I’ve been thinking a lot about a talk that I heard about two weeks ago, entitled “Give us the Women; women in politics.” Two of them are MPs in the current Parliament (Jessie Majome and Tabetha Kanengoni), one is involved in civic society (Tendai Garwe) and the fourth a journalist(Delta Ndou).
At some point of the discussion, Delta brought up that female politicians cannot seem to separate their personal lives from their political personas. She cited the fact that in a lot of interviews, they bring up the fact that they are “Member of Parliament of X constituency, chairperson of Board Y and proud grandmother of three”. I don’t know how many children most male politicians have (though I’m sure most of them aren’t too sure either;p). Admittedly journalists themselves play a huge part in what comes out in the media. They are more than likely to ask a woman about her family and where she does her shopping than they would a man. It’s just how our society works. Delta’s point however, was that women often let journalists get away with it. They don’t set out boundaries because they enjoy bragging about their families. And it’s not hard to see why. Taking care of a family is a job on its own, so why should women not brag about how wonderful a family they have reared?
Kanengoni said she would not consider doing what she perceived to be trying to “act like a man”. She believes that what makes sets woman apart from her male counterparts is that she supposedly has that “natural” nurturing characteristic. And it might be true. But it also might be the main reason why girls aren’t running this world yet.
Delta also expressed a wish that one woman would get up in parliament and push an agenda that is not Gender Based Violence or women health issues. Issues that are generally considered “women issues”. But “women” is too general a term. Which women are we talking about? The old grandmother in rural Masvingo? The single mother in Chitungwiza? The married company executive in Borrowdale? Or the young woman at UZ? All can be considered Zimbabwean women but their issues can never be the same. Therefore the issues that the female politicians keep pushing in parliament cannot be blanket issues.
We can take a look at the recent Salary-gate scandal. While women were fighting for “gender issues” and showing off their grandchildren, male politicians were busy approving heinous salaries for each other, and decreasing the budget for other critical sectors such as education. And corruption ultimately becomes a gender issue does it not?
The ones who often have to deal with children not going to school are the women. And even if your children can go to school; what will happen is that they too will grow up in a society that raises women to believe that their place in society is static. That their place in politics is in the women’s little corner of “Gender issues”.
And so the cycle goes on. But how do we break it without halting the progress being made in the pertinent “gender” issues of GBV and the like. Strike a balance. We need women who will be willing to just be politicians. Not politician cum grandmother who thinks it more important to be finding out what your angry and drunk husband did to you last night when you questioned him about his late nights as opposed to demanding where the diamonds money is going. We need more politicians who happen to be women and less women who happen to be politicians.