The demons of patriarchy

2016-11-20 06:39
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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The patriarchal barricades in the high echelons of politics and the economy are prevalent throughout the world.

Some countries have progressed in addressing underrepresentation of women in high political and economic structures, while other countries are steadfast in advancing their patriarchal agenda.

The conscious decision to prevent women from advancing in politics is the same agenda that is used by fanatics of patriarchy to prevent the economic and social emancipation of women.

These fanatics ensure that, at all times, female politicians, businesswomen or women in general are relegated to second-class citizens in their countries.

They think women should not have any political, economic or social power.

According to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum, there are 59 countries worldwide that had female heads of state in the past 50 years.

There are 195 countries in the world today and only 30% of these countries have accepted to have a woman ascending to the highest political office.

The first woman to break the patriarchal barricades in politics was Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

She became the prime minister of Sri Lanka in 1960 and was followed by Indira Gandhi (India, 1966), Golda Meir (Israel, 1969) and Isabel Perón (Argentina, 1974).

In Africa, the trendsetters are Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia, 2006) and Joyce Banda (Malawi, 2012).

It is unfortunate that in the recent elections in the US, an opportunity was missed by the Americans to dismantle the patriarchal barricades of politics in their country and elect Hillary Clinton as the president.

All over the world, the fanatics of patriarchy depict women as weak and lacking the capacity to make any strategic political decisions. They portray women as nothing but gossipers and as less intelligent.

With these constant stereotypical notions that women are incapable in every aspect of life – except when bearing children – it becomes hard for women to break through the patriarchal barriers without being labelled, chastised and even alienated by some members of society.

Women who participate in politics are subjected to more scrutiny of their personal lives. Some are labelled as having slept their way to a leadership position.

Political parties in South Africa are no exception to patriarchal barricades.

Despite the fact that the majority of members in these political parties are women, the majority of men would prefer the status quo of them leading those structures to remain.

Currently, out of nine provinces, only two have women as premiers and out of eight metropolitan councils, only three have women as executive mayors.

At a local level, political structures across political parties have a majority of women deputising as secretaries or kept as branch treasurers.

Very few of them are elected as branch chairpersons or branch secretaries. This happens at regional, provincial and national level in a country where women are in the majority and are actively involved in politics.

It is the responsibility of all members of society to advocate and defend equal rights for all citizens, irrespective of their gender. Patriarchy hinders the agenda of building an equal society.

People should not be sidelined from leading in politics or in any sphere on the basis of their gender.

Women don’t want to lead on the basis that they are women, but because they have the capacity to lead.

As citizens, they have the same rights as men. Therefore, for them to ascend into the high echelons of political structures should not be interpreted as an act of charity.

South Africans across political, social and economic lines have to unite to defeat the demons of patriarchy that hinder societal development.

Until society breaks the patriarchal barricades, particularly in politics, the struggle for equality will remain lip service.

Matuba is secretary-general of the ANC Women’s League


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