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Excuse me! Am not His Shadow

When will men in Africa awake from patriarchal stance? When will our fathers, brothers and partners understand that though behind every successful man there is a powerful woman, it is not obvious that successful men are behind every powerful woman?

On the 10th August 2009 while on a diplomatic mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was confronted by a question rooted in divine sexism. A male university student asked Madam State Secretary what Mr. Bill Clinton thinks about the involvement of China and the World Bank in contracts in the Congo.

“My husband is not the Secretary of State, I am! So you ask me what I think, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channelling my husband”. Hillary answered boldly and unwaveringly.

Reports by both local and international media about this event have been followed by a lot criticism. Her answer was not sweet honey for the men living in the cocoon of gender inequality. Hillary Clinton, the devoted spouse turned out not to be quite the cliché expected. From time to time in her rise to power, Mrs. Clinton contributed her personal opinion on Mr. Bill Clinton’s account but it was not to be this time round. She refused to allow her intellect, skill and the power within her be assessed under the shadow of her husband.

While some pundits say that she was a mess at an international diplomatic forum describing her answer as disrespectful, unservile and undiplomatic, others like me thought “How so? Hillary Clinton did not earn her credential as the Secretary of State because she bears the last name of Mr. Bill Clinton who happens to be a former President of USA”. She proved to the whole world that she is a worthy leader, driven by a powerful force that desires gender equality. When she broke that glass sealing seeking the mandate of the people, men and women alike for the highest office, she did not run in politics as a former first lady but as a lawyer and senator.

Ideally, the question from whatever angle it was asked was examining the ability and wisdom of a woman leader. It aimed at challenging the power of a woman, the circumstances for which she acquires power and the influence of that power. Moreover, the question bore the uncensored description of the marginal role of women as defined by the rule of men in Africa.

In her eleven day mission to Africa, travelling from Nairobi to Johannesburg to Kinshasa, Hillary was confronted by this marginalization of women. Her role as a leader was to speak on behalf of and raise the platform where women in Africa can participate in an equal footing with men in all sectors of development and every institution in society. In Kenya, she portrayed the power of women in the family institution. When confronted by the question of one Godwin Kemboi, a Kenyan man who in 2001 offered Mr. Bill Clinton a herd of cattle and goats in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Mrs. Clinton elevated Chelsea to a powerful position that only Chelsea, not her father, can make decisions concerning her own life. It was a hard lesson to be learnt by African fathers who force their daughters into marriage denying them the right of choice.

In South Africa, Hillary said how “a very famous credit company” turned down her application to have a card in her name and requesting that she may have a supplementary card to her husband. Mrs Clinton was identifying with the humiliation that African women entrepreneurs go through when denied credit by banking institutions because all collateral is in their husbands’ names. In fact, at a time when the world is suffering a recession after many years of the world’s economy being in the watch of men, Hillary challenged critics that undermine women’s power to do meaningful business. She praised the microcredit revolution that has believed in the credibility of women as entrepreneurs and urged institution to access credit to women and foster development in the continent.

It must be noted that Clinton’s trip to Africa was aimed at boosting economic ties of the continent with the rest of the world. The fact that Africa’s prime income earner is in agriculture, women who make over 70% of farm labourers earn and eat the least from the production they sweat in the sun to bring forth. Additionally, women in Africa are sidelined in the decision making process and negotiations of prices of agricultural produce. From the local farmers meetings, the absence of women is noticeable because when the men gather to negotiate with government and development agency officials, the poor women are toiling in their farms.

So, when the question comes asking Hillary to give the opinion of her husband or whoever else concerning contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, man had pressed on the wrong button. The power of a woman calls more on humanitarian action and less on self interests and political power play. In a country where men seek to accumulate power and wealth at the expense of the wellbeing women and children who suffer the atrocities of war, irritability such as Hillary displayed is justified. It was in bad taste to ask a questioned framed in prejudice and bias against the power of women knowing well enough that there are women in Goma, the backyard of Kinshasa who have suffered rape in the advent of war. It is in bad taste for the media to overlook the need to highlight the sufferings of women in DRC during Hillary Clinton’s visit. Her call to the international community to end the war in DRC and protect women from falling victim to soldiers and militia who use rape on women as a weapon of war has been watered down by petty politics. It is a big shame to the media since it has once again turned attention from a grave issue affecting women in Africa and focused on maintaining power to the male dominated economics and politics.

For many women leaders in Africa who struggle to break through the cultural barriers of gender inequality, Hillary Clinton is our icon of audacity. While African men cannot stomach the presence of a woman who dares to cut asunder the structures of patriarchy and blocks of dictatorship, her courage to level the playing ground for both men and women cannot be overlooked. We can only but join her to voice the need for world to respect women for who they are not because of the men tied to them.

Comments

jap21's picture

Hi Lin

How powerful does a woman need to get to be heard by men in this world? I guess no position is enough for them. I know that Hillary will show us the way all along. I would love to see the picture of the faces of men when she said that about her husband. It is bold, and very true: she has gained her salary and her place on her own, end of discussion.

Thanks for clarifying this for the world, and specially for the sisters who do not like to see the power of men diminished by the enlightment of a woman. It is just jealousy, a low feeling all women need to work on at some stage of our lives. Let us forget about small matters and focus on the special greatness of the moment: what a wonderful time it is for us to become achievers, and accompany Hillary on her way.

Thank you for posting this,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

mamaAfrica's picture

Hopes it fits an OP/ED

Thank you Jackie

I have been off for a while now. Just posted this hoping it fits an op/ed thank you for your comment.

MamaAfrica

jodelight's picture

great thoughts

Hello,

I appreciate your thoughts on woman's rights and gender equality. Powerful! Women are not in men's shadows, we are showing that more each day.
best,
Jody

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Wow!

This is a strong piece. It engaged me from start to finish. I am thinking about your question to Jackie, though, and whether this works as an op-ed. I'll be honest that to me it reads more like a story about Hilary Clinton than your personal opinion, but I don't have suggestions about what to change, add, or delete. I am new to this, too! (Helpful, huh?) What do Carly and Erin think?

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

mamaAfrica's picture

thank you for the critic

Dear Jennifer

thank you for the Critic

I thought these lines carry my opinion

1. "When will men in Africa awake from patriarchal stance? When will our fathers, brothers and partners understand that though behind every successful man there is a powerful woman, it is not obvious that successful men are behind every powerful woman?"

2. Her answer was not sweet honey for the men living in the cocoon of gender inequality. Hillary Clinton, the devoted spouse turned out not to be quite the cliché expected. From time to time in her rise to power, Mrs. Clinton contributed her personal opinion on Mr. Bill Clinton’s account but it was not to be this time round. She refused to allow her intellect, skill and the power within her be assessed under the shadow of her husband.

3. "others like me thought “How so? Hillary Clinton did not earn her credential as the Secretary of State because she bears the last name of Mr. Bill Clinton who happens to be a former President of USA”. She proved to the whole world that she is a worthy leader, driven by a powerful force that desires gender equality. When she broke that glass sealing seeking the mandate of the people, men and women alike for the highest office, she did not as a former first lady bit a lawyer and senator."

Contrary to the idea that since she is the Secretary of state of USA her mission was only to represent the interests of her country 4. "Her role as a leader was to speak on behalf of and raise the platform where women in Africa can participate in an equal footing with men in all sectors of development and every institution in society." I gave examples of how and where she identified with African women in their circumstances and situations

5. "Additionally, women in Africa are sidelined in the decision making process and negotiations of prices of agricultural produce. From the local farmers meetings, the absence of women is noticeable because when the men gather to negotiate with government and development agency officials, the poor women are toiling in their farms."

I think this paragrapgh is full of my opinion. 6. "So, when the question comes asking Hillary to give the opinion of her husband or whoever else concerning contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, man had pressed on the wrong button. The power of a woman calls more on humanitarian action and less on self interests and political power play. In a country where men seek to accumulate power and wealth at the expense of the wellbeing women and children who suffer the atrocities of war, irritability such as Hillary displayed is justified. It was in bad taste to ask a questioned framed in prejudice and bias against the power of women knowing well enough that there are women in Goma, the backyard of Kinshasa who have suffered rape in the advent of war. It is in bad taste for the media to overlook the need to highlight the sufferings of women in DRC during Hillary Clinton’s visit. Her call to the international community to end the war in DRC and protect women from falling victim to soldiers and militia who use rape on women as a weapon of war has been watered down by petty politics. It is a big shame to the media since they have once again turned attention from a grave issue affecting women in Africa and focused on maintaining power to the male dominated economics and politics."

My argument here is that if one is probably asked what did Hillary Clinton do in DRC? The first answer that pops up is She "rudely" answered back at male student. This is so because the media has highlighted more clips of her answer to that student that her call to protect the lives of Congolese women surviving rape. But for the sake of women in Africa what is the most important news? I believe the later is.

Also thought the conclusion is my opinion "Hillary Clinton is our icon of audacity. While African men cannot stomach the presence of a woman who dares to cut asunder the structures of patriarchy and blocks of dictatorship, her courage to level the playing ground for both men and women cannot be overlooked. We can only but join her to voice the need for world to respect women for who they are not because of the men tied to them."

Would be glad to be told how else to have written it. Or specific areas that need to be strengthened so it wont be more like a story about Hillary.

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Ignore me!

Hi! I was being totally honest that op-eds are as new to me as they are to you. I hope I didn't make you think your op-ed was anything less than superb.

Love,
Jennifer

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

mamaAfrica's picture

It is well

Hej Jennifer

It is well. Thanks

misscarly's picture

I wholeheartedly agree with

I wholeheartedly agree with Jennifer, this is a great article that engaging the reader entirely. Great work! You very strongly and clearly create an argument for why Hillary is an icon for women who want to stand on their own two feet and be recognized.

When it comes to reflecting your opinion, I think your opening paragraphs accurately reflect the focus of the article that women should not remain in the shadow of men. I think that the power of this drifts off a little in the end, which is why it seems to be less 'opinion' overall. The final paragraphs argue less for getting out of the shadow than for recognizing Hillary Clinton as as icon of audacity. Does that make sense? The article shifts to focus on convincing the reader that she is a role model for women.

I don't think you need to do much re-writing. One of the things that I always think is so important is the transition between paragraphs and the first sentence of a paragraph. How do you take readers from one thought to the next? How can you set the mood for the rest of the paragraph within the first line. The two paragraphs that begin "It must be noted..." and "So when the question comes..." would better reflect the sense of an opinion piece if you made a strong statement at the beginning that carried through the following sentences.

If you just work to get these starters sentence to share the intensity of your opening paragraph, then I think there will be a much stronger sense of opinion carried throughout. Let me know if you have questions or would like clarification. It's a wonderful article and you should be very happy with it! You're almost finished!

with kindness,
carly diaz

mamaAfrica's picture

Noted

Dear Misscarly

Thank you for you constructive input. I have noted your points and will consider in my revision

Thanks again

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