Friday, November 02, 2007

Shall We Wage A Sex War?

The announcement recently made by President Kibaki that women would get three months maternity leave may be a step in the right direction, but it is still way below what Kenyan women deserve. For many women who have had to choose their jobs over their babies due to economic pressures, this announcement was pleasant, but came too late.

In the ongoing campaigns, very little has been said about issues directly affecting women. Neither ODM nor Charity Ngilu and The ‘Pentagon wives’ seem to be making any effort in pushing the women’s agenda, yet women are still the most marginalized and disempowered lot. President Kibaki’s PNU is quiet on women’s issues and does not seem to have a strong plan to handle the emancipation of women.

The call for affirmative action earlier in the year did not harness much support from the majority women, read workers, peasants, and hawkers. In fact, most of them did not even understand the concept of the action. Indeed it died a rather sudden death mainly because ruling class women who continually use the oppression of women as a stepping-stone to climb the socio-political ladder proposed it.

So it leaves us asking, who will fight for the rights of the majority women? Who will fight for the general labourers, mama mbogas, hawkers, peasants and fisherwomen? Who will articulate their issues on remuneration, maternity leave, childcare or working conditions? Who will fight for their rights to housing, land, medical care, inheritance and education?

So far, we have not seen any politicians go down to the grassroots to speak to the women on issues affecting them. LATF and CDF funds may sometimes trickle to organized women groups, but what happens to the major issues like decent housing, education, access to clean water, medical care and childcare. We all know that the quality of ‘free’ education offered by the government remains wanting.

Granted, the majority men; workers, hawkers and peasants are oppressed too. It is worthwhile to note that however oppressed a man may be, he has an outlet for his oppression. Many men still knowingly or unknowingly oppress their wives. Though both male and female workers are exploited at the work place, her husband will not hesitate to further dominate the worker woman. It’s not surprising then that with the rising cost of basic commodities, bus fares, and salaries that have remained static over the years; domestic violence has escalated. The woman is further stripped of her dignity and self worth.

So, shall we wage a war of the sexes or should we just curl up and die? Women and men must realize that we are complimentary to each another. A home where one partner is unhappy can never be a happy home. In order to win this war we must fight together side by side, each empowering the other as we struggle to overturn an exploitative system.

We need to organise the majority women so that as one, women can have an audible voice. In his speech commemorating International Women’s Day in Burkina Faso on March 8, 1987, Thomas Sankara said “The human being, this vast and complex combination of pain and joy, solitary and forsaken, yet creator of all humanity, suffering, frustrated and humiliated, and yet endless source of happiness for each one of us, this source of affection beyond compare, inspiring the most unexpected courage, this being called weak but possessing untold ability to inspire us to take the road of honour, this being of flesh and blood and of spiritual conviction – this being women, is you… We must restore to humanity your true image by making the reign of freedom prevail over differentiations imposed by nature and eliminating all kinds of hypocrisy that sustain the shameless exploitation of women.”

PoP 2 Nov 07

No comments: