Development, Society, Uncategorized, Women Rights

How Can Women Lead Better?

On leadership

As a women’s rights activist, my heart warms up when I meet, read and hear about women leaders that are transforming people’s lives and society. I get delighted to learn more about their leadership journey, triumphant stories and struggles. In addition, I most importantly want to learn the lessons to avoid the pit falls they have encountered.

Often, what we see and hear is the success story. We hardly get to hear the story behind the story. The behind story includes overcoming marginalization, stereotyping, rejections, betrayals, the days she felt like giving up, the burn out, depression and the traumatic experiences amongst others.

A research conducted by Akina Mama wa Afrika with support from Hivos East Africa revealed that one of the reasons women shy away from taking up positions of leadership is that it confers added responsibilities. Yet, it is in these arenas that women can influence the reversal of their prevailing predicaments.

Women need to know that taking on added responsibilities as a leader obviously comes at a cost. These include: time away from family and friends, long hours at work, limited time for self-care and personal development, etc.

It is a fact that success does not come easy.Thus, as women we need to find ways of mitigating the negative costs if we are to sustain the gains of getting more women in power and decision-making positions.

What support mechanisms are we putting in place to enable women leaders perform optimally? How are we transforming our systems and structures to address the structural barriers? Are we creating spaces for reflection and learning for women in leadership to share experiences or peer-to-peer reviews? How are we creating spaces for mentorship and coaching to groom new leaders? Are we addressing the right attitudes needed by women in taking up critical leadership positions?

The support system need to include women role models for others to emulate. These role models need to write their stories to inspire the others into leadership. It should not only stop at this but to have empowerment drives for every woman from the lowest to the highest strata of authority. The intentionalityit is, the better the women will lead.

This year 2017, Akina Mama wa Afrika is celebrating 20 years of feminist and transformational leadership development through its African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) that has thus far graduated over 4,000 African women. Our alumni have since taken up various positions of leadership and are effectively influencing the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights on the African continent.

As we push towards gender parity in leadership, we need a renewed conversation on how we can support women to lead better, effect change in their own lives and communities and effectively participate in leadership and decision-making.

-Eunice Musiime

Society, Women Rights

How mothers can raise feminist sons

Boys washing plates.jpg

Many of us must have watched this commercial that seeks to promote a new women’ television station and are wondering how come the regulator has not recalled it nor has there been massive public outcry.  Yet it is sending the wrong message to our children on gender stereotypes. It actually exemplifies the pervasiveness of misogyny in our society. It goes “who does all the chores?” and the answer “girls” who takes selfies and the answer “girls” and on and on it goes.  When little girls and boys watch this absurd commercial, they don’t just accept this as the norm but it shapes their long term perspective. This is how stereotypes hurt all of us and are passed on from generation to generation.

In fact my sons have already started to refer to this advert to challenge some of my efforts to reject gender stereotypes. The generation of kids we are raising need feminist men and women more than ever. And not just “oh, men and women are equal” but feminist men who will stand to men who aren’t and say “No, that is not ok”

In previous engagements, many feminists have shared that it is critical for us to begin early to create gender awareness. Between the age of three and five the consciousness of gender transforms into solidified opinions informed by the culture around children. What they learn about gender at this young age will shape their world view. For example, Dr. Maggie Kigozi who has broken many ceilings, being among the first woman in male dominated sectors, at recent Women in Leadership platform asked why girls are given dolls to play with while boys are provided with science gadgets to stimulate their minds and then we continue to decry the dominance of men in STEM.

As mothers it is also important to lead by example and show our sons that women are just as strong, smart, just as capable. We have to share stories of amazing things that women have done historically and doing now. The other critical thing is to ensure that when they say things that uphold oppressive social norms is to immediately correct him. I know kids pick up a lot of stuff at school but we can counter it. When my sons go to school and their friends’ call girls names, I want them to be able to say “Man that is not cool.” On the other hand I will also let my sons know that it is okay to cry and help them redefine strength if his instinct is to clench his fist.

We also need to de-emphasize labor division in the home and the whole stereotype that girls cook and do dishes while boys sit and watch television or help daddy wash the car must be tackled head on. There is no women’s work. There is no mans work. There is work and we are a team. Every member is valuable.

There is definitely no silver bullet as to how to raise sons to respect women, but instilling the value of gender equality from birth means that our sons will be better equipped to operate in a world where women are increasingly and rightfully in positions of power. I can only hope that by planting seeds which grow into the movement that will.

~Eunice Musiime