I wrote this piece last year just before the General election in Kenya. eight months later, though not in an electioneering mood, I believe the piece is still relevant:
Someone was recently griping about the women lobbyists who are saying that women should be voted into parliament on the virtue of being female. I agreed on one front with him. You are not going to vote in a bad leader just to make political statements to men.
Leadership, like so many other things, cannot be determined on the platform of gender. The flipside is that gender should not disqualify one from the same. But it has to take more than civil education to sink that into the craniums of some African men and women.
When in one village, a woman beat the men during the civic nominations, one appalled voter sought reaffirmation from his colleagues.
“Yaani you have decided we are going to be ruled by a woman?”
To which his wiser partner said, “That is the way it looks right now but let us wait and see.”
In theory, no one has problems with women getting into positions of authority. The idea of affirmative action is ok with most people, until you explain that that would mean about 100 women in Parliament. Then gender partiality creeps in. Worse still if a woman is pushing the agenda. It becomes a case of ‘wanawake.’
Political parties in their manifestos have promised Canaan for women. We just have to wait and see how much of that will be delivered.
I hope no one is wondering why women need to get into Parliament, by the way. If the men promise to do a good job at speaking for the woman and she busies herself with her matriarchal roles, then everybody is happy. Right? Wrong.
First we cannot ignore the fact that certain seeds of female emancipation (by any other name) have been sowed and women believe that they can do a better job in the August House. Secondly though, men have tried to speak for the woman, most of the time they lack the drive or rationale; consequently a lot still needs to be done.
The blame, as we can deduce from the above conversations and in many other discourses concerning women in political leadership, lies squarely on the mindsets of a patriarchal society. A woman in top political leadership has for a long time been phenomenal. It was not until after World War I that the first few women became members of governments. Many countries are now breaking out. Liberia, Chile, Finland, India, Ireland, The Philippines and Switzerland are such proud examples that now have female presidents.
Denmark, The Netherlands and the UK have reigning Queens.
Germany, New Zealand, Mozambique and The Netherlands Antilles have woman Prime Ministers.
In 1999 Sweden became the first country to have more female ministers than male. With 11 women and nine men, in 2007 the Finish government had 60 per cent women.
Locally, Rwanda and Mozambique are shaming Kenya with more than 30 per cent of women in parliament. That, compared to Kenya’s measly eight per cent in the last parliament.
Today, only Monaco and Saudi Arabia have never had a female member of government in at least a sub-ministerial position.
That should be enough evidence for dear men that yeah, you can be ruled by a woman. And they will do quite a good job of it- leadership is not in the gender. It is in knowing th needs of the people and meeting them, speaking for them, ensuring structures are in place for mwananchi to work and prosper.
The above women are doing an exemplary job. I hope that the over 120 women who have scooped party nominations this year will make it to Parliament. Compared to the 44 of last year, that already is very encouraging. May be finally more women will show at the ballot box that they too can convince a woman-stingy electorate to give them votes despite the electoral violence, bribery, hooliganism, verbal abuse and threats against aspirants. That they too can survive in the men’s club that government is.
Voting in a woman will not automatically guarantee a significant effect in enhancing women’s right nor will it necessarily translate into a political power base for women. Like the Marxists say the advancement of certain middle-class women does not in the least end the oppression of working-class women or poor peasant women as such.
We have seen many who have been there and have done nothing for their own constituencies leave alone for the women of Kenya. All the aspirants seek is that they could get an equal chance to show what they can do, to redeem their societies and their country without the gender bigotry involved. If they have been trusted with the family, then they should be trusted with the ward, constituency and the government.