I am a strong feminist and I love and strongly support the whole feminism ideology. I am of the belief that men and women, though not equal in every sense, deserve equal opportunities. So for me, it is not a question of being like men, but more on value – placing the same value for both genders.
I know and strongly believe that this is a heavy topic, that started a long time ago and that is not coming to an end any time soon. However, many things baffle me about this ideology, especially from the women’s perspective. I am currently a board member for Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) and I believe that this is a good platform for me to champion women’s agenda for the current generation and even the next generation of media women in Kenya.
We have to fight
I wonder whether it perplexes you as well. Why is it that when women are talking about equality, gender rights, women empowerment, always have to use these terms “we have to fight and we have to continue fighting, the fight does not stop today.” Two weeks ago, I attended public gender forum at the Nairobi’s Safari Club, a monthly event organized by Heinrich Böll Stiftung and the issue of women fighting for what they call “their rights” came up.
This specific gender forum was unique in many ways. It brought together about 30 women from across the region of East and Horn of Africa to deliberate on the topic-Constructing Political Spaces: Making Quotas Work. The primary objective of the Forum was to provide interested parties with a platform to interrogate the quota debate, interact with the high level gathering as they share the outcomes of the peer review exchange that was held that week, as well as their experiences.
As explained on the invite letter, Quotas have emerged as a key instrument for advancing gender equality in elected and public offices in the East and Horn of Africa, following a long and sustained push for the equal participation of women in governance by feminist activists, gender scholars, women’s sector practitioners and feminist political actors. In the East/Horn of Africa region, the push for affirmative action in favor of women in governance and the adoption of quotas to create special spaces for women has seen an increase in women’s representation in legislative bodies over the last couple of decades. Although strategies are very much shaped by the local political and cultural context, the question of how women can successfully negotiate political spaces and influence legislative and political decisions in a male dominated realm is a common concern across the region.
The panelists were drawn from Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya was represented by our very own Honorable, Priscillah Nyokabi, Women Representative from Nyeri county. One of the things I picked up from all these women despite their regional differences is that all women are fighting the same battle world over. They have been fighting and yes, they vowed to continue fighting.
Politics a male dominated field
“Patience, this is indeed a fight and we have to continue fighting. Politics is still a male dominated field; it is not an easy road for women. Our society has a long way to go until we are accepted to play the same role as men. I am the first-born in my family. I have younger brothers. In my culture, a mother is referred to, by the name of her elder child. My mother was never called Mama Nyobaki, they named her after my small brothers. This changed, but it only changed, when I contested for the political space and I won, then people now started referring to her as Mama Nyokabi. The world out here is very harsh and therefore, we are not backing down, the fight continues.” She said.
I pause and wonder, women have been fighting forever, do they still want to continue fighting? Where are we heading with this? Can we revise our strategies? Why do we feel that we do not deserve these positions as women? As Albert Einstein says, “Doing the same thing the same way, over and over and expecting different results, is indeed insanity of the highest level.”
Can we mentor young women and see them grow and ready to take up these positions? Is this possible or am I just being too ambitious?
Daisy Amdany, governance, development and women’s rights specialist says “Patience, women face unique challenges and we cannot back down now, we have to continue the fight.” “But for how long?” I ask?
Are we trying to say that women are second class citizens who cannot go for top leadership positions without the affirmative action? I stand to be corrected, but I have a strong belief that, a time has come for women all over the world to change strategy. It’s time to take stock and see if we have to change our system of carrying out our mandate as women.
Let’s go beyond fighting
I highly concur with Kigwa Kamenchu commenting on the same issue on the social media platform, “Patience, I’m with you here, after a while it must be beyond fighting, begging or engaging in acrobatics for people to see your worth. The women’s movement needs to take stock of where it currently is as well as the context of the situation. Right now tribe is the main mobilizing force in Kenyan politics, a collective consciousness by women of their issues is non-existent, sub-sumed by the rallying call of the tribe. And it is for this reason that women believe that they have to continue to ‘fight’ to get space, because the system has no time or place for them. It is time to go back to the drawing board. The other question would be of what importance is it for women to be in leadership, for what reason should they rally together, what value would it bring?. If the answer to this question is not strong or urgent enough (as it was in Post 94 Rwanda or Liberia), then Kenyan women’s movement will just keep on mark-timing and benefiting a small few.”
My thoughts based on personal experiences and even that of other people who are not for the fighting business, is that, fighting doesn’t lead us anywhere. Empowerment does. If you are qualified and you can prove that you are up to the task, you’ll get that position, especially on the job contracts, regardless of your gender.
“The meltdown of a self-proclaimed feminist? I always say, nothing can put down somebody who is great. If you are good you will excel no matter the circumstances. Let all women concentrate on being good at whatever they do. Nobody will put them down.” Remarked Anthony Wafula.
And right there is our challenge. Women need to position themselves. Probably, this is the only way, we will eventually stop fighting.