UCU student uses poetry to advocate human rights

By Agatha N. Biira
Writing and music are the apple of Edwin Masingano’s eye. They occupy equal status as passions.

As a child, Masingano says he remembers the hunger he had for writing because it “challenged me to think.”  As he grew older, he discovered another soft spot – music. He found music “innovative” and something that would bring out the happy side of him.

Now a fourth-year student of Bachelor of Laws at Uganda Christian University (UCU), Masingano finds his love for writing and music even stronger. For instance, he recently published an anthology of poems that sound out the common vices in society. Before that, he put some of his words to music. (Note that singer/pianist at this link is James Tukupe, also a Law student.)

He argues that the spoken word can be a powerful weapon of peace and a tool for advocacy. The two Covid-19-induced lockdowns that Uganda had in 2020 and 2021 led to a rise in gender-based violence in many homes, according to Uganda Police statistics.

Masingano’s book, Omuwala Sanyu
Masingano’s book, Omuwala Sanyu

In his book, Omuwala Sanyu, translated to mean “The Girl Called Sanyu,” Masingano has not kept silent on that injustice. He says girls are more sexually harassed than boys, and the community needs to speak up against such vices if they are to be tackled.

After close to two years of school closures in Uganda due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in January 2022, buildings were re-opened for learners. However, one of the biggest stories after the re-opening was the failure of many girls to return to school. In Amuru, one of the districts in northern Uganda, authorities said more than 3,200 girls aged 15-19 were impregnated, eloped or were forced into marriage during the time schools were closed. Such evils, Masingano says, can only end if they are spoken about.

As if to offer a remedy for the challenge that the girls faced during the lockdown, Masingano prescribes parents showing more love to their children, so that they can feel they are safe at home.

Society’s expectation of newly married couples in Uganda is bearing children. However, sometimes, the children may not come as quickly as society expects. Masingano has used his book to speak about the issue as well.

He says: “Everyone presumes that as soon as you get married, you should have a child. But what about those who cannot get that chance, sometimes, due to health complications?”

In order not to drop his other love, music, Masingano often performs his spoken word poetry on background music.

“When I am on stage, I don’t just read. I explain and make you feel like you are listening to a song poetry,” he says.

All this, Masingano attributes to the schools he attended. He says at York Primary School and Seeta High School, Mbalala in Mukono, his teachers gave him the platform to think that he can pursue his passion, as well as continue to perform well in class.

Masingano has used his talent to train secondary school students in poetry recital. Students at his alma mater Seeta High School, St. Peter’s Naalya and Lowell Girls’ School – in central Uganda – have been beneficiaries of his projects. He also has been invited for poetry presentations at high-level functions at UCU.

When he eventually becomes an attorney, Masingano has no plans of dropping poetry. He says he will continue with poetry recital, alongside using the professional qualification as a lawyer to advocate for people’s rights.