Tag Archives: African development

Come on ladies, can we all just get along?

6 Feb

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By Bekithemba Mhlanga

The patriarchs and the macho men must have been rolling on the floor with laughter watching the dramatic fallout between Dr Mamphela Ramphele of Agang SA and Hellen Zille of the Democratic Alliance (DA) political parties in South Africa.

Last week the two sisters, one black one white, agreed to gang up against that cultural polygamist and leader of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, at the forthcoming general election with the ultimate political ambition of ‘usurping’ power in this hot bed of a democracy bequeathed to them by Nelson Mandela.

The merged party was billed as creating the strongest challenge to the ANC since it came to power in 1994 and aimed to tap into voter dissatisfaction with President Jacob Zuma and the ANC, under fire over corruption scandals and stubbornly high poverty levels. Ms Ramphele, a medical doctor, was the partner of the late Steve Biko, one of the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement.

On the day of the announcement of the partnership the two sisters were all over each other, sealing the agreement with a kiss – a smacker almost at par with those exchanged by Madonna and her fellow female stage artists in the past. “We are going to take away the excuse of race and challenge the ANC to be judged on its performance,”  Zille announced confidently.

The ANC quickly dismissed the partnership as a “rent-a-black face” arrangement. The sniggering males on social media were even louder and will ring irritatingly for some time to come. “It won’t last,” they said, “what can two women cobble together that lasts?” Others quipped smugly, “Wait until the hormones take over and that will be the end of this relationship, black girls don’t get on with white girls – this will unravel in no time.”

As fate would have it five days later came the announcement – it was all over! The agreement was buried in a slew of personal recriminations and political point-scoring. “Dr Ramphele has demonstrated – once and for all – that she cannot be trusted to see any project through to its conclusion,” said Zille furiously. Ramphele retorted, “Some people cannot or will not transcend party politics. We see people trapped in old-style race-based politics.”

It’s not hard to imagine the discussions that went on in many pubs, offices, homes and political offices across the continent. “That Dr Ramphele and Zille – they say it’s not working,” says Mathew to Andile. “Women – what can you expect …don’t know how to play nicely with each other,” responds Andile, “pass me the beer, will you?” End of story.

Is this a fair assessment?

Perception and fact can be quite different, so let’s get the facts out of the way in the first instance before we settle into the more fun stuff of perception. Corporate research shows that 40% of all workplace bullies are women and that women bully other women 70% of the time. While male bullies take an egalitarian approach in this respect, mowing down men and women in pretty equal measure, women on the other hand prefer their own kind. In the name of Joyce Banda and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf what is going on here?

So what is the perception out there about women’s ability to get along? Not being a fan of laboratory experiments or desk bound research, I did what nature expects one to do when confronted with such nature related questions – I asked others, male and female, why we have this jaundiced view of female relations. There seems to be five major themes to explain this and perhaps not surprisingly in all of them it’s the women’s fault.

  1. Women are under pressure to adopt aggressive behaviour to get ahead and once they’re in a leadership position they still maintain this behaviour. My discussions suggest that this is perceived to be the case in many different contexts and therefore cannot be said to apply to the corporate world only. Whether it’s in a burial society or church group the agro just seems to pop out. It’s just that the intensity rises in direct proportion to the anticipated rewards.
  2. Women see other women as potential threats and competitors. As a man I’ve known lots girls, women, ladies and wives who hate each other for the most smallest of things. The light skinned hate the dark ones, the natural hairs hate the processed, the fat hate the slim, and the intelligent ones hate the not so intelligent ones. So deep seated is the animosity that it can wreck even the most noble business, social and political projects. No need to elaborate on this one then.
  3. The third explanation seems to be of a cultural making – the lack of opportunity for advancement of women thus making women more competitive. This is more so in the African context were women are to be heard not seen and must walk one step behind the men, where their assumed position is to be poor, powerless, pregnant and hungry. As a result every little opportunity to break away from this mould will be pursued with vigour and energy, and woe betide any female who threatens this opportunity. So it’s possible that in their chase for the opportunity to take on Jacob Zuma the two ladies were blinded to some of the basic capacity building steps and consultative exercise, political strategising needed to ensure the success of mergers. Perhaps males would have been more calculating, retreating into some bush and disfiguring locals to build up support before proceeding to engage in any discussions, as was the case with Renamo in Mozambique or the situation in South Sudan.
  4. Another common explanation I was given for the perception that women cannot get along was that women are stereotyped as bullies when that is not necessarily the case. We all know that no one wants to work with bullies so women approach other women with an assumption that they’re bullies and it’s not going to work out which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  5. Finally it’s said that women are insecure in their leadership positions and feel the necessity to sabotage other women in order to maintain their position of power. I once worked with three women who had such a deep rooted hatred for each other it was unbelievable. The trio, of equal rank, would brief on each other sometimes knowing fully well that the message would ultimately get back to the person they were gossiping about. Unbeknown to them the senior boss knew this and took pleasure in assigning them projects where they had to work together on a routine basis. I never found out whether this was to help them get along or just to create more opportunities for them to inflict more pain on each other.

So back to the story at hand, did the good Dr Mamphele and Zille fall out just because they are females? Probably not, but it’s most likely that many males latched onto this reason precisely because they are females and this explanation played into the hands of gender stereotypes.

Would males have fallen out? Most likely and with one of them left for dead in the process!

His courage will live on

6 Dec

Mandela fist

A Tribute by Sani Dowa

When I heard the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing this morning, I was struck by how personal it felt. I was reminded of a childhood in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia); of being at the receiving end of a racially segregated society; and following Nelson Mandela’s story with hope and fascination.

In African culture death is always accompanied by much sadness and mourning not just by the immediate family but by the wider community. Yet this morning, the tears that filled my eyes were of pride; not sadness. The lump in my throat was not anxiety but rather an overwhelming sense of being in a moment that will define my own life in ways I cannot yet comprehend.

As my Facebook page lit up with tributes from all corners of the world I could sense a collective gratitude to this truly inspirational son of Africa. There was a sense of awe from many of my generation who experienced and benefitted from the shattering of racial oppression. We’re keenly aware that our freedom came at the cost of leaders like Mandela who gave up so much yet never complained or saw it that way themselves.

In this moment I’m reminded of Nelson Mandela’s words: “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who became a leader because of extraordinary circumstances”. I ask myself what I, as an ordinary African, can do to help change the world for future generations of African children. That’s the legacy Nelson Mandela leaves for us…he made us all want to reach within and find our best selves.

Hamba kahle Madiba! Go in peace Madiba!

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This article first appeared in Plan Australia’s blog http://www.plan.org.au

Quote of the week – Death is something inevitable

6 Dec

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‘Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for eternity.’

Nelson Mandela  

‘I have walked that long walk to freedom’ – Rest in peace Nelson Mandela

5 Dec

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As the world mourns a truly courageous icon it seems appropriate to draw on some of his wisdom accumulated over an inspirational life. May his courage and conviction live on in every one of us as we play our part in making the world a better place. Rest in peace Madiba!

1.‘I have walked that long walk to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.’

2.‘No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the heart than its opposite.’

3.‘I dream of an Africa that is in peace with itself. I dream of the realisation of unity in Africa whereby its leaders, some of whom are highly competent and experienced, can unite in their efforts to improve and to solve the problems of Africa.’

4.‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’

5.‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

6.‘There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.’

7.‘Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.’

8.‘I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being an optimist is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.’

9.‘It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.’

10.‘I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.’

Every African – Join the movement!

30 Nov

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Today we’re proud to unveil ‘Every African’, a global movement that’s mobilising Africans, both men and women, around the world to lead Africa’s development.

Our mission is to unlock the abundant talent and opportunities that abound in Africa but are often overlooked or go untapped. We develop leadership at all levels, support female entrepreneurs and build mass platforms to help African small businesses penetrate new markets. In so doing we challenge entrenched stereotypes of Africa and protect African identity so that future generations can rise to their full potential.

What makes us different?

• We’re a social enterprise with an entrepreneurial development model. We believe this is the best way to harness existing capabilities and create mass opportunities that drive economic independence for the regular person.
• We’re proudly African and seek to leverage Africa’s strengths rather than ‘save’ her.
• We see Africans as best placed to lead decisions concerning their economies, lives and future.
• Africa is not a single gender. We believe women should have an equal opportunity to contribute to the development of their continent.

Check out our online shop ‘Made from Africa’ which was inspired by our wish to share the warm vibrant Africa we love with the rest of the world. It’s also a fantastic platform for providing African small businesses with access to new markets.

Our suppliers are African entrepreneurs, both men and women, who’re using their talent and skills to create quality products and services and in the process setting off a ripple effect of economic benefits across the continent. ‘Every African’ is a movement that’s opening doors and transforming how Africans see themselves and how they’re perceived by the rest of the world. Find out more here and get involved!

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Visit http://www.everyafrican.org to support our latest campaign.

Happy International Day of the Girl!

11 Oct

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As you celebrate the International Day of the Girl, here are some facts about African girls to ponder! Don’t forget to make 3 people in your life aware of these issues and what they can do to help empower girls.

• Discrimination in the home is entrenched along gender roles where boys and girls internalize the gender responsibility they should play. On average, a normal working day for an African girl is between 20 to 30 hours a week.

• Approximately 140 million girls have undergone FGM and 2 million are subjected to it every year with a higher tendency of performing FGM on younger and younger girls. It is performed on infants and adult women but mostly on girls between the age of 4 and 12. The highest prevalence of FGM is found in Africa where 28 African countries practice it.

• Early marriage is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Forty four percent of 20-24 year old women in West Africa were married under the age of 15 and all decisions on timing of marriage and spouse was made by fathers.

• It is often the responsibility of girls and young women to fetch water often from long distances. A study in Kenya identified that women and girls carry from 20-25 litres over 3.5 km for one or two hours daily.

• In many African countries, poverty and cultural practices often mean that it is traditional for boys and men to eat first and girls to eat leftovers. When food is scarce this can often mean females have very little to eat or nothing at all. Malnutrition will often mean that girls are anaemic which can lead to problems during pregnancy, maternal death, exhaustion and loss of productivity.

• An estimated 7.3 million young women are living with HIV/AIDS compared to 4.5million men and in Sub-Saharan Africa, 59 % of people living with the HIV virus are women.

• A young person under 15 is said to contract AIDS every 15 seconds.

• West and Central Africa accounts for the highest percentage of both girls and boys involved in child labour. This is followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa.

• Approximately 1.2 million children every year are victims of trafficking internationally and within local borders.

• 80% of trafficked children are girls.

• 90% of children trafficked from West and Central Africa are girls who work as domestic workers.

• Every year 1000 girls between 14 and 24 are taken from Mozambique to work as sex workers in South Africa.

• Rape has been used as a weapon of war against millions of girls and women caught up in conflict. In Rwanda 1992-1995, it is estimated that half a million women were raped during the genocide and 67% were subsequently infected with HIV. In Sierra Leone young girls were particularly singled out for rape. Many did not survive and approximately 70 to 90% contracted HIV.

Sourcce:
Plan International
Unicef

Girls’ rights are human rights

28 Sep

IDOTG picFollowing a two year campaign led by international NGO, Plan International, the United Nations declared October 11, 2012 the very first International Day of the Girl Child. This year will mark the second celebration of the day on Friday 11 October.

The International Day of the Girl is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on girls’ rights and highlight gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys. Girls today still face unique challenges, that prevent them from realising their full potential, simply because of their gender.

As we count down to October 11, we’ll be running feature articles highlighting some of the challenges faced by girls around the world. On October 11, we ask you to commit to spreading the word to at least 3 people in your life who may not be aware of these injustices. Together we can help make a difference!

We leave you with the words of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage girl who made headlines last year when the Taliban shot her for advocating for girls’ right to education, “I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard”.

Photo credit:airwaves1