The demons of pa­tri­archy

It’s time to break through the pa­tri­ar­chal bar­ri­cades and al­low women to lead at the high­est po­lit­i­cal level, writes

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

The pa­tri­ar­chal bar­ri­cades in the high ech­e­lons of pol­i­tics and the econ­omy are preva­lent through­out the world. Some coun­tries have pro­gressed in ad­dress­ing un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in high po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic struc­tures, while other coun­tries are stead­fast in ad­vanc­ing their pa­tri­ar­chal agenda. The con­scious de­ci­sion to pre­vent women from ad­vanc­ing in pol­i­tics is the same agenda that is used by fa­nat­ics of pa­tri­archy to pre­vent the eco­nomic and so­cial eman­ci­pa­tion of women. Th­ese fa­nat­ics en­sure that, at all times, fe­male politi­cians, busi­ness­women or women in gen­eral are rel­e­gated to sec­ond­class cit­i­zens in their coun­tries. They think women should not have any po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic or so­cial power.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port from the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, there are 59 coun­tries world­wide that had fe­male heads of state in the past 50 years. There are 195 coun­tries in the world to­day and only 30% of th­ese coun­tries have ac­cepted to have a woman as­cend­ing to the high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fice.

The first woman to break the pa­tri­ar­chal bar­ri­cades in pol­i­tics was Sir­i­mavo Ban­daranaike. She be­came the prime min­is­ter of Sri Lanka in 1960 and was fol­lowed by Indira Gandhi (India, 1966), Golda Meir (Is­rael, 1969) and Is­abel Perón (Ar­gentina, 1974). In Africa, the trend­set­ters are Ellen John­son Sir­leaf (Liberia, 2006) and Joyce Banda (Malawi, 2012).

It is un­for­tu­nate that in the re­cent elec­tions in the US, an op­por­tu­nity was missed by the Amer­i­cans to dis­man­tle the pa­tri­ar­chal bar­ri­cades of pol­i­tics in their coun­try and elect Hil­lary Clin­ton as the pres­i­dent.

All over the world, the fa­nat­ics of pa­tri­archy de­pict women as weak and lack­ing the ca­pac­ity to make any strate­gic po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions. They por­tray women as noth­ing but gos­sipers and as less in­tel­li­gent.

With th­ese con­stant stereo­typ­i­cal no­tions that women are in­ca­pable in ev­ery as­pect of life – ex­cept when bear­ing chil­dren – it be­comes hard for women to break through the pa­tri­ar­chal bar­ri­ers with­out be­ing la­belled, chas­tised and even alien­ated by some mem­bers of so­ci­ety.

Women who par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics are sub­jected to more scru­tiny of their per­sonal lives. Some are la­belled as hav­ing slept their way to a lead­er­ship po­si­tion.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties in South Africa are no ex­cep­tion to pa­tri­ar­chal bar­ri­cades. De­spite the fact that the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers in th­ese po­lit­i­cal par­ties are women, the ma­jor­ity of men would pre­fer the sta­tus quo of them lead­ing those struc­tures to re­main.

Cur­rently, out of nine prov­inces, only two have women as pre­miers and out of eight met­ro­pol­i­tan coun­cils, only three have women as ex­ec­u­tive may­ors.

At a lo­cal level, po­lit­i­cal struc­tures across po­lit­i­cal par­ties have a ma­jor­ity of women deputis­ing as sec­re­taries or kept as branch trea­sur­ers. Very few of them are elected as branch chair­per­sons or branch sec­re­taries. This hap­pens at re­gional, pro­vin­cial and na­tional level in a coun­try where women are in the ma­jor­ity and are ac­tively in­volved in pol­i­tics. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of all mem­bers of so­ci­ety to ad­vo­cate and de­fend equal rights for all cit­i­zens, ir­re­spec­tive of their gen­der. Pa­tri­archy hin­ders the agenda of build­ing an equal so­ci­ety. Peo­ple should not be side­lined from lead­ing in pol­i­tics or in any sphere on the ba­sis of their gen­der. Women don’t want to lead on the ba­sis that they are women, but be­cause they have the ca­pac­ity to lead. As cit­i­zens, they have the same rights as men. There­fore, for them to as­cend into the high ech­e­lons of po­lit­i­cal struc­tures should not be in­ter­preted as an act of char­ity. South Africans across po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic lines have to unite to de­feat the demons of pa­tri­archy that hin­der so­ci­etal devel­op­ment. Un­til so­ci­ety breaks the pa­tri­ar­chal bar­ri­cades, par­tic­u­larly in pol­i­tics, the strug­gle for equal­ity will re­main lip ser­vice. Matuba is sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the ANC Women’s League

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PHOTO: PETE MAROVICH / GETTY IMAGES

YOU’VE GOT MALE Liberian Pres­i­dent Ellen John­son Sir­leaf pre­pares for a meet­ing ex­clu­sively with male African lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton, DC, in the US last year

JOYCE BANDA

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