Columnists Features

Women, stand up for your development

DOMINIC MUNTANGA
Zambia celebrates International Women’s day every year. Men, NGOs and Government collectively take part in the celebrations in recognition of the role women play in the development of the country.
Government and the civil society recognise and value the important role that women play in promoting and contributing to the growth of the country’s gross domestic product.
Women also have the potential to safeguard the country’s cultural heritage by virtue of the role they play as mothers and mentors.
In Zambia today, women can invest in development programmes. Most of them do this with the support of their husbands. The few men who do not allow their wives to be involved in developmental activities must realise that they rob their wives of the ability to participate in socio, economic and political processes.
In the long run, it is the community which is denied a chance to benefit from what women can bring to the table, their valuable contribution.
Women should not be regarded or be thought of as being sitting ducks with no control over their lives unless one comes to their rescue or rather “invests” in them.
The development of Zambia requires more than the setting of an agenda; it requires good governance, robust institutions, insightful thinking and an understanding of why Zambian/ African women are where they are in the first place.
As to why it is taking so long for women to be in the forefront of economic agendas, one can only point to the continuing stereotyping of women and their gendered roles.
It may take time to discard some practices that discriminate against women, especially at personal level, but the realisation that men on their own cannot bring about development should propel one to be open minded.
Examples of women who have contributed immensely to development can be drawn from several African countries. At whether level, be at the community, civil or political office, women have done well.
But some failures can also be  cited and it is in this respect that men and women should work together so that they complement their efforts.
It is disappointing that women’s inabilities as leaders tend to be stressed despite their successes, and their successes are also often subjected to ridicule.
The fight for women to be in the forefront of the agenda, as is traditional in the fight against gender-based violence and it is upon the women to put up a spirited fight.
If patriarchy guides how men, and how even some women think, there is therefore no good reason why anyone other than women themselves would want men to be in the forefront.
It is up to the women to fight for themselves. But my question is, can women in politics put other women’s issues in the forefront? Yes and No.
Representation only works to a limited extent and although some female politicians may try to pursue the cause of women, history has shown how self interest always impedes progress.
The responsibility is on those in leadership positions to set aside self-interest and take up a vicious battle against on behalf of other women so that their status is improved in the end.
Talk is getting cheaper as year after year the number of women living in poverty increases. The fact of the matter is that it is women who should be told to raise, not men, Zambia or Africa.
Women should realise they have a big role to play in the fight for gender equality and this requires concerted effort from all who care about it.
Men can then be persuaded to come on board and together, women and men, can work towards the advancement of women.



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