill passed by Ugandan State.
Women disallowed to dress as they please.
Internet and TV usage monitored by officials.
TV channels limited.
News channels with ladies wearing skirts disallowed.
Media communication limited.
Rights of media houses infringed.
Information censored.
Family watching music concert on internet arrested.
Children imprisoned for dressing like celebrities.
Women thrown in jail for rebelling against law.
Riots begin.
Unrest sparked against Ugandan government.

That is a basic scenario.

Amongst the infringement of rights comes another few. Africa is filled with traditional history, tribes still trying to keep their traditions alive in a constantly changing world. In traditional African dressing, much of the clothing is revealing as per religious beliefs and tradition. Taking freedom of dressing away takes away tradition, it takes away religion, and it takes away Africa.

Who has the right to tell the Masaai Mara that their women should make their dresses longer? Their tribes are scattered across Africa and try to keep alive their traditional, remarkable lifestyle. Being traditional African hunters and gatherers, they have even started preserving nature and animal life, fighting for the conservation of African wildlife as Africa drowns in the blood of poached animals. Infringe their rights, and I'm sure the +2m high hunter males will not take it well.

In regard to the homosexuality bill, Uganda will not be the last to pass such. African leaders are so poor in running countries, so high on power, that it will be difficult to avoid future bills such as these. The infringement of rights throughout Africa is such a huge problem, and states like South Africa will not mediate in such matters, they have their own problems.

Not only is the bill grossly sexist and discriminative, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni proudly advocates heterosexuals as being normal, but homosexuals as being "disgusting" and "unnatural," claiming that sexuality is not a human right.

Speaking to CNN's Zain Verjee, he said, " They're disgusting. What sort of people are they? I never knew what they were doing. I've been told recently that what they do is terrible. Disgusting. But I was ready to ignore that if there was proof that that's how he is born, abnormal. But now the proof is not there."

Museveni adds that he thought homosexuality was an element of genetics: "I was regarding it as an inborn problem. Genetic distortion -- that was my argument. But now our scientists have knocked this one out."

The oppressive leader allowed millions to be spent on testing whether homosexuality is "learned" or genetic - money that could be spent otherwise in the problematic state. Uganda is facing an HIV/AIDS epidemic, suffering from lack of food and health care, and spends meagre amounts investing in education. Should Uganda be spending millions on testing genetic relevance?

The anti-gay bill is supported by Africans who believe that African culture is being preserved. Some see the bill as a political strategy for the ruling party, which has been suffering with corruption low tolerance for human rights. The State claims that the bill seeks to protect the young and vulnerable, as gay communities are recruiting children. No evidence has been produced in such regard.

Nelson Mandela made the biggest mistake during his Presidency by secretly meeting tyrants and rulers, pleading with them to change their ways and stop assassinations. Not many rulers heard his reasoning, though they may have loved the man. Secretly meeting with rulers, shady dealings and quiet resistance is not the way to fight a government ridding people of their rights. Marches, vigils, peaceful rebellion, loopholes, recognition worldwide - these are the tools to fight injustice, and that is what we should be doing.

Join your country's demonstrations against Uganda's unlawful actions. They need to hear you fight for human rights. Africa cannot be forced into going backwards because of intolerance and oppression.

It seems as if the only movement that Uganda is making, is movement in the direction of the tyrannical rule of Idi Amin. Will Uganda ever be rid of the despot's legacy? It doesn't look like it for now.

If you'd like to learn more about Idi Amin, take a look at 'The Last King of Scotland.' The worldwide acclaimed movie tells the story of Idi Amin's rise to power after overthrowing Uganda's Milton Obute in a coup d'etat. Forest Whittaker (academy award - best male) is flawless.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Labello Lip Butter Review

In every bag I own, there's a different lip product. I like to think of my lip balms and lip ices as little surprises, I'm a terrible sucker for lip treatments!

Basically, I was amped when I received Labello's newest product: Labello Lip Butter (see pictures below). I love a good butter, it just makes me feel as though I'm being smeared with actual, rich butter. The word fascinates me. Body butter, lip butter, hair butter, actual butter, I'll take it!

The first thing that caught my eye when I saw the packaging was almond oil. I swear by almond oil. It has enough benefits to make you want to slug it down (don't do that!). It also has Shea butter and Hydra IQ, both of which have great moisturizing properties.

The products are compacted into colourful, metal tins. I'm not a fan of tinned products because I hate opening them (my nails are sacred)! Also, the tin's printing seems to be fading, which is ugly.

The three kinds are:
Vanilla and Macadamia
Raspberry and Rose

I purchased the Raspberry and Rose. The smell is sweet and the butter is light but still oily. I hate lip products that leave thick layers or white lines at the closing of your lips, and this butter thankfully doesn't do that.

This product is quite a buy at just R29, 99. Find out more about Labello's Lip Butter, try it, and let me know what you think!


- Zaahira Y'elena

(Note: The product is similar to Nivea's Lip Butter, and it may possibly be the same product (the manufacturer and flavours are the same), but the Nivea products aren't available in South Africa.)

Friday, 21 February 2014

Valliamma - The Child Revolutionary of Gandhi

Anticipation rushed through his veins like the oceans of his land,
as he struggled to keep calm, waiting, waiting.
A gift awaited him, a gift of the winter.
A gift of a world beyond this.

The delivery was made, as a prophecy began delving its roots into the future.
A life, limited, it said.
A blessing of a kind unknown to the earth, a life, limited.

Limited, why?
His heart sank, thoughts seemed to drown his mind, his breath caught between fear and love.
He could protect her, his gift, but to what extent?
She would fight, she would be an angel of justice, he was told.
But she was his blessing, his deliverance from the harshness of the world.
He needed to care for his gift. She belonged to him.
The prophecy couldn't be right.  

Valliamma was child.
She believed she wasn't, however.
Nor poor, nor a child, she said.
Unable to resist learning the treacherousness outside,
Gandhi's words as her mantra. Satyagraha.

The whiteman's skin was lighter than her's.
But her heart, her heart was lighter than their's.
Fighting against her childishness, she embraced her future.
Standing on the stage, speaking as a freedom fighter.
The ears perked up,
the sounds dimmed down.
They heard her preach freedom and injustice.
The child dictated human rights.
The child, who saw further than her dance and games, preached now.
She preached of practice.
They were gripped.
Like the roots to the stalk, they were gripped.
And she ran off, for her fight had begun, her word was heard.

Gandhi came to her.
"Shatham Prati Satyam," she told him.
Truth against rogue.
Words from her heart.
She need not hear it to know it,
She was not of this world, after all.
She questioned Gandhi.
Awestruck, he saw the love in this angel.

Upon release, seeing her lead the demonstrations,
the prisoners, the people hugged her.
Demanding no recognition,
she walked on, bluntly anticipating her own arrest.

She looked through the hearts and saw the pain.
Gandhi questioned himself.
Was he doing enough?
Surely non-violence was the resistant path they had chosen,
but what fierceness of the heavens did Valliamma possess?
So much that the white man feared her words:
"Shatham Prati Satyam."
"The truth shall set us free"

They feared for her life in place of her own lack of fear.
And the greatest leaders pledged allegiance.
They needed her. She would win the war.
She had already won the hearts.
Her parents jailed by the system, she fought at the sides on Gandhi.
They spoke to her, tried to convince her, argued her.
Her own people, fearful of what may happen to her,
tried to conceal her.
She wouldn't allow it.
She heard, but did she listen?
She listened to the truth, she listened to her calling.

Karma, she believed. She was karma.
Coming to take what was stolen, she was karma.
And so it began.

They followed her, taunting her.
The white man threatened her, raised his hand to her innocent face.
Beat her, he did.
And she returned his action with speech.
Her fingers raised to her beater's eyes, she shunned him like an angel warding off evil.

And Gandhi saw the truth.
He saw the truth in Valliamma.

But where was Valliamma?
Sitting in her cell, she reminisced.
Thoughts of her family, her fight against injustice.
Re-instilling her mantras into her soul,
she had just experienced imprisonment.
It would not be her first time, and she knew it.

She had befriended the cells,
the leaders worried, fuelling their hatred of the system that imprisoned their freedom.

Her hands interlaced with Africans and Indians,
inviting the women to fight, telling them to resist their fear,
faith embedded in her heart.
March to Natal, she said.
Leading the march, opposing the Constitution.
The constitution that disallowed citizens of colour to belong to the country.
Her heart ached for the women,
they had given up their fears, their homes, their health,
to march with her.
Braving the nights, harassed.
Suffering, for freedom.
Suffering, for stolen rights.
For suffering.

To the workers, the labourers of the path, sentenced to destitution and labour and imprisonment,
they spoke of truth.
They spoke of belonging.
They spoke of their land.
They stared, letting Valliamma's words sink into their hearts.

"Shatham Prita Satyam!"

- "Truth against a rogue!"
And they rose up.

Fatigued of the fight, refusing to rest.
Does injustice rest?
She considered her path.
Months of protest on foot.
And she walked on.

At rest, they grabbed her in the depth of the night.
Brutal thugs, before her fingers could speak.
They would break her, they said.
Still, Satyagraha.

Her anger had softened.
Sadness had filled her.
She coughed, her throat in anguish.
She choked, humbling prison warders.
She would not be released for being sick.
This was her calling.
Released as a prisoner,
Her eyes welcomed the outside, unafraid of returning to imprisonment.

She had come home.
At God's hands, the prophecy of Valliamma manifested.

She remembered things through her existence. Lines from the scriptures. She knew her time was the time to persuade the princes of the land that it was time to do their duties, and take on the form of warriors.

Say, Valliamma, "Now, you have become death's friend, destroyer of worlds of oppression"

"Shatham Prita Satyam."

They all thought that, one way or another.


The lessons we can learn from this child revolutionary are ample. The biggest experience in learning would be to read of this child's existence and let your heart experience the feelings that come across you. One cannot dictate the lessons that her life displays. Only after learning her life and her quests, will you understand the messages through her existence, and be inspired to emulate her qualities.

Thank you for allowing us, The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, an opportunity to admire, acknowledge and recognise an amazing freedom fighter. Although having known who she was, it was only through reading "The Agony of Valliamma, by Aziz Hassim, that I was able to learn about the intricacies of her existence and fight against injustice. For all those simply looking to be inspired, read his book - an ebook is available online as well.

Satyagraha. Shatham Prita Satyam.

- Written by Zaahira Mahomed
Website/ Blog:

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Plus Side of Life

My very first post is something extremely close to my heart, and something I've been following for a while.

Firstly, I'm a  feminist. Secondly, I have a ridiculous love for fashion. Together, you've got beautiful girls in amazing fashion pieces.

Over the past few months, a new wave of 'plus-size' modelling has splashed over the fashion industry. Slowly, the movement has been gaining momentum, and more and more models who are 'above average' modelling size have been signed within commercial glamour modelling.

Honestly, nothing should make the fashion-obsessed happier than seeing curvy ladies in editorials and following updates and trials of Ashley Graham, Sabina Karlsson, Crystal Renn, Alyona Osmanova, Marquita Pring (known for her gorgeous figure - see picture below), and numerous other Ford, Wilhelmina and IMG (amoung others) models storming their way to castings, hoping to be selected for runway events at fashion weeks (most recently at New York Fashion Week!).

Take Ashley Graham, a lingerie model, for example. Sure, I'm pretty obsessed with Victoria's Secret and their models - they're beautiful and have amazingly sculpted bodies (with a lot of training, of course!). But Ashley- she's just something else. She's been with Wilhelmina Models, Ford Models, and most recently, IMG Models. She's modelled for Lane Bryant lingerie, has appeared in Vogue and Glamour, as well as Levi's campaigns, and has even appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She's also designed her own lingerie line with Addition Elle.

'Plus-size' is personally a term that I detest. I don't believe in labelling of any sort, and it' pretty crappy calling someone "plus-size" as a nicer way of labelling them as fat, chubby or even above average. Who defines what in this world? Don't be that person. Love it or hate it, modelling is modelling.

For once, terms like 'fat,' 'cellulite,' and 'diets,' don't belong. These women post daily pictures of their shoots, exercise routines and their chicken wings on social networks. I don't know who ever thought that was shameful. They're slapping restrictions and judgement in the face. Is that not an achievement on its own?

These women are taking over the fashion industry, changing the photographic lens of life, letting us fall in love with their fashion shoots and advertorials, whilst single-handedly combating the image of women who just aren't a size zero.

Kudos to these ladies, and an absolutely, curvy, full, thumbs up to model agencies like IMG and Ford for helping to set the path to a less-stereotypical, judgmental and image-obsessed industry.

My message is simple: Love the body you're in, and be proud. Don't let labels define you.


- Zaahira Y'elena

Marquita Pring

Sabina Karlsson

Crystal Renn

Alyona Osmanova

New beginnings

Over the past few months, I've been busy experiencing the darker side of life (yes, experiencing that side of the cookie is one damn busy routine!)

Emotional trauma stopped me from blogging, but mostly from being involved with social and political discussions, somewhat involuntarily negating my love for finding justice in world conflict. I felt pretty useless not being able to devote my time to putting my views out and joining discussions.

Basically, it's been a rough time, but we soldier on, don't we?

During the last year, I started getting involved with fashion, and my love for the fashion world grew remarkably. I came to realise just how much I found art in style, and how I adore the concept.

It is for this reason, that I have decided to raise the platform of my blog and transform it into a political-social-fashion blog. I haven't heard of any others, so I would like to think that it's the first of it's kind. Posts may be completely unrelated, but my blog will encompass my passion - writing, and the things I love to write about and experience.

I hope my readers will enjoy my posts and continue to support my writing!

Here's hoping that my changes will bring me happiness: new hairstyle, new blog, new endeavours.
A recipe for greatness?


- Zaahira Y'elena