Dr. Femi Kolapo

The two postings 1325 and 1326 raised crucial issues. Both also have made their points and I will add that I feel Agbali is justified in his critique of Alesinloye’s premise for advocating for women’s inclusion in Africa’s top political decision making bodies. Linking the crisis of Africa’s misgovernment, lack of transparency and responsiveness to the masses, and the absence of deep-rooted democracy to the exclusion of the female gender from top political positions or contrariwise to the sheer prevalence of the male gender is too simplistic and perhaps not entirely a liberating basis for which to call for gender equalization.

However, Alesinloye does make a point nonetheless. The general discrimination against women and their exclusion through tradition, custom, and other systemic and ideological apparatuses from the heights of political, economic, and cultural decision-making organs, a phenomenal that is rooted in most of Africa’s patriarchal socio-cultural set ups is itself a blight on social justice and the democratic principle. It is an indication of the continuing need for modernization struggle in Africa to continue to. Effective assault at the level of a serious enlightenment discourse that could transform reactionary aspects of our cultures and the categories around which “thinking” that maintains such discrimination and validates them in peoples’ mind is supported is yet to be seriously engaged in in most African countries.

Whatever criticisms might be levied against what used to be called maternal feminism, the point remains that there is a female perspective to political and economic and other issues and an application of such feminine-derived perspectives to decision making and to the choice of projects and ideas to implement within a given geopolitical setup might very well have increased political efficiency. There is no doubt that patriarchy and machismo have had a strong, if hidden, imprint on our laws, the make up of our institutions, the very idea of the big man or the breadwinner and its implication for governance, our governments’ view of the nature of labor or unions and their needs and significance, etc. In the same way, a feminine imprint could be expected to have impacted all areas of life of a nation in ways that would clearly be different than its masculine counterpart. While nobody will argue that feminine is good and masculine is evil, history seems to support the fact that societies with more female participation in decision making process have been generally more democratic, more egalitarian and less exploitative of and more responsive to the need of the lower classes.

In as much as the situation of women within the body politics of our modern African societies are informed by and are a response to their perceived femininity (as perceived by themselves, as well as by men) a equal participation of women in decision making at top levels of government would, in theory, diversify the underlining assumptions that framed many decisions and policies implemented by government bodies. This diversification would have been at the same time quantitative as well as qualitative; the former because over half the people who are always excluded would have their input registered in decision making, and the former in that these input would carry some female-derived redemptive egalitarian touch.

However, I would not go so far as to argue that the justification for women to be admitted into the governing political circles of our nations is based on the failure of men in government. Were men to have succeeded well, and had African nations under the governance of men been successful economically dynamic societies, the discrimination against the female that produces and reflects male domination would still remain an unwelcome blight on their “good performance”. In fact, not even in the Scandinavian countries, nor in the US where women’s struggle for equality with men has achieved a lot of success and where the proportion of high achieving women in all fields of endeavor is considerable and increasingly on the rise do women accept that good governance by men is sufficient ground for women’s exclusion from the presidency. That a female president has not been elected in the US speaks more about the undying nature of patriarchal influence in the mindset of everybody in that country than on whether men have shown exceptional performance in governance.

The point is that women are human just like men and all humans must have equal rights to participate in the privileges, rights, and duties that make our societies work for all of us. As they say, women’s right is human right. Our girls must be given all life opportunities that will situate them in an equal bargaining position with their boy counterparts and our women, supported by progressive thinking men, must continue to exploit all avenue to burst the strictures that men and society at large (including women) have foisted on democracy and citizenship within their nations. Men must come to realize that it is unfair and unjust and they and society are the poorer for it when they uphold principles, ideas, institutions, cultures and systems that continue to discriminate against women in our societies.