By Lolonga Tali
There is a distinct possibility that South Africa may have a woman president in the near future.
It may or may not happen in the elections of 2019. If this were to happen, South Africa would follow Liberia, which already has a woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The question we need to grapple with is whether as a country we are ready to have a woman president. This may seem superfluous, some would argue, considering the fact that our constitution, hailed as among the best in the world, makes provision for that to happen.
However, I would argue there are still deeply rooted patriarchal attitudes and proclivities in most of us and indeed in most of the political parties. Regrettably, it is well-nigh impossible to legislate against ingrained patriarchal tendencies. Attitude is an emotional thing, which is beyond the purview of legislation.
The attitudes reflected in our society regarding how we treat women are to a large extent the result of socialisation. The constant reports in the media of spousal abuse committed chiefly by men implies that we still have a long way to go as far as changing our attitudes towards women is concerned.
Not so long ago we had the #MenAreTrash campaign to highlight the societal concern at the growing phenomenon of spousal abuse and killing. As August is Women’s Month, we need to reflect deeply on these issues and have a Damascus road experience.
Most men, as the campaign went on, were more concerned with arguing that not all men are trash. It may very well be the case, as we may have seen and read in the media about men marching against women abuse. It is important for men to not waste valuable time trying to prove their innocence but to take action in addressing the problem. It is my assertion that it all starts in the home.
Chinese philosopher Confucius once said happy couples make happy families and happy families make happy societies and so on and so forth. We need to raise boys who have a healthy respect for girls and who will not see them as mere sexual objects.
As a committed, practising Christian, I have discovered that Jesus was far ahead of his time in the way he treated women. He came to a society which was prejudicial against women and which relegated them to the proverbial kitchen. However, Christ had women among his disciples.
Just before he was crucified, it was a woman (Mary Magdalene) who washed his feet and put some costly perfume on them. Interestingly, he had been invited to the house by a man (Simon) who knew the convention of welcoming a guest by foot washing and yet did not do it. It is also a matter of record that the first person to see a risen Christ was a woman, who was commissioned by Christ to relay the message to men.
The foregoing facts militate against the tendency of using religion – or the Bible – to vindicate ill-treatment of women. As a matter of fact, the Bible is vehemently opposed to spousal abuse as it enjoins men to love women as they love their own bodies.
It is my belief that if our homes and churches teach the correct values with regard to treatment and attitudes towards women, the scourge of abuse can be nipped in the bud. Our political organisations need to also lead by example by dealing harshly with those guilty of abuse. Besides, such individuals should not be allowed to hold office if criminal charges have been laid against them. It is better to suspend them until the cases against them are finalised.
Taking such action would minimise tension within the party and engender a healthy working atmosphere among all party members. The parties which have taken a stand against their members found guilty of abuse are to be commended for their stance. One understands that it is convenient for parties to hide behind the fig leaf of the “innocent until proven guilty” principle. That is all very well. It does not, however, preclude a party from expediting the process by conducting its own investigations.
I find it unacceptable that of all the political parties, very few give women prominent roles to play.
Besides the ANC, which has three women at the moment vying for the position of president of the party, and the DA, which was led by a woman for some time, it would seem other parties have some catching up to do.
One was also terribly disappointed when the leader of the ANC Women’s League, Bathabile Dlamini, justified having male delegates representing it in the recent ANC policy conference in Johannesburg. The irony of that anomaly seems to have been lost on Dlamini as she said that women sometimes get “emotional” in debates. For an organisation with the support that the ANC has (about 1.3 million if I am correct) to not find a less “emotional” woman or women is rather discombobulating.
Imagine the implications of that slight to the number of capable women within the ANCWL. Women possess the capabilities to be good leaders in their own right.
Ironically, most men who went on to become leaders came from single-parent families or homes headed by women. If women are able to mould characters of young men who go on to be leaders in society, it stands to reason that they can take society to greater heights if they are allowed to do so.
- Lolonga Tali lives in King William’s Town and is a regular contributor to the Daily Dispatch. The Chiel is currently away.