Fellow men, the tables have turned, follow the leader

Rwanda has in the past few years been giving an impression of being obsessed with making history and there seems to be no respite in sight.

Rwanda has in the past few years been giving an impression of being obsessed with making history and there seems to be no respite in sight.

Well, we’ll just have to accept our fate because another notch on our history-making meter is just one month away.

The next Parliament, by all indications, will be overwhelmingly feminine. For the very first time in history, women will outnumber the men in the country’s highest institution.

The die has been cast, and it is not good news to the misogynists out there, who by now should have started eating their hearts out at the prospect of playing second fiddle to the “weaker sex”.

Just like the Maasai believe  that all cattle in the world are their God-given property and hence their regular raiding parties to return what is “rightfully theirs”, some men in our society must be passing sleepless nights plotting to turn the tables.

A bit of history should bring their feet back to the ground and give their testosterone poisoning a break.

Like in most male-dominated societies, Rwandan men’s notion of the woman was; child bearer, cook and housekeeper, but that was about where the similarities with other societies, especially African, end.

Despite being a patriarchal society and the woman bore the burden of the household chores, she was not the property of her husband.

The dowry paid by the groom’s family was not a commercial transaction, but rather a unifying factor between two families and the bride’s side was expected to return the gesture. In case of a domestic dispute and the woman decided to return to her parents as a sign of protest, the man’s family was supposed to cajole and woo her back.

While she was regarded as the weaker sex who should be protected by her man, she carried unlimited clout in family matters through her power of persuasion and her role as the prime advisor to her husband.

That possibly explains why the transition from “quiet diplomacy” to a powerful voice in Rwandan national affairs today has been uneventful and even easily acceptable.

But the going has not been that easy. It is difficult to imagine that only 15 years ago, a married woman could not inherit property, nor could she open a bank account without the consent of her husband!

Africa has not been the only theatre where men play the leading role and jealously guard their little kingdom.

When women were campaigning for the right to vote in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, they were thrown a bone under the table; they could vote, but they had to be over 30 years old and also own at least a house!

It was only in 1928 that the men were driven into a corner by the “suffragettes” and conceded defeat, extending the vote to those over 18.

It is true that the affirmative action in favour of our women– by granting them a 30% stake in all national positions¬– has greatly inflated their representation in parliament; the equal opportunity bug has also bitten the male-dominated political party boardrooms.

One would be forgiven to believe that since the ladies have their 30%, the men would – justifiably so ¬– gobble up the remaining seats and no one would complain, but that is not the case.

It is interesting to note that the three major political groupings - the RPF coalition, PL and PSD - have gone beyond the 30% mark on their candidates’ lists.

The RPF leads the way with 44% female representation, PSD has 39%, while PL follows with 35%. A logical conclusion would be that on September 15, women will have an overwhelming presence at Kimihurura, with at least 55% of the seats.

Now this should make my brothers sit back and ride the new wind of change instead of wearing mournful expressions. After all, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.

And they should not fear that their hitherto male realm will be dotted with salons and facial parlours on every corner of the parliamentary buildings. They too need to work on their looks... and their act.

Contact: kndahiro@newtimes.co.rw

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