No one can tell your story better than you
The above statement is a truism I have come to embrace, and probably need to have it engraved for my desk as a daily reminder. This doesn’t apply only to novelists, bloggers, and radio show hosts it applies to all of us. I find this to be especially true for groups doing work that often goes unnoticed.
If I could get a pair of shoes for every time I hear the following or some variation of, Imelda Marcos would have nothing on me:
“What has the women’s movement in Zambia done over the last 20 or so years?”
“The problem with you women is that you don’t support one another.”
These statements are often said with such disdain, the speakers are often patting themselves on their backs for backing you into a corner. “Yeah, I got you now!”
It usually gets my hackles up because it’s all prefaced on incorrect stereotypes that have become the accepted narrative. I’ve had to take a few steps back and ask why. Honestly, the biggest problem I see is the inability of the women’s movement and feminists to take command of the narrative and share their side.
It’s too easy to look at the low representation of women in Parliament and attribute it to lack of ambition or voters often preferring male candidates without confronting head-on the barriers that still exist. The Zambia National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL) and Non-Government Coordinating Council (NGOCC) continue to work tirelessly to get more women involved in public office. This includes training, mentorship, fundraising, sensitisation campaigns to change negative perceptions about women in politics and applying pressure to political parties to nominate more women candidates to contest seats.
When the issue of institutional barriers within political parties is raised the comeback is often “men are better campaigners and thus viable candidates.” And this is an accepted truth and the onus yet again falls on those trying to break through – just try harder and stop complaining about the good ole boys network.
So, here is what I propose. We need to make use of any and all platform and fora to share track records of what has been done, what’s in the works, what remains to be done, barriers faced and knocked down, etc. Time to control the narrative and stop being silent warriors who have earned the ugly moniker of “only heard from on March 8 when there’s free lunch and t-shirts.”
We can learn from the countless volunteers who tromp into our country routinely, digging wells, teaching bible stories to kids, building churches and so forth. Have you seen the number of dedicated websites, videos and newsletters trumpeting their work and asking for support from well-wishers? That’s what we need. It is time to set aside the false humility drilled into us from birth and take a page out of a proven playbook. Own your story!