Feminist agenda: be aware what you stand to lose

Editor, I have noticed that some recent articles (and journalists) in your paper are pushing the feminist agenda (pro-abortion, anti-dowry) without factoring in the background history surrounding women issues in Africa.
Traditional Ankole cattle are often given as bride price in Rwanda
Traditional Ankole cattle are often given as bride price in Rwanda

Editor,

I have noticed that some recent articles (and journalists) in your paper are pushing the feminist agenda (pro-abortion, anti-dowry) without factoring in the background history surrounding women issues in Africa.

The danger with that approach is that this feminist agenda may end up isolating the same power-blocs whose support is necessary (to move serious women issues into the national debate and development).

Frankly it takes much more than legislation to change the cultural mindset of human beings. African history has many examples of negative cultures that morph underground when threatened by officialdom.

In order to overcome this danger we need to adopt the strategy of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Many of whom were powerful, influential and highly-respected women in obviously male dominated environments.

Their secret was to incorporate women issues into the general flow of their families (not against that flow).

Their secret was to respect and esteem their men folk as fathers, brothers, husbands, sons and neighbors.

They recognised that their identity and strength as African women was permanently linked to the stature, wellbeing and development of their menfolk (the key is co-operation not competition). 

Therefore these shrewd power-women focused their agenda on community issues; pursuing the majority good (including that of their male detractors).

I remember once raising my voice to refute the normal male prejudices during a high-level government meeting and Margaret Kenyatta stepped on my foot and pinched me (at the same time).

She was then Kenya Ambassador to UNEP. She would smile a lot at those high-level meetings and ask questions in a gentle quiet voice.

She would wait until someone asked for her opinion -which was a rather low-key response considering her famous father.

And even then Margaret Kenyatta would pass that opportunity to express opinion to younger women like myself.

What I learnt from this wonderful mentor is that “correct timing is everything in successful lobbying”. She also taught me that the most influential power-brokers communicate their power in total silence.

This approach stands in sharp contrast to the modern African women’s obsession with self interests, self-preservation and self-expression (my body--my life--my money--my bloated stomach—my ambitions-my rights).

My gentle brother Kirrio drew attention to this reality in his recent observation: “just because your arguments are indisputably rock solid does not mean that your audience is hearing exactly the same logic”.

Therefore one must slow down and become integrated into the local ambiance -- particularly in Africa where families (and communities) interpret life in quantum’s of a thousand years-plus.

P/S: I am not getting married unless (and until) my dad gets his twenty cows and forty goats -- plus two beehives stocked with honey and breathing African bees.

Margaret Maringa

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