Tag Archives: politics

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!

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

5 Dec

mandela fist

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.’

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

We live in this world

29 Sep

did you know

Did you know?

• 100 million girls are missing due to female infanticide.

• 62 million girls of primary school age are out of school.

• 20 to 50% of girls have experienced sexual abuse from a family member.

• Every 3 seconds, a girl under 18 is forced or coerced to marry.

• Every year, 10 million girls under 18 are forced or coerced into marriage. 1 in 7 marries before they reach the age of 15.

• 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and 98% of those forced into commercial sexual exploitation are girls.

• The leading cause of death for young women aged 15 to 19 in developing countries is pregnancy.

• 36% of girls aged 15 – 19 in Africa and the Middle East have experienced female genital mutilation.

• By 2014, 64% of the world’s illiterate population will be female.

This is why your voice matters!

Quote of the week – When the missionaries came

6 Apr

missionaries

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

Desmond Tutu

Why I voted ‘Yes’ for the women of Zimbabwe

31 Mar

constitution

By Patience F. Dobah Madambi

Women of Zimbabwe were tired – tired of being seen and treated as secondary citizens to their male counterparts! By coming out in their millions to vote in favour of the draft constitution they raised their voices loud and clear. It was time for change – change of a legal nature and change strong enough to override any cultural and societal beliefs that had kept women yoked despite 33 years of national independence.

For many women, the rest of the document was of little significance…they just wanted to vote yes for the liberties they perceived as long overdue. Certain to be passed into the law of the land by mid-year, here’s what the new constitution holds for Zimbabwean women:

  • Women will have a legal right to challenge any decisions made against them in any situation in the name of culture/tradition or whatever imagined societal beliefs.
  • The new constitution will finally allow women to regard themselves, be seen as and be treated as equal citizens (to men) and they will have the right to apply for and get national documents for their children.  In the past grown women, mature enough to give birth, had no right to apply for these without ‘permission’ from their often irresponsible and vindictive boyfriends, husbands or partners.
  • Women will also have the freedom to travel with their children without being suspected of abduction or expected to get a written and signed affidavit from the children’s father.
  • First born women and girls will no longer be overlooked in favour of a younger sibling based on anatomical makeup.
  • Married women will no longer live in the fear of being homeless once their husbands die as the law will now regard them and the children as the natural heirs.
  • Women will also have equal access to land.
  • Women will also be regarded as equals in the workplace and all other spheres of life including within the home when it comes to issues such as property and inheritance, without necessarily usurping the man as head of the home (but of course!).

These few points might, at a glance, seem minor but do in fact address a lot of social and economic disparities – disparities that left women feeling abandoned and angry.  For instance many women who left the country at the height of economic hardships were forced to leave their small children behind and sometimes the children were barely a month old – simply because the father of the child either refused to allow the woman to register the child or assist in the application of a passport.

There are other exciting new safeguards within the new constitution but the above are the main changes that will make a significant difference in the lives of not only women but children as well who often are in the care of their mothers.

Predictably, there is a large section of men in the country who are up in arms over the declaration that women will be regarded as equal citizens to them.  They are also not happy that some cultural beliefs and practices will be regarded as an infringement on the basic human rights of women and therefore a crime.  There is a general feeling among men that their ‘powers’ have been challenged and taken away!  They fear women will dominate them and strip them of their ‘manly powers’

Unfortunately for the men, as often happens in most African states, they chose not to engage in community consultation meetings and left it to the women to attend community meetings and to do the voting. This time around, the women of Zimbabwe had big reasons to  vote and nothing was going to stop them.  The men of Zimbabwe left it a little too late to register their ‘displeasure’ and have instead resorted to forming men’s organisations to ‘protect their rights!”.