HAPPY BIRTH­DAY

Swazi Observer - - FEATURES & OPINION -

Prince Harry(prince) - Septem­ber 15, 1984 - 32 years old Chelsea Kane(tv ac­tress) - Septem­ber 15, 1988- 28 years old When Liberi­ans go to the polls in Oc­to­ber, there will be a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of men on the bal­lot pa­pers. Only 163 of 1 026 ap­proved can­di­dates – just 16 per cent – in th­ese pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions are women.

This rep­re­sents only a mar­ginal in­crease since 2005 and 2011, when women ac­counted for 14 per cent and 11 per cent of can­di­dates, re­spec­tively.

Ellen John­son Sir­leaf – who, 12 years ago, be­came the first woman to be elected head of state in any African coun­try – has of­ten been hailed as a fem­i­nist icon. But the poor rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in elec­tions is as much her fault as it is a re­flec­tion of Liberia’s acutely pa­tri­ar­chal po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

Her pres­i­dency has ac­tu­ally served the in­ter­ests of a small, elite group of women and men in pol­i­tics. It has up­held the coun­try’s long-stand­ing pa­tri­ar­chal norms. She has pub­licly dis­tanced her­self from the very move­ment that first got her elected, de­cry­ing fem­i­nism as “ex­trem­ism”.

Sir­leaf’s brand of femoc­racy – a term coined by Nige­rian fem­i­nist scholar Amina Mama – has se­verely sti­fled women’s po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Mama, whose re­search fo­cused on African first ladies as femocrats, makes an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion be­tween fem­i­nism and femoc­racy. She ar­gues that while fem­i­nism at­tempts to shat­ter the po­lit­i­cal glass ceil­ing, femoc­racy de­lib­er­ately keeps it in­tact. The Con­ver­sa­tion

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