One solitary day, and the chauvinists come out of the woodwork, talking about lions

Tuesday March 19 2019

Kenyan women

Kenyan women at a business forum. To quantify the amount that women do, is a task impossible to put into figures. There are no rest hours, or retirement. PHOTO | NMG 

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There is just one day in a year when women fill your television screens, radio programmes and the newspapers, but is still drives some men crazy.

This past International Women’s Day, I happened to sit in a television panel on a local television station, and someone asked, “Why do you not have any man present up there?”

He was perplexed how four women were sitting around a table, being interviewed by a female presenter on top of that. I simply replied, “Well remember, when you were on television about three weeks ago, discussing the Gender Bill, and women in general, and how we do not support each other, naming a female politician and bashing her for bringing up personal matters? I do not recollect any female on that particular morning show you were a part of either.”

He smiled sheepishly. What is completely absurd is that what men were upset about during the broadcast on that particular day, taking their frustrations to social media, is what happens to women almost every day.

Finding a woman on a panel is now more likely to happen, but often we see only men. Not seeing women on television screens talking about issues or hearing them is common practice for us.

To be frank, the only time we witness deep culture, is during wedding ceremonies or funerals. How the elders hand over the bride, especially during negotiations, what is to be given to the family, how many cows must walk through the gate, with goats and chicken, even for those who grew up in the city and would squirm at the sight of seeing a goat being slaughtered.

Here one will have uncles discussing dowry and you have never seen them more than three times in your life. As a matter of fact, when they are estimating amounts, your opinion is non-existent and you are not present in any of the conversations. At this point, your very worth is left for men to discuss.

Does patriarchy exist? Or is it some imaginary monster that only extreme feminists seem to see?

Simple, before any couple weds, who receives most of the advice? It is the woman. The talks from the aunts, then the advice that comes without being asked for. Or the amount that is invested in her to make sure that the union will work.

Apparently marriage, which should be a tango for two, is in our culture a solo dance with a partner as a prop who doesn’t necessarily know any of the steps. When it comes to the children, it is congratulations to the man, and what next for the woman? Will you work? How?

During that International Women’s Day television broadcast, a man called in and began to talk about how the animal kingdom has an order led by males. He cited lions and elephants, and said that women are helpers. And that day I distinctly remember saying, when we look at bees, there is the queen bee in charge of the entire hive.

People find it surprising to learn that most hunting is performed by lionesses and not lions; they only come into play when the animal is too large, like an elephant, or buffalo. Otherwise, lions mostly depend on the females to do majority of the hunting.

To quantify the amount that women do, is a task impossible to put into figures. There are no rest hours, or retirement – to think of it, what is just one day?

Nerima Wako- Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. @NerimaW