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Women must be women to live dream



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It is most saddening that the bill meant to have more women in elective positions, in line with the provisions of the Constitution, could not be passed just because MPs are not willing to vote for it.

It’s a fact that the majority of our MPs are men. The obvious interpretation of this is that men are unwilling to have women occupy positions of leadership in the country. Therefore, this is a wake-up call to women to start being women if they want to realise their dreams.

Traditionally, women were considered flawed and the only place befitting people with such a trait was in the kitchen. They were also made to believe that they had no business in any serious leadership position.

That line of thought, for sure, is far gone and it is time men broadened their worldview and realised that women, too, have what it takes to lead.

It was in the 17th century when we witnessed the emergence of the concept ‘The Chef’. And, history has it, the early chefs were members of the military and were exclusively men.

So, the morass that is being created by the male MPs in regard to the two-thirds gender rule is outrageous.

In the recent past, studies have revealed that men tend to fear women in high-level leadership positions, for such women often exhibit the same sort of leadership styles, behaviour and capability with their male counterparts. That does not thrill most men.

The society has continually made men believe that they are the ones to be in charge and that women just have to follow them.

But the men seem to have conveniently forgotten that there are a number of great women who paved the way for the modern feminist movement — the likes of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Maria Theresa of Austria, just to mention two.

The changes that these women brought about have altered the course of history.

Creating a work environment where women can thrive, and employing initiatives that support, advance, retain and reward women achievers, is not only the right thing to do; it is the smartest and only way to elevate our mothers, wives and sisters to realise their potential in leadership.

The absenteeism that was witnessed in Parliament the other day, when MPs were expected to vote for the long-awaited Gender Bill, was absurd and uncalled-for.

The majority of those who failed to show up were men, which shows just how fickle men can be, despite the numerous attempts by their party leaders to rally them to see to it that the bill is approved.

It is critically important, therefore, for us to look at the challenges women often face in the society and clear the path for talented and dynamic women leaders to rise to the top and to inspire the next generation of women leaders in the world. For as the saying goes, “women leaders take care, men leaders take charge”.

Many powerful women in Africa have demonstrated tremendous leadership skills and contributed immensely to improving the lives of their people.

They include Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, who became the continent’s first female president in 2006, and continued to struggle for the safety of women and women’s rights.

Ghana’s Yaa Asantewaa led an army of thousands of soldiers during the Yaa Asantewaa war of independence against the British colonial forces in 1900.

Queen Nzinga of Angola encouraged her people to resist Portugal’s colonial influences, and even worked with the Dutch to drive the colonisers out.

Then we have Gisèle Rabesahala of Madagascar, the first Malagasy woman to be elected as a municipal councillor and later appointed a Cabinet minister.

She is remembered for dedicating her entire life to Madagascar’s independence and advocating human rights.

Lastly, we have Huda Shaarawi, who spoke up for women issues and participated in Egypt’s nationalist struggle. She later established the Egyptian Feminist Union and was the founding president of the Arab Feminist Union.

The one thing all these iconic women leaders seem to have in common is refusing to stay in a box that society continually attempted to put them in.

It is time for women in this generation to start taking lessons from the successful leaders and stop taking “no” for an answer.

It is their responsibility to inspire the next generation of women and challenge them to take up leadership positions.

It is time our women took their rightful places in leadership. It is also time for them to stop waiting to be merely nominated to the assemblies, but elected or appointed to office on merit.

With the right mindset, unity and togetherness, what women can achieve will surprise all of us.

Mr Otieno is a lecturer at Mwangaza College, Nakuru, and freelance journalist. [email protected]