the more things change...
“The more things change, the more they remain the same”. This is a quote from an old time classical movie THE COLOR PURPLE.
My dear sisters if you haven’t watched that movie, then please search around and get it. The setting might be that of slavery times/dark times in America but it surely stretches to everyday living.
Over the years women have come out strongly to fight for their rights. Feminists’ movements have been set out and governments have set out policies that have seen affirmative action take place. No doubt international NGO’s to Community Based Organizations have relentlessly pushed on the agenda of women empowerment.
This is the epitome of women empowerment; I was so thrilled and almost shouted “power to the woman!”That was the morning of May 2nd 2011 as I woke up and drew the window curtains. It was 8 am in the morning, next door was a building construction going on. Right on the 3rd floor I saw several women and men tirelessly working on what looked liked equal terms. A man would be pushing a wheelbarrow full of ballast and a woman was doing the same. They had old pieces of cloths tied around their head to protect their beautiful hair from the concrete mess.
I loved the view and breathed in the fresh air in this high altitude city of Addis Ababa surrounded by these beautiful hills. It was a gloomy morning since it had rained the previous night and I thought this was perfect for the workmanship at the construction site. As I stepped back from the window, a power cable caught my leg, it was connected to the TV set. I switched it on and the news on Aljazeera was intriguing.”Osama Bin Laden is dead”! it was announced over and over again. This was big news to the world. I sat on my bed and watched the continuous story for almost 15 minutes.
That was it, I stood up and looked out of the window again and the construction site was getting busier. The women were now placing bricks one on top of the other and the men had seemingly disappeared from the sight. I really cared less about the men at this point; if only I could speak in Amharic I would shout and tell the women that Osama Bin Laden is dead. My excitement then eased off a little and I started pondering on the impact of the news. Most people were ignorant or less bothered or even never cared about the happenings. It did not bring food to their table and thus none of their business.
The women had to still make their ends meet. In this part of the world women are given priority and it was obviously the case in the construction sites. This was amazing to me because from the part of the world that I come from, the scene at a construction site is totally different. All the workers are men and the only women you get to see around are those hawking food. They either cooked from their houses boiled maize and beans or set up fireplaces next to the site and cooked from there. By 3pm they are off and have done business for the day. They are conversant with the big news usually because as they serve the workers, often men discuss the stories making headline. By now I am sure you understand my excitement in seeing women literally constructing.
This became a common phenomenon as the days went by; I saw many more construction sites and many more women working. So I took time to ponder after having conversations with some through an Ethiopian friend of mine who spoke Amharic and translated. The truth is despite the fact that they had opportunities to work in the building industry, they were casual labourers on wages. They worked tirelessly on the paid job and still had to fulfil their domestic chores. The wages were meagre and the job very tasking but she had to make ends meet for her family. In some cases both husband and wife worked in the same construction site and earned the same amount of money. When they get back home in the evening she has to prepare the meals and make sure the husband and children have gone to bed before she retires. The next day in the morning she has to wake up earlier tend to the children before they head to school then she has to leave for work.
With the consent of equal opportunities, it is double effort for the woman. She is a go getter and relentless when reaching out for something. This reminded me of the clause I started off with. It remains a fact that the more things change,the more they remain the same!
By Cheptoo Chizupo
Fellow Arican Leadership Centre