Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mambo ya Beijing.

Happy belated International Women's Day. How did you celebrate? I watched the Oscars... after Tanesco ensured we missed the opening extravaganza. It seemed to be a good day for women in the industry: Bigelow, Bullock, Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Gyllenhaal, a handful of grand dames. And an average time was had by all.

In the papers today, a couple of media houses picked up on Jay Kay's speech at the national celebration of Women's Day held in Tabora. I tell you, CCM will 'celebrate' anything that can put the leadership on a podium with a thematic t-shirt and cap*. The president was basically reiterating his desire to see more women achieve positions of power and leadership in his administration. This is 'mambo ya beijing' in action: lots of pomp, iffy content. I wish he would think things through a little bit. Nothing said there challenged the status quo.

Beijing has become our code word for all issues pertaining to women and their rights. Mambo ya Beijing- literally Beijing Issues- and not feminism, because we still haven't recovered from the discovery and import of this new political front at the Fourth World Conference on Women held in 1995. How are we faring 15 years later?

A few days ago, I asked My Lady of the Weary Smiles what she thought of Umoja wa Wanawake Tanzania (the horribly misnamed CCM Women's League). Let's just say she wasn't in the least bit impressed, on the premise that the Women's League has been useless at representing women and remained an organ for co-opting the women's vote during elections. She was slightly kinder towards the feminist NGOs because if nothing else, at least they were not draining public monies. Some have even been known to bring women's issues to the political arena.

I figure that her summary is quite valid: what our women politicians say and what they practice has little or nothing to do with improving the lives of other women. Feminist organizations are struggling to perform any better. These things take time. When my generation of feminists of all stripes chooses to organize politically, it will be infinitely more interesting than all the 'gender mainstreaming' that's been going on. Until then...mambo ya beijing.


  1. El presidente should look for best practices from his neighbor - According to WB's Africa Devpt Indicators 2010, Rwanda has the highest number of women as share of total seats in Parliament, 56.3% (highest in world too). Of course it makes me cringe with the thought "they got that through creating a bloated parliament".. but maybe i am just hating..

  2. Hey Kadawa, and thank you for the comment. I am sorry to disagree with you on this point: Rwanda has a lot of women in parliament for a negative reason, not a positive one. There is a correlation between women governing and their men being called to war. Does this mean that the Rwandese have a deep-seated respect for women and an acceptance of their role in public life? I remain skeptical...


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