Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: Gender Hashtagtivism

International Women's Day. I was feeling a bit guilty for completely forgetting to write a piece that would hit on March 8th and then decided that March is International Women's Month so I would write a piece anyways. 

My #pledgeforparity under the #IWD2016 sub-theme "call for gender balanced leadership" is to petition my parliament to update its website to provide data on the gender breakdown of elected (not special-seats) parliamentarians:
"I visited the Tanzanian parliament's website with a simple question: how many of our elected legislators are women? After poking around various promising links for 15 minutes (that is equivalent to a month in online research time) I left without a quick and direct answer. Egalitarian? Sure. Weird? Definitely. Something the website admin should fix? Absolutely."
As we all know, information is key to activism. So, webmaster: do you mind? Two places where you can put this information come to mind- the Composition Link in the About Us section and as a column in the List of Members A-Z table in the Members of Parliament section. Also, you could have a section titled "Parliament through history" or something like that where you post the stats on the composition of previous parliaments and other interesting factoids about them. 

Also, this week's article is dedicated to that one irate commentator on my recent piece about education who accused me of being an out-of-touch bourgeoise who only complains but never provides solutions or does anything concrete. What a gross underestimation of my contributions to social development, sir! To be specific, I am an out-of-touch bourgeoise who can hashtagtivist with the best of them from the comfort of my armchair. See: I have just told my government what to do. #HappyWomen'sMonth!

PS: If gender and politics in Tanzania is one of your interests, I stumbled across this paper recently. Seems decent. 

PPS: Jay Kay was pretty keen on gender parity on politics during his reign, one of his better qualities. I never did agree with the various proposals on how to bring this about (the suggestion to have one male and one female representative for every constituency was the worst!) but I did appreciate the intent. I'm going to give the current administration a year before I make up my mind, but it feels particularly testosterone-driven so far. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: Dangerously Funny

I was maybe half a year or a year into writing for The East African and still high on the fumes of this totally incredible fricking unbelievable how-the-hell-did-it-even-happen opportunity when a colleague said to me: 'you know that they're reading this, don't you? The politicians and people you write about? Across five countries?'

I didn't really sleep that night. Until I told myself that this is The East African we're talking about, home to some of the continent's most fearless- and funny- politician-dissing veterans of free speech*. Everything would be just fine. And it has been**. And this sense of security hasn't been seriously shaken until today when I read this here article telling me that Gado will not be cartooning for the EA anymore.

The media and freedom of speech have been deteriorating in East Africa these past few years, I can feel it and I can see it and frankly it is why roughly a year or so ago I self-censored and stopped commenting on regional happenings to focus on Tanzania or general topics***. The EA and we residents of the region who had access to it have lost something incredibly valuable, and we might never get it back. :(
"His fans have been spoiled. We're used to taking for granted that when Monday rolls around one of the events guaranteed to make the start of the workweek slightly less dreadful would be Gado's skewering of some inanity, usually political. The last time Gado didn't show up in The East African as expected, there was a complete freakout online. He was forced to emerge from his little break to reassure us that he was alive and well and whatever horrors we were busy imagining were just that- imagined. A pretty strong indicator of the value placed on his work by its consumers, right?"
Little did we know...

*It is true that these veterans generally have a history of being seriously bullied by their governments, somehow survived and continue to be disdainful of despots.

**Turns out that the most dangerous thing that has ever happened to me is reading furious and unpleasant comments/emails from Kenyans. I annoy Kenyans a lot, it seems. I wonder why? Makes me sad because I like them ever so much. Especially their rugby team. Sigh. But seriously, the closest I have ever come to encountering official displeasure was a customs official at Julius Nyerere International who wasn't satisfied with my stated occupation of 'writer' and demanded to know if I was a journalist. When I assured him that I am not, he turned his frown upside down and wished me a pleasant trip. 

*** The reason I make fun of Kenyans is because I honest-to-God like them. They have a  fantastic sense of humor when they're not busy being mad at me for tweaking their ego. As an American said to me once, Kenyans are the Americans of East Africa, which I guess would make Tanzania the Canadians? As for Uganda, it is basically impossible to make more fun of their politicians, including the President, than they do themselves. Mad respect. However, I don't write about the other EAC countries anymore because [redacted] and that's [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] travel to [redacted] [redacted] regional integration. Know what I mean? 

A little birdie told me...

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