Saturday, July 9, 2011


As the world continues to be fixated by the wonders of social media, and thousands of videos of ordinary and not so ordinary people become accessible daily on the internet, it is no small wonder that the video of female Afghan parliamentarians engaged in fisticuffs after a round of shoe and bottle throwing between two of its MPs has gone viral on the internet. The two actors in the drama, General Nazifa Zaki and Ms. Hamida Ahmadzai apparently were contending over the possibility that their neighbour Pakistan was responsible for firing rockets into their country before they decided that the best way to reach a consensus was through physical combat.

While the picture of female politicians brawling during a parliamentary session is funny, it is no doubt an unflattering one, especially in a country where women were denied such rights as they currently enjoy in the days when the Taliban held sway. The incident between the Afghan MPs has a negative impact on female politics generally,not because this is the first time in the history of the world that we are seeing senators/parliamentarians metamorphose into karate loving Jet Lis and Jackie Chans while debating issues, but because in a patriarchal world that enjoys its double standards, women will always receive the most lashing for mimicking "the boys."

The recent election of 26 women into the Nigerian National Assembly was applauded by most Nigerians as a sign of commitment to give women a stronger voice in politics, yet with the Afghan video and the lesson of our own "fall girls" (remember Patricia Etteh?), one cannot help but pray that these women show exemplary leadership and resist the urge to just sit pretty and heavy decked with assorted jewelries, and playing to perfection the act of glorified accessories in the National Assembly. Women in developing countries like our own where cultural influences still hold us chained to the past, need to put extra effort in everything they do. They must never forget that their male colleagues will get away with a lot more than they will ever get away with, (Dimeji Bankole is yet to be hung with the same political noose that snuffed the life out of Etteh's career after making away with more money than she was accused of embezzling. You catch my drift?)

It is time for women in this part of the world to rise to the challenge of being good politicians. After all before the advent of the white man, African women did more than cook and take care of their families. They went to war, sat in councils and worked hand in hand with their men folk to ensure a smooth running of their societies. So it is expedient that women take their roles seriously before they are accorded the respect they demand. Women must go beyond the court jester roles they play in politics. Our own Sarah Jibril whose run for the presidency seems to be based on the need of her male dominated and controlled party for a comic relief, is one of those women who reinforce the belief that women should be merely tolerated in politics and not taken seriously. Her speech at the last presidential primaries where she contested with the current President Goodluck and former Vice President Atiku was not only light weight and dramatic, it was downright cringe worthy. The patronizing smiles on the faces of the delegates at the venue of the primaries while she spoke was painful to watch. While her bold attempts to vie for the office of the president is commendable, I hope that the new crop of female politicians fare better than her.

In conclusion, women need to move beyond docility in politics and I am not talking about descending to the level of motor park touts or professional wrestlers. I believe that the only way women can be a force to be reckoned with in politics is by breaking free from society's constrictions and aggressively push for a stronger voice without losing sight of the goal to bring change and progress side by side the men.

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