ideological poison of feminism spreads to Africa
- The following article, attributed to Emily Wax of the Washington Post,
appeared on page A28 of the Saturday, June 14, 2003 edition of The Arizona
Republic. Once again the siren song that family problems and gender
equality can be solved within the framework of capitalism and imperialism
is being sung, only this time it is being sung in Africa. Predictably
the article criticizes the few African leaders who have been fighting
imperialism and preparing the objective conditions for real liberation
of the entire people, Robert Mugabe and Muammar Khaddafi. However bad male
imperialist puppet rulers have been for African countries, it is foolish
to believe that female imperialist puppet rulers would be any better.
The experience of Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir should show any who
doubt that women can be just as vile imperialist rulers as men. The path
to the liberation of African women is the path to the liberation of all
AFRICAN WOMEN GAINING POLITICALLY
Nairobi, Kenya--Her head held high and her body balancing six yellow
containers--one atop her head, three on her back and two looped around her
arms--Rachel Adhimabo glided over the mounds of fuming trash, along the rocky
footpaths and through the labyrinth of metal shacks that make up her muddy
slum neighbourhood. It's a two-hour journey to collect water for her family,
and she makes it every day.
Along the way, she and her friends chatted about a provocative suggestion
that President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia made recently. He said a woman
should take over his job when he leaves office.
Adhimabo fantasized about the good she could do if she were elected president
of Kenya. Like most African women, she's no stranger to hard work. She said
she would love a chance to tackle tasks that the continent's powerful and
often corrupt male presidents have failed at: providing water and
electricity, jobs and sanitation, not to mention fighting corruption, AIDS,
malaria, poverty and famine.
No Time For Politics
Then again, like most African women, she doesn't have much time for politics.
"Women work so hard, too hard, in Africa," said Adhimabo, 39, her worn, thick
hands swatting away flies.
"You see, even though I want to, I don't have time to be a leader. Who would
take care of the kitchen, do the tailoring, get the firewood, the water,
dress the children, make them the porridge, scrub the rooms, roast the meats,
build the house when it falls apart?"
On a continent where the long list of jobs considered women's work seldom
includes political leadership, the notion of a female president may seem
surprising. Though women perform 80 percent of daily work, according to
studies by African gender groups, in many countries they own little or
nothing and face domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment on a daily
But politicians and analysts say they see signs that an African woman could
indeed be elected to a position of national leadership. (Africa's only female
head of state, interim President Ruth Perry of Liberia, was appointed to her
1996-97 term.) At the local, legislative and Cabinet levels, the role of
African women in the traditionally patriarchal realm of politics has grown in
numbers and significance over the past decade.
Women hold 30 percent of the parliamentary seats in Mozambique, 29.8 percent
in South Africa, 26 percent in Rwanda, 19 percent in Senegal and 24 percent
in Uganda, according to the U.N. Development Program's 2002 report. In
Uganda, there are 74 women in the 304-seat Parliament; in 1983, there were
"I have not only hope that women are getting more powerful, but the experience
that women in Africa are indeed doing it. And it is becoming more and more
evident just how pronounced a turning point this period is," said Beatrice
Kiraso, 41, who is in her second term in Uganda's Parliament. "We are just
catching up with the rest of the world. But in Africa, the change is just so
much more remarkable."
Changes Are Widespread
The political advances being made by African women are just one facet of a
broader effort across the continent to change long-standing cultural
practices, particularly as more and more rural people migrate to cities
where Western customs are the norm. Women in African cities are marrying
later, divorcing more and taking empowerment classes offered by Western aid
In February, women from across africa, including the first ladies of Burkina
Faso, Nigeria, Mali and Guinea, gathered in Ethiopia to denounce female
genital mutilation. Women in Mali organized the first ceremonial burning
of weapons as a protest against regional conflicts, a ritual that has become
an annual event across Africa. In Ivory Coast, a group has formed to protest
women having to carry heavy loads on their heads, saying it is bad for their
bones. In Ghana, women are trying to gain political power through groups
formed to raise money for female candidates.
"The men haven't done a good job of running our countries," said Chipo Lungu,
executive director of the Zambia Women's Lobby Group. "The list of corrupt,
incompetent and just foolish male leaders is a long one."
Lungu rapidly ticked off a list of men whose autocratic and often corrupt
rule sent African states into decline: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, whose
rule has left the economy a shambles and politics in crisis; Libya's
Moammar Gadhafi, at the helm since 1969; Mobutu Sese Seko, who became rich by
plundering the country he named Zaire; and Daniel arap Moi, whose 24-year
rule was marked by economic decline and rising corruption.
Female activists acknowledge that some African women have abused positions of
power, most recently Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of Nelson Mandela
who many South Africans revere as "mother of the nation." A member
of Parliament, she was sentenced in April to four years in prison for fraud
More Taking A Stand
But far more often, they say, qualified women are taking a stand and running
With their experience in the home and the community, women in politics tend
to focus on issues such as crime, violence, AIDS, education and health,
which most severely affect women and children.
"Women hold the family together. They are the managers: They manage the
farm, the house, the children, the water, the firewood," said Alicen
Chelaite, Kenya's deputy assistant minister for gender, sports, culture and
social services. "I think they will give more attention to these issues
since they are the ones who will feel the real changes."
For a woman like Adhimabo from the slums of Nairobi, the dream of being
president pales before the reality of hauling water. Adhimabo said she would
love to run for local office. But like many of Africa's mothers, or
"Kenyan mamas" as they are warmly called, she is just too busy for politics.
>Such silliness. "Women work hard in Africa," working
>people in Africa work hard, men and women. And the
>west spent decades doing everything in its power to
>destroy the leftist parties and regimes that might
>have addressed themselves to really improving the lot
>of women as a part of the working people of society.
>Now that the left has been beaten down they parade
>around as champions of women's rights as against men's
>rights, I suppose, and that way attention to the
>oppression of working men AND women can be deflected
>towards silly coverage of wealthy women running for
>public office under one pro-imperialist party label or
>other. Women and men can battle each other, if they
>want and the compradores and their imperial masters
>reap the benefits.
If imperialism is not defeated, it is yet possible women
may become presidents of many African countries. It
is unlikely in the extreme, however, that these female
presidents will be shantytown dwellers or peasants. Most
likely Kenya's first woman president will be a business-
woman or the wife of a prominent businessman or a
lawyer or civil servant who has servants to do housework
for her and therefore won't empathize as much with the
plight of the peasants and shantytown dwellers. Will she
be better than the men who have been presidents of Kenya?
Probably she'll be no worse, but if imperialism still
rules, she won't be better.