This years’ United Nations International Women’s Day has been marked with a greater deal of fanfare than most. It has given a lot of meaning to the UN’s Plan of Action that was sanctioned in Beijing 20 years ago. There is something to be gathered from this.
Gone are the days when the only women, politicians are fond of song and dance about improving the livelihood of the people and getting the country to a middle class level of affluence and little has been done to get agriculture to perform to the level that would give a take-off leverage to achieve that. And the moment one would think about that, they would have to think about improving the lot of the 80 percent of the people that are at the center of this effort – which has not been done to any appreciable point.
A country like the United States has only five percent of its population involved in agriculture and yet one can say that the US feeds the world – or at least, most of the developing countries. Thus, if the rural women of Uganda were given the empowerment necessary for this kind of development, it would make the men to take it easy, if they were not to get embarrassed as a result of exploitative idleness.
So, talking about the top women in public life in Uganda, the reference is often that, having women in these positions ensures transparency, accountability and no corruption. It is arguable that as they are novices in these positions they are still learning the ropes and that they still have a measure of morality from the backgrounds they have arisen. But as they get steeped in politics they get will dirtied.
In the 1960s there was a common motto that: “Black is Beautiful”, but a wag sometime later added that: “Black is Also Ugly, Damn It”. The reasoning here was that the situation was not all that rosy. This can be used to deduce that the same kind of dirt can easily infiltrate the same women that we now heap accolades on; and then the women can be as, or even, more destructive than their male counterparts.
Examples are not very far to get from Africa, itself. Two weeks ago Simone Gbagbo, the wife of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for heinous crimes she committed in defence of her husband, when he refused to hand over power after having been defeated in the elections. As First Lady, she is credited for having organized a militia of murderous youth who were responsible for killing up to 4,000 people. This is apart from the corruptly amassing of wealth that she did.
In her heyday, Lucy Kibaki, was the doom of many Kenyans. She even went to an extent of hitting a newsman who had the cheek to ask her a question she did not like – and she got away with it. This apart from embarrassing escapades she went on in limiting Mwai Kibaki’s fatherhood to only the children she had produced.
There is a lot to be said of today’s first ladies of Africa. For the sake of avoiding sub judice, it is difficult to name names. But some of these women have been implicated in all kinds of criminal activities, ranging from murders to property grabbing; this has been done as their husbands looked on, most likely with approval. And they have the gall to blame their accusers when the things get out of hand. But this is not to detract from the fact that women in Uganda have a greater deal of potential in development than their male counterparts.