To what extent is feminism radical? `
Feminism is, in other contextual terms, described as a movement supporting equal rights for women. Compared to other countries in southern Africa and the rest of the continent, Botswana women have slowly met and adapted to international trends set by feminists in developed countries.
Women organizations are now fighting tooth and nail to put their sermons to action. Judging by the growing number of different women empowerment associations in Gaborone alone, Batswana women mean business; it’s now a popular concept to hear of different groupings of a particular gender forming associations that are of benefit to themselves alone.
There is a proliferation of women’s organizations everywhere, including Botswana.
For example, there are associations such as Women in Business, Emang Basadi Women’s Association, Women in Finance, SADC Gender and Development Association, and Women’s Shelter, amongst others.
Even the First national bank, the country’s first national bank, has recognized the need to acknowledge the contribution bought by hard working women citizens by form of award ceremonies for best overall achievers.
Five Roses, the tea company, has also banked into the strategy of recognizing the impressive achievements of outstanding women who have made an impact and change in society by rewarding them with what it terms is due to them.
Feminism preaches empowerment for women, arguably, so far, the support given to Botswana feminist movements is heading the formations in the right direction as now even village women (who happen to be the most targeted for aid by these movements) are inspired to work hard to become somebody and receive the recognition they so rightly deserve.
Women also start to feel as if there is still hope left for career opportunities when they see their fellow females in positions of power.
Feminists are filled with pride and excitement at the prospect of independence and self-reliance, and they want the world to know that there will be no stopping them.
What with the passing of the SADC Gender and Development protocol by SADC heads of states around July, after years of ignored protests and intensive campaigns for signatures on the protocol? They had not been making much of an impact on this male infested committee of southern Africa until recently.
“It’s against our culture to make a law that governs some of these drawn up issues, such as the marital rape act, which recognizes marital rape as a crime and the cohabitation act,” they were reported to have said the 2008 SADC summit.
And, of course, in their quest to fight for equality, they have rubbed up some of their male counterparts the wrong way.
What with a local weekly featuring an academic-cum-columnist calling some of the activists “sexually frustrated feminists”?
And even some men involved in the media business complain as to how far women are taking the whole feminist business.
“My other female co-worker would even refuse to take minutes in an editorial meeting, stating that she is not a secretary and that we were sexist because we expected that she should take notes because she was a woman,” said a male journalist.
Though it may be difficult to be objective, it would be of great injustice to omit the fact that men are becoming insecure and are unsure of their positions today, unlike a few years ago.
Back in the day when culture played a big part in the lives of Batswana, women were second best to men in everyday decision made. In fact, one feminist said it was women who were expected to become slaves to men, be caretakers, behave like their children; they were considered to not be brainy enough to think for themselves.
Men now know feminist movements are being taken seriously, that is to say, in a few years to come hiring a person on the basis of their gender will no longer be an issue.
A few years ago, one would have said a statement like that was nothing short of a dream. The signed SADC gender protocol was a giant leap in the feminist light, because it shows that those in the right place are starting to loosen up and take notice.
Some men are uncomfortable with the issue of women embracing their femininity and wanting to have their rights recognized.
“These women associations say they are fighting for equality but they are acting as if men don’t even exist; these days it’s always women this, women that; it just gets a bit too much,” says Jack Monei, a 31-year-old Gaborone resident.
Could it be because men are threatened by the vehemence at which women are insisting on their equal rights after years of suffering in silence? Or could it be envy, looking at the fact that women groups work together to achieve an equal goal in a very orientated and focused manner.
After all, there are many women’s organizations and none for men. There is even a Department of Women’s Affairs in government and none for men.
Are men starting to realize that maybe they are not the stronger sex, after all? Could it be the dedication these women give in their fights for equality that annoys them?
Highly respectable, educated and intelligent women, like University of Botswana professors, Elsie Alexander and Maude Dikobe, to name a few, are not being given enough recognition for their intensive feminist work where they try to make a difference for the woman who can’t speak for herself, despite their experience in the field, despite the fights they put up with those in power positions, for the right of the woman to be recognized.
According to Monei, the concept of independence gets to women and messes up their heads, as one should observe, most of these feminists are not married or ever in a successful relationship because they are busy making everything about themselves.
But what exactly does the role of feminism entail and does it have a limit?
One friend once mentioned an interesting scenario where he asked what women mean by equality between the sexes.
“Are you saying that if, for example, I was your boyfriend/husband, then we travel in your car, I vouched to drive and we get a puncture on the way, am I supposed to let you change the tyre because I was driving and we should be equal in all we do? A real man would not let his woman do such, even if you were driving, I would still have to fix the tyre because I am a man and I am stronger than you; that’s not to say I won’t help in the kitchen, but I will not polish the floor, that’s extreme,” says Percy.