That male-domination of the political arena is to blame for Kenya’s numerous problems is not debatable. Accountability, mobilisation of civil participation and fair distribution of power and resources is not about brainpower; it is about having the talent to form opinions and talent, which as we know, is not natural to men. On the other hand, with talent you can embark on serious training, acquire brain and will-power, gain experience and then excel. It therefore makes more sense, contends LYDIA GATUNDU-GALAVU, to have women leaders who can be trained to excel than to have male leaders who cannot be trained to acquire talent.
The current media focus on violence against women in leadership has ignited an interesting tea break debate in the office. The motion: woman for president.
For now, answers are elusive because there is no absolute truth in tea break debates. There is only subjective truth that evolves from consensus through hard facts and tangible evidence.
The opponents want to know what sort of tangible transformation a woman would bring a nation where it often seems that constructive development (education and healthcare) is less important than political glory.
The proponents acknowledge that is a tough feat for anyone aspiring to be president of Kenya; a feat fit only for the strong-willed, creative, innovative and talented kind. But, isn’t talent natural to a woman?
Short, tall, professor, “mama mboga”, you name her; all women have one thing in common: the in-born talent of multi-tasking. To successfully multi-tasking. One would normally require organising and management skills, and on top of that a substantial amount of experience, brain power and will power. Yet women do it intuitively.
A woman can change a baby’s nappy with one hand, give a telephone interview on the office new strategic plan with the other; and with handset locked between neck and cheek, make stern corrective gestures to a naughty toddler. While all this is happening, her mind is planning the evening menu and sorting an appropriate dress for tomorrow’s board meeting.
The opponents are amused. The issue of concern here is talent for leadership and not domestic gymnastics.
True but the right talents are the prerequisite for excellence in all roles.
And what, pray, are the right talents?
The kind that constitutes a person’s drive, thinking and relationship- building; the art of forming opinions, empathy, assertiveness and humility. More than experience, brainpower and will power, great leaders have the right talents.
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The proponents of woman president for Kenya go on to postulate the brilliant relation of these qualities to a woman’s nature. Think of a housewife’s ability to form opinions, empathy in mothers or the assertiveness of “Mama Mboga”. These intuitive talents are natural and cannot be taught, but they are most important in job performance. Brainpower and will power on the other hand, are not intuitive and can be learnt.
The opponents: So are you saying it is possible to have brain and will power and be a non-performer because you do not have talent?
Absolutely, the poor state of our male-dominated political arena attests to this. Accountability, mobilisation of civil participation, fair distribution of power, wealth and resources is not about brainpower; it is about having the talent to form opinions and talent, which as we know, is not natural to men. On the other hand, with talent you can embark on some serious training, acquire brain and will power, gain experience and excel. It therefore makes more sense to have women leaders who can be trained to excel than to have male leaders who cannot be trained to acquire talent.
What of resilience; can a woman stand up to the rigor of political campaigns?
Resilience, my foot! The average woman is the first to wake up every morning and the last to retire to bed every night. She practically runs the household. She will fetch water and firewood, cook, prepare children and husband for the day, feed the cat and the goats, go to the “shamba”, clean the compound, nurse the sick and generally coordinate her physical motions at high tempo so as to get time slotted in for fine things.
Yes, things like weaving intricate patterns with fiber to make a mat or a sweater, and transforming a lump of dirt into a beautiful pot. Making fine art requires painstaking patience, determination, and eagerness to learn new and innovative styles – and compromise. Character building fit for a great leader. Give a woman a rowdy crowd of euphoric political supporters and she will be the last to break her back.
How about support; can a woman garner enough populace to sustain a competitive campaign? Many women are members of co-operative, development, church or other groups. They meet regularly to organize activities, visit homes that need support for instance during weddings, funerals and other social activities. A woman will know which household has a sick member, an exam candidate or other trying family issue. A woman’s network is wide and she whose curriculum vitae reads, mother, wife, potter, treasurer of women’s league, group coordinator, teacher and so on likely owns a name that is more familiar to the region than the local Member of Parliament.
OK, talent of running a home and the village group may help a woman nurture her constituency with ease but what of parliamentary and party politics? Not so easy ropes to pull, are they?
That’s gamesmanship. She will learn.
When Segolene Royal, a former Socialist party presidential aspirant in France applied “Participatory democracy” as her catch-phrase, she was not just speaking human rights; she was talking of the right talents that are in essence, the strengths of a woman.
Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of a political group to make meaningful contributions to decision-making, and seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to such opportunities.Participatory democracy has the potential to engender an active civil society, a socially just economy, and a democracy that serves to channel the interests of the people.
The talent of humility breeds equitable distribution of resources, with empathy there will be no war, with assertion there will be no gender inequality, qualities that tap into the real emotions of real people. So are you going to step over to our side and join us in saying that all opportunities equal, a woman would make a better president?
The opponents are apprehensive. So what went wrong with Segolene Royal, then?
Did we mention gamesmanship? Let’s commend Royal for her efforts, then focus back home and pep up our women political aspirants instead of punching them.
Might you be implying that our women political aspirants are being subjected to violence because their multi-talents pose a threat to their male counterparts?
Office tea break over, that’s a debate for another day.