Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
WHEN the issue of gender inequality in decision-making positions springs up, people often say that women cannot succeed because they do not support each other.
It is believed that a woman’s worst enemy with regard to rallying society to support women’s political participation is a woman.
They say women are advantaged in terms of numbers, yet do not vote for one another, that’s why women perform poorly in elections.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a man who is one 100 percent sure that the moment the women’s movement will make a breakthrough in convincing women to vote for fellow women, that will mark the end of the era of gender inequality in politics.
His argument comes after the article I did in the run-up to Women’s Day, highlighting the persistence of gender inequality in the world, 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action came into being.
To put you into perspective of my source’s argument, no country in the world has achieved gender parity yet. And the World Economic Forum, on releasing its Global Gender Gap Report 2020, says we will all be dead by the time this world attains gender parity.
“None of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children. That’s the sobering finding of the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which reveals that gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years,” the World Economic Forum says about its 2020 report.
The Global Gender Gap Report, in its 14th year now, focuses on progress made towards gender parity in four thematic areas – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment
Generally, there has been an improvement the world over, Zambia inclusive, in terms of affirmation of the gender equality campaign. The World Economic Forum attributes this change of people’s mindsets in our male-controlled societies to political participation of women, though it’s quick to lambaste the political arena as being the worst performing sector.
Like I said, no country in the world has achieved gender parity yet, but there is one African country – Rwanda – among the top 10 that have made remarkable progress in closing gender gaps in different spheres.
Among the 10 countries are Iceland in first place, followed by Norway, Finland, Sweden, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Rwanda in ninth place and Germany tenth.
Out of the 153 countries that were surveyed, Zambia is in 45th place in terms of closing gender gaps in the four thematic areas.
The country was found to have made good progress in the three thematic areas – educational attainment, health and survival, economic participation and opportunity – but did not do very well in the area of political empowerment.
Given that background, my source argues that women are their own enemies. He claims there are more women than men in the country, and the same is the case when it comes to voting participation.
He went on to belabour the old talk that even in organisations women bosses receive more support from male workmates than fellow women.
And that some women bosses are mean to female subordinates.
In terms of political participation, he said women could do far much better than they are doing now if they got the support of females, even if men did not support them that much.
Well, in my view, there is no evidence that the ‘pull her down’ mentality by women against women is real.
What I know for sure is that ours is a patriarchal society and women leaders are normally rejected merely on account of gender.
Both women and men have been traditionally schooled to reject female leaders and endorse male leaders because men are seen as natural born leaders.
Both genders are ‘guilty’ of discriminating against women leaders because it is a cultural thing.
Believe you me, this is why even capable women leaders are shy of contesting elections because they have been socialised to believe that “women should be seen and not heard”. And unwarranted aspersions are often cast against those courageous women that step out of their cocoons to run for political office.
So for me, it is not true that women are where they are in politics today because they hate one another.
If I may ask, are the men doing better than women in terms of supporting women leaders in the political arena? The answer is definitely no.
Both men and women are guilty of subjecting women leaders to an unfair eligibility barometer which does not apply to men.
The other negating factor to political empowerment of women are bad traditions such as child and early marriages as well as teen pregnancies.
If girls are not given a second chance at education, these issues could eliminate potential leaders while their male counterparts are honing their skills.
In my view, both men and women need a change of mindsets to accept that gender roles are interchangeable. What a man can do, a woman can also do, and vice versa.
With regard to decision-making positions, my view is that women leaders face unfair criticism based on their gender.
When a woman makes a mistake, people will say a woman has failed; women make bad bosses; that’s why women can’t rule, and all sorts of unfair comments.
A woman is not criticised as an imperfect leader, who perhaps is still learning the ropes in her new managerial position.
And when a woman leader exerts her authority against an erring female subordinate, people will say women do not support one another.
It is not true that women don’t support each other. There are a lot of women who believe in fellow women and, together, they have achieved great things.
Email: emeldashonga@ yahoo.com/eshonga@ daily-mail.co.zm. Phone 0211-221364/227793
Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA