Apr 12, 2011

Taking a step back

For the past week I’ve been mulling questions about the role of women in civil society and politics. Yes, dear reader I am still on this issue! J I put down some of my thoughts in the post, “Getting to Equal Representation.” Much of my inner struggle comes from making sure I strike a healthy balance in telling the narrative without slanting things in one way or the other.
I have to step back and assess my thoughts. Am I subscribing to mainstream feminism that has by and large relegated African women into the role of impoverished, downtrodden and oppressed beings who for lack of education and enlightenment do not have the means to change their lot? I certainly hope not!
There is no denying that women in the developing world find themselves underrepresented in politics and alienated in real decision making that pertains to national development but this isn’t unique to us. Even the much touted Scandinavian countries have only in the last decade or so seen increases in female participation in their parliaments. And it is not enough to simply say “well, it’s those dangerous African traditions that keep women bonded as little more than indentured servants.”  Patriarchy is not an ailment found in isolation in the brown man.
We shouldn’t ignore the meaningful roles women play in families, churches, community organisations and businesses. It is ridiculous to diminish the role of a deaconess or a female head of family because it they do not fit neatly into the box labelled “empowered, non-traditional female.” There are indeed women who wield power and exercise it and others who do not.
So, therefore let us aid those who are disenfranchised and also pay tribute to those who are not. We simply cannot accept a single narrative to define us all.           

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