In one of his famous songs entitled ‘strength of a woman’, Shaggy says sometimes he wonders if God is a woman. He perhaps came up with this statement for lyrical convenience but what we can’t rule out is the fact that he attributed the female sex to God.
In the world over, starting from Rwanda where I come from, women have reached greater heights in realizing the goal of women emancipation.
It has resulted from a multiplicity of factors and efforts through various channels but the bottom line is they have reached somewhere.
Society has from time immemorial ascribed roles to people according to sex and these ascriptions have been indoctrinated deep into our perceptions, cultures and behavior.
In many parts of the world especially in Africa, women emancipation has been at a certain extent caused by circumstances like poverty, wars, natural disasters and disease. These factors have left women no choice but to adopt roles that were predominantly male.
These ascriptions are not natural and they have nothing to do with our instinct or any other natural disposition but a purely cultural construction which is passed on to the new members getting ushered into society.
For example when I was young I thought my mum could beat up anyone, and that she was the most powerful person. but as I grew up I came to realize that it wasn’t the case considering the soft kind of work like cleaning and cooking I saw her do. if I started seeing her split firewood like what my dad did, perhaps I would have changed my notion.
Yvon Murekatete, a small scale builder, says that even if Rwanda has achieved some kind of women emancipation, some people especially men have not come to terms with the fact that women can actually do some traditionally masculine jobs and even out compete them.
“When I had just joined constructions, I faced a lot of skeptics who found me not fit to do the work, but since it was something I knew I could do, I did it”.
“Three years down the road some people still can’t acknowledge that I am a good builder; they still think I can’t climb and that I am not strong enough, sometimes I think they will never accept my ability”.
I have come across female conductors and bus drivers in Rwanda and they seem to be happy for doing what they do.
Interviewing a female motorcyclists in Remera, who declined to mention her name, I learn’t that she has never been involved in any accident since she started and that she even rode more confidently than some male motorists.
The fact that she wasn’t comfortable in mentioning her name shows that some women are still shy about doing masculine jobs, and many do them as a last resort.
And when it comes to do’s and don’ts, it’s the women who suffer most. Women are not expected to smoke in public while when men do so, its cool. Since history, women have been banned from eating certain foods, like eggs. When a woman takes her self out, she is mistaken for a prostitute, but for a man it’s usually okay.
Women in various societies have suffered from stereotypes as regards professional assignments. Being women has sometimes barred them from being selected for the global business arena, according to a new Catalyst study.
A survey conducted on this issue by ‘Women in Global Business’, has come up with an assumption that women encounter more work/life conflict managing a global schedule.
It was also deduced that clients outside the US are not as comfortable doing business with women as they are with men. 76 percent of women expatriates said being a woman had a positive or neutral impact on their effectiveness overseas.
The journey to women empowerment has been a hard one, but with women rising up to contest the societal stereotypes and domesticating ascriptions, the dream will be realised and opportunities will be equally shared irrespective of a person’s gender.