Women's Equality Day

Dismantling patriarchy

A patriarchal system does not start at the ballot box. This oppressive system is a mindset that is ingrained in us from home.

In Summary

• Today, August 26, we celebrate Women's Equality Day, the day the US Congress put aside to commemorate 1920 Certification of the 19th Amendment to the constitution, granting women the right to vote.

• If everyone allowed themselves to be swallowed up by patriarchal systems, we would not have the likes of Liberia's former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman Head of State in Africa.  

Women empowerment
Women empowerment

 The first time you hear someone, especially a woman, say, “we must fight patriarchy”, most in our society will brand them as a 'feminist,' and not the good type.

A lot of negative stereotyping follows that label. We picture a frustrated female who happily is involved in male-bashing. But while not wanting to be drawn into a semantics war, a feminist is simply a person who wants and fights for women to be treated better and right.

I have also recently learned, and gladly so, that wanting to dismantle patriarchy is about fighting systems and institutions that oppress women. It is beyond compression that as you bring up your daughter or niece, you would want anyone to oppress them in any way or form.

 

A patriarchal system does not start at the ballot box. This oppressive system is a mindset that is ingrained in us from home. It starts when we don't tell our little girls they are equal to the task and can be all they want to be in life. We always think it is someone else's job to motivate them on this but its not. It is everyone's job to encourage our children on being their very best. It should be a reflection of what Hillary Clinton once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” 

It must be insisted to our children that there is no job labelled for 'women only' or 'men only.' We must also debunk the myth of top leadership being a 'male only' dominated arena. That indeed, both women and men can lead competently at every level of society.

Today, August 26, we celebrate Women's Equality Day, the day the US Congress put aside to commemorate 1920 Certification of the 19th Amendment to the constitution, granting women the right to vote.

One would think that by now, everyone in any society they find themselves in would know better. But that is not the case as clearly evidenced by ours. 

A patriarchal system gains expression in different ways in society. It teaches that women cannot achieve at a certain level. It is when women are equated to children — a level where it is assumed their thinking capacity is the same as a child's. It is when an idea is shot down in a boardroom simply because it came from a 'her' and not from a 'him.'

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award-winning Nigerian novelist and feminist, in her book titled, We Should All Be Feminists puts it well when she says, “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because l am female, l am supposed to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.”

She goes on to ask a critical question, “Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same?”

 

It then behooves us as a progressive society to question and do away with a system that is oppressive. A system that has allowed our minds to mindlessly accept statements like, “it is a man's world.” We don't ask ourselves what kind of messages we are sending to our children with zinjanthropus statements like these ones. 

If everyone allowed themselves to be swallowed up by patriarchal systems, we would not have the likes of Liberia's former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman Head of State in Africa.  

Several women had tried to run for President without much success, others comfortably believed it could never be done until President Sirleaf led the pack. Late President Nelson Mandela aptly put it when he said, “it seems impossible until it is done.”

 So YES. It can be done. Chimamanda notes, “Culture does not make people. People make culture.”

So not only can the two-thirds gender principle be achieved in Kenya but also an equal footing of 50-50 rule. Just because we are pulling our hairs right on its implementation through different interpretations of the law, it doesn't mean it can't be done.

Rwanda is a good example of where it has worked. Everyone's ideas on this issue matters. These ideas must all be interrogated and a resolution made to work in solidarity. 

Everyone deserves a seat at the decision-making table at every level of leadership in this country.

Actress and communications consultant