The core assumptions of realism (anarchy & sovereignty) reflect the ways in which males tend to interact and see the world. That possibly obtains the reason why majority of Head of States, diplomats and soldiers are men and may be why the “Realist Approach” simply assumes male participants when discussing Foreign Policy decisions, state sovereignty and use of military force. To me it makes some sense, I am a realist, but it is of course contentious.
Putting this gender issue into perspective in a bird’s-eye view, the question is, where is the space of women in the society leadership? Are they just the “others” or they do have a place in leadership? In 2005, a survey by Foreign Policy Magazine listed the 25 most influential International Relations scholars. All were men. Also, leaders of the G8 for a long time were all men until 2005 when Angela Merkel was elected leader of Germany – Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse, International Relations (2009). Coming down to the regional level, Africa only boosts of one female President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia. Further coming down to the national level, out of the 47 Counties in Kenya, we don’t have a single woman as a Governor.
What inhibits women from taking over leadership positions?
Gender roles based on the broader perspective or construction of masculinity as suitable to political spaces whereas femininity is associated with the sphere of private and domestic to me is not right. It is just another way of saying women belong to the kitchen. Assumptions that men fight wars and run states for me as much as is true, yes it is, is not to say that females are irrelevant. They have their role to play – because of their greater experience with nurturing and human relations, women are seen as potentially more effective than men (on average) in conflict resolution and group decision-making. It is them who either by circumstances or by choice, have opted to play second fiddle.
Despite women having the numbers during electoral process, only few have made it to leadership positions, globally and also here in Africa as well as Kenya. I feel women have allowed the tag “Women are their own enemies” used so many times to define them. They form the largest proportion of Africa’s population and with their diverse talents and abilities, it is time that they collaborate and develop an informed strategy with a common objective that is to influence to their benefit key social, political and economic sectors and their drivers. Failure to that, they will forever remain “potentially more effective than men”.
We have also corrupted the word gender to mean women by default. This is wrong. It makes the assumption and the perception that women are weaker which is not necessarily the case
Liberal feminists argue that ‘essential differences’ in men and women abilities are trivial and non-existent. That men and women are equal. That actually informs the problem. Men and women are and can’t be equal. Even from the good Book, man was created first; the woman was created from the man. Thus, the more they continue comparing themselves with men, the more they lose. Women should transform their way of thinking, attitudes and consider collaboration amongst themselves. Most importantly, they should collaborate and the word here is collaborate, with men to close the gaps in this repetitive cycles of leadership challenges.
My take on this will not however be influenced by a few of them who by chance have become powerful leaders. These include of Margret Thatcher, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Angela Merkel and the late Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. If you look at one of the mature democracies, the US, it has had only 3 Secretaries of State, which has come to be much later, how about in the developing democracies? We still haven’t shown confidence in women leadership.
There is a need for a tendency to gravitate towards the abundance mentality rather than towards scarcity. This will economically empower women and from there, they will be more informed. Education and information is key to facilitate women inclusion in leadership and development, access to wealth and decision-making. It is my opinion that to counter the “women are their own enemies” tag, it is imperative that successive women get back to their backgrounds and take others with them.
I am not very sure if given the chance, women will play the game basically the same way men do with similar results and outcomes, but what I am sure of is that women have an important role to play in the society & economy and empowering them is empowering the whole society in totality, This calls for different stake holders to collaborate. Empowering women involves making men understand the benefits of women empowerment. With that we really don’t need affirmative action and girl child activism.
By Eliud Kibii, International and Current Affairs Commentator