Tag Archives: Female Empowerment

Come on ladies, can we all just get along?

6 Feb

th

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!

Mandela’s will leaves money for family and staff but nothing for Winnie

4 Feb

mandela1_2603614b (2) So rang the headlines of various newspapers around the world in response to the public disclosure of Nelson Mandela’s will.

The question is should he have included his ex-wife Winnie at all in his will?

We’ve heard arguments from both sides of the aisle, some readers feel she helped build the Mandela brand and is therefore entitled to something but others point out that ex-wives are rarely ever beneficiaries of ex-husbands’ wills.
We’re holding our thoughts on this one and opening it up for wider discussion. For those needing to get up to speed, here’s a quick summary of Mandela’s will.*

The estate was valued at 46 million Rand (excluding royalties) with Justice Moseneke, Judge President of the Eastern Cape Themba Sangoni and prominent human rights lawyer George Bizos named as executors.

Moseneke, summarising what he said was a 40-page document said the will was put together on 12 October 2004 with final amendments made in 2008.

The will provided bequests to his children and grandchildren from each of his three wives, Ms. Graca Machel and former wives, Mrs. Winnie Madikizela Mandela and Mrs. Evelyn Mandela who passed away in 2004. President Mandela and Ms. Graca Machel were married in community of property and therefore she is entitled to half of his estate. According to Moseneke, although Ms. Graca Machel has 90 days to contest the will, she agreed to waive all claim to Mandela’s estate. The mood of Mandela family when the will was read privately, prior to the press conference, was described by Moseneke as “charged with emotions but it went well and… there were clarifications sought from time to time.”

Bequests of 50,000 Rand were made to various staff members including Zelda Le Grange, Mandela’s long time former private secretary. Mandela bequeathed 1,5 million Rand to the Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Family Trust and left royalties to the trust of which a percentage (10% minimum and 30% maximum) would be given to the African National Congress. Moseneke noted that the 46 million Rand valuation of Mandela’s estate was subject to final verification and excluded royalties.

Mandela donated 100,000 Rand for scholarships to four educational institutions which he attended; Clarke Institution in Transkei, Hilltown Institution, University of Fort Hare and University of the Witwatersrand. He also donated 100,000 Rand to Qunu Secondary School in his childhood hometown and Orlando West High School in Soweto where he once lived.


________________
*Forbes

Why do I feel I’m nothing without a man?

4 Jan

image

A lot of mail lands on our desk and invariably the most common theme is men and problem relationships.

Whether it’s the young lady asking for tips on how to find a man to marry, the mother praying for her husband to give up his mistress or the newly-wed whose husband’s ordered her to stop seeing her unmarried friends, they all have an underlying angst.

Without trivialising the experiences of our readers it strikes me that African women, by choice or duress, spend a disproportionate amount of time on issues of ‘finding and keeping a man’ to the exclusion of other potentially enriching activities in their lives. I’ve been known to avoid social gatherings where I know the most stimulating conversation will be how to keep a man from straying. I like to think I have more interesting things to do with my time!

Now don’t get me wrong, I love men.

I grew up with four of them, my brothers and father, whom I count amongst the most important people in my life. I voluntarily married a man and pledged to spend the rest of my life with him. I gave birth to a little man and would instinctively fight a lion with my bare hands to protect him. I have some amazing male friends whose intelligence, wit and humour never cease to amaze me.

HOWEVER, I know that the men in my life make up only a part of the many diverse interests and activities that occupy my time.

So why do many African women feel they’re nothing without a man? To find out we went straight to the horses’s mouth through a mini survey of our readers.

It’s clear that culture has an overriding influence in how we define ourselves and our role in the world. From birth an African girl’s identity is based on serving men and places her firmly in a less powerful position than her brothers. The division of labour from early on is on this basis, the double standard of how we spend our leisure time is blatant and most importantly society’s sanctions against those who don’t fit its definition of a ‘good girl’ are swift and severe.

“African women’s upbringing is that marriage is a top priority in our lives, by age twenty five I was getting pressure from all around me that I was over the hill”

“Being dependent on a man, that’s a culture thing, that a man is a man and he is allowed to do what he wants”

“Women are conditioned from a young age to find a mate for marriage, endless reminders of how decisions in earlier relationships can jeopardize chances of finding a man willing to marry them. Countless lessons on being the future perfect wife”

“It’s expected that a married woman is just there to keep the house in order, breed and look after the kids. She needs no affection, love and so forth, as long as she is called madam. That’s why society thinks Polygamy is OK because women have no feelings apparently”

What’s their perception of African marriages?

“The typical African marriage is one of suppression where the man is the boss – Yebo Nkosi. African men must quit the abuse (emotional, physical, mental etc) stop being so selfish and learn to communicate better”

“Women are subjects to their husbands, often depend on their husbands for their financial well being, submissive to their husband’s and in-laws’ demands. As an African woman you not only marry him but marry his whole family, leaving little room for independent decision making”

“I consider myself spontaneous, adventurous and carefree but I know I’ll have to change my personality after marriage since for African men ego is their priority not my happiness”

“You end up just putting up with their nonsense because it’s easier to just let him always be right”

“African couples often do not view each other as equal partners giving to power struggles within relationships. Women are expected to be docile. Infidelity on the husband’s part is often the norm and acceptable”

“I’ve had to slow down on travelling as they are so much into budget limiting”

Here’s the irony. For all the pressure African women feel to become ‘a door mat’ after marriage it appears this is not what the contemporary African man is looking for. In a quick sample of our male readers the overwhelming majority said they were attracted to a woman with a good dose of self-confidence and independence, financial and otherwise:

“She must also be ambitions in her own right, for the record I found Margaret Thatcher dead gorgeous in her prime years as PM”

“Nothing is more important to me than wit , intelligence and an insatiable appetite to learn. Sadly it would appear that the majority of African women think when they hit a certain age – all this is not necessary”

“I’m attracted to intelligence and a keen sense of humour”

“I like to know that I’m not her only financial plan”

“I’m not looking for women who see marriage, partnerships as some form of financial solution”

“I find neediness a complete turn off”

So why do African women feel pressure to partner no matter what?

“I’m not proud that I’ve put up with my husband having another woman rather than standing up and taking a lasting solution to just leave him. You know when you are married you are a respected someone in society, young people look up to you, the elders respect you and praise you. There’s also the fear of raising four kids alone, what will people say? It’s a whole lot of emotions…and also cultural pressure etc.”

“As more of your friends couple up they tend to slowly isolate you, make you feel incomplete like you no longer belong to their group. Even when giving advice or in general talk it’s like what would you know?, it’s implied you have no idea about life until you’re married”

“Many times I’ve been placed in a position where I feel guilty even speaking to my friends’ husbands. Because I’m single there’s an asumption that I’m a flirt and a fear that I might snatch their husbands who know no boundaries”

“Some husbands advise their women not to hang out with you just to cover their mischief and you have no opportunity, no voice to express your innocence because you’re being judged on your marital status. Single women are a bad influence seems to be the motto”

“I’m so sick of feeling like I owe everyone an explanation for being single. I get questions like what exactly are you waiting for as beautiful as you are and you’re not getting any younger”

So what’s a girl to do when her whole value is dependent on her relationship status?

There was a certain resignation among the female participants that it was ‘hard’ to change culture and they did not expect much change in their own relationships. However, they all felt change was inevitable for future generations.

When asked what advice they would give their daughters there was a strong feeling that the key to improving the lot of African women in relationships is education, financial independence and careful choices:

“My sage wisdom would be – understand why you are getting into a relationship and what you want to make of it. Take your time to fully understand what the other party wants and expects of the same. If you are not of the same mind at the beginning it is unlikely you will get round to agreeing in future. I would also advise that every relationship has its own settings that it must live within and it is no different in the African culture – its demands and expectations will weigh heavily on you from the days of youth up to the dying day. Define for yourself and decide whether the expectations are what you want to live with. Some things change but culture does not do so easily as by definition “it is the way we do things around here” – and Africa is a very patriachal society.”

First things first, educate yourself, make sure he finds you independent and self sufficient in order for him to respect you and that way you can have a say in the relationship. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s too late to improve yourself, it’s never too late. Study him and be careful in your choices and do not tolerate his miscellaneous activities. Know his worth because you’re the one that will be stuck with him for the rest of your life.”

“Never give up your dreams in order to hold on to a relationship, find someone who will let you be comfortable in your own skin and not expect you to bend over backwards to be a perfect partner. Take your time to find a long term partner and don’t succumb to any pressure that you will be past the prime of your youth”

“I would advise her not to let any man put her down, she must remain independent such that she can continue to pursue her interests despite being married. eg. further her studies, travel and so forth”

As I look through these frank comments again I wonder whether the time spent by African women talking about relationship issues is wasted after all? I’m struck by the words of one reader who said,  “As Africans we prefer to talk to each other about our issues where non Africans might  prefer a more public media”. I’m reminded that culture is not static. I’m convinced that for change to happen there must be enough people disatisfied with a status quo and willing to act to change it.

What if each of these conversations about men and relationships is not a waste of time at all, but in fact many small steps that collectively will one day make that big cultural shift we so desire for our daughters?

Quote of the week – Don’t be afraid

4 Nov

image

Dont be afraid to stand for what you believe in, even if that means standing alone.

Unknown

*Photo by Diego Arroyo

Whose virginity is it anyway?

26 Oct

image
By Nyasha Gloria Sengayi

So I was having drinks with a hopeful who had so much potential of winning the heart of this stubborn woman. In my head, as I laughed with this guy, thoughts were reeling to a point where I even convinced myself that he was the funniest, most intelligent, most handsome, sweetest man left on earth… but that was until he asked me a question that led to the writing of this article.

All of a sudden, the guy decided to take our conversation from discussing the weather and other small talk issues to another level and asked me a question.

“So Nyasha tell me, are you still a virgin?” asked the Moron of the Century. I asked him to repeat himself.

I’d like to believe that I pick my men well but this guy became a failed project the moment he asked me that question. I was pissed off but maintained my cool and continued to eat my salad and drink my lemon water, both of which I decided to pay for the minute I was asked that question. I remained silent.

“Did I touch a raw nerve?” – another misplaced question

“No, I don’t have raw nerves, mine are just critical,” I responded.

“I’m afraid I don’t get you,” he replied.

Unfortunately, all men who go out there virginity hunting and testing don’t get it as all they want is to be the Nobel Laureate on the Commission of Virginity Breaking! I don’t know why these men give a fuss about our virginity more than we women do; I’ve heard this question from many men and I really find it offensive for a guy to have the nerve to interrogate my virginity status without even getting to know who I really am.

So all the time we are talking, he is thinking about sex? Is that the value he has placed on me? Why is it that every man wants to scramble for a piece of my hymen (or rather every hymen)? It seems like a ploy to keep women in the pit of ransom.

For a while, I was the judgemental girlfriend who had no idea why my friends were ‘giving up’ their hymens (as if there’s a cost attached to them). In this regard, I was perhaps no different to the men I now encounter. But my thinking has since matured.

The idea of breaking

In an expression of untamed egos, the language used when men sleep with a virgin expresses a disturbing power dynamic. Men speak of ‘breaking’, ‘ripping’, ‘tearing’, (wakamuboora here, ndakabvarura), and use a whole lot of other crude terminology. As a general principle, things that we break are fragile and powerless, so what these men, in effect, are saying is that our hymens are exactly that – powerless and fragile! Ladies, are we really that fragile?

You will rarely hear a woman saying, “I threw away my virginity”; we give it and entrust it to someone (in different circumstances where there’s consent). And that’s what women always seem to do; we always give a part of ourselves, no matter how much it costs us. For me, therefore, every man who asks about my virginity first before getting to know my surname has one aim: to break and disempower me.

Mapping my hymen

Having been born with my hymen hidden somewhere in the territory of my vagina, I’ve always wondered why it was placed there. Its location presents so many questions to me as a young woman; questions like, “Why is my vagina there?” and “Who has a claim to it?”

I think about it a lot, particularly about its safety down there. For most of us, the vagina is the last part of the body that we want to interact with outside of sexual pleasure; most of us have never gone down on a mirror just to check out what’s popping ‘down there’! For that reason I’ve heard many stories about women who have no idea how their vagina looks; who have, after a stint with an STI or irregular discharge, been forced – only then – to inspect themselves. At that point, however, they are not so sure if that is really how their vagina ought to look.

For other women, it’s their husbands or sexual partners who get the first sight of that part of their body; reflecting on all of this, my question would be: How do you trust someone to ‘break’ the hymen located in a space you are not familiar with yourself?

As for me, I can map my vagina in my sleep! It is who I am, the root of my identity, the heartbeat of my passion, the pulse of the feminism I have nurtured in my life, it is me. So I’m fully aware – and in total control – of everything that goes on ‘down there’. My friend laughed at me the other day when I went on a Google search to find out how a vagina should be properly cleaned and taken care of. But for me, it is of paramount importance that I know the ‘ins and outs’ – literally and figuratively – of this precious part of my body.

It is from this perspective that I then wonder why men think the easiest thing any woman can do is to simply open her legs for them so that they can enjoy breaking her hymen, without the slightest bit of understanding that the vagina – with or without the hymen – is a complex organ whose functions remain the same.

If the hymen is no longer there, is there a difference between a virgin and a non-virgin? Where is the difference? Why and how does the experience of sleeping with a virgin elevate a man, if at all? Where is the benefit?

Transactional identity

When will our men understand that not everything about women is sexually transactional? We are not a commodity and shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just a hymen; seriously, I don’t see which part of life you will miss if you don’t have an experience with one. That just boils down to misplaced egos.

While I value my hymen, I don’t see it giving me much after I lose it. It won’t even guarantee me marital happiness. How many women who’ve gotten married as virgins have gone on to get divorced? Let’s be very realistic; how many have been infected with HIV in the comfort of their homes thinking they were safe with the one man who ‘broke’ their virginity? And also, how many women who got married as virgins have had extra marital affairs?

What really are we looking for – virginity or character? Personally, I think the vagina, and not your hymen, gives you your identity; any attempt to lay a claim on my hymen ignores who it belongs to.

It’s my hymen!

I just want to let the men know that keeping your virginity does not always mean you are keeping it for them. That is a misconception based on what men think they are owed. In case they didn’t know, some of us relate to our vagina outside of pleasing men sexually.

Growing up, advice given to us by our parents and other relatives told us to preserve ourselves and our hymens for our husbands. While this is a valuable practice, the truth is that that little piece of meat is mine! Even my parents don’t own it! If it belonged to my husband, then why didn’t God just place it on him?!

My hymen is on my body for a reason. I should decide how it goes and to who. Placing emphasis on the hymen as something we owe to our men displaces our power of choice. I am not saying women should sleep around, but I am saying that if I’m going to keep this hymen intact, that’s purely for my benefit.

The man I will give it to should never be mistaken in thinking that I have preserved myself for him. For me, it’s not like that. I don’t appreciate the whole world checking my virginity status for the sake of massaging their egos; that culture should end this minute! Surely it’s more beneficial to get HIV and STI tests done than to monitor a woman’s virginal state.

What all this drama has done is open new business opportunities for people who are now inventing virginity soaps and other products. Who ever thought that the hymen could be manufactured? And the pity and double standard of it all is that women hardly check men’s virginity status; in fact, we’d be scared to come across a male virgin.

So just before I left the table and paid for my meal (I had to argue to pay for myself and thank God, I had ordered a salad!) I responded and said:

“If your father had checked your mother’s virginity status, you probably wouldn’t be here today. Can you please confirm that for me!”

And with that, I walked off, not looking back.

Mapping my vagina helped me appreciate a lot of things about myself as a woman. Throughout my research on my vagina I have learnt that the things that you draw intimacy from are the very things you know everything about. I find my vagina a very complex organ which is able to shape how my identity is defined out there. So in that regard, it should be respected and dignified whether you are getting some or not from it.

At this point I wish all men would have an appreciation of the heart of our reproductivity and how much respect should be awarded to it. How then do you break something you respect and love?

———–
Nyasha is a feminist working with a young women’s organisation in Harare. She takes an interest in exploring world issues affecting women globally and is working on opening space for visual documentation of research on the status of women in Zimbabwe. Currently, she is writing her first book.

*Article reproduced courtesy of http://www.herzimbabwe.co.zw

What is the point of marriage?

18 Oct

point of marriage
by Carol Dube

I have just learnt, with terror I must admit, that some of my relatives and a few friends are becoming worried that I may never settle down and get married. I am in my early thirties and strangely, I am assumed to be more than ripe and ready for marriage.

As if that is not enough, just the other day, I had a terrible misunderstanding with my paternal aunt – she fears I am becoming too successful that finding a man to marry me may prove to be just too difficult. I am advised men don’t really like successful women. I can’t help but be concerned.

Are men truly afraid of a successful woman? Isn’t it quite humorous how our society views men and women so differently? It is not in dispute that a successful man is very attractive, quite a catch. A friend of mine the other day was telling me that it is no longer necessary to take stock of the ratio of men versus women but rather, successful men to women, and I am told it’s 20 women: one successful man. Such figures are obviously unofficial, but this portrays just how on demand a successful man is.

The odds are, however, not the same for women. The more successful or the more educated a woman, the less attractive she becomes. It’s really an issue of double standards on the part of our society.

I became so concerned over this issue that I went as far as doing an online survey in some social forums I subscribe to in order to ascertain just why successful women aren’t viewed as marriage material. What became so obvious is that most men do not find a successful woman attractive because they fear that they may not be able to control her.

Just why men find it so macho to control a woman puzzles me. Are women so erratic, unpredictable, wild and dangerous that they ought be tamed and controlled? Is it really proper to control another human being? More importantly, is it profitable for any person to conduct their lives in accordance to another’s rule book?

It appears the brothers in my society are not too keen on marrying for the sake of gaining an equal partner. They seem to want a docile kind of a lady: the one who drops everything for her man and will bend over backwards just to please him; the kind that suffers in silence and dares not question him on any issue. A door mat. One that can easily be tamed.

Just take a closer look at most marriages in our society. Don’t wives seek permission to do just about anything? Most wives hardly ever make any decisions without consulting. Is it that they are incapable of making decisions or maybe they are just not competent enough?

Some men go as far as demanding that their wives dress a certain way; be home at a certain time; associate with certain individuals and obviously disassociate with others. Are women truly incapable of making their own choices on fashion, lifestyle and friends? Must one abandon their person for the sake of becoming what a man demands and expects from them? What is it that strips wives of their power and vests it with their husbands ? Could it be the fact that one pays the bride price for the other?

When a man pays lobola for his wife, is he not merely extending his gratitude for being blessed with a wife? How then does lobola become a symbol of ownership of a wife by her husband? It is beginning to appear as if a wife, like a couch, is just another household item.

The way this institution called marriage is understood in our Zimbabwean society leaves women in a very feeble position. I do not feel I am losing out on anything by not marrying.

What do I stand to gain from marriage? A man? I have one. Furthermore, I certainly can get and keep any man, if I put my heart to it.
Becoming Mrs so and so? Why? I already have a surname. I have been using it for over two decades, and I am sure using it for the rest of my life would not kill me.

Babies? I already have and I did not marry their father by choice. What really is the achievement in marriage? Am I missing out on anything? I have seen so many people marry only to divorce a couple of years later. Why then must I set myself up for heartache, pain and a life of misery?

Maybe one day, I will change my mind. Maybe one day I will choose to be tamed. Maybe I will choose to be controlled, to live a life according to the husband’s strict instructions. Maybe one day this institution of marriage will make perfect sense – I may even regret not having jumped into it earlier.

Until that very unlikely day, I refuse to marry to conform to societal expectations of me. I refuse to marry for the sake of my family and friends, the pleasure of them watching me tie the knot at the expense of my independence and joy.

__________________
Carol Dube is a social commentator who tells it like she sees it

*This feature first appeared on http://www.newzimbabwe.com

Happy International Day of the Girl!

11 Oct

IDOTG pic
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