A patriarchal society is one in which men appropriate all social roles and keep women in subordinate positions. Culture and religion have contributed heavily to the role and subordination of women in the society in terms of women taking up leadership positions and their voting patterns.
I recently watched a Nigerian movie where a newly-wed couple was expecting their first child. The mother in law to the wife was so happy and kept on saying how she was happy that his son was going to have an heir. Mark you, the couple had not revealed the sex of the child, they wanted it to be a surprise. Fast forward and a baby girl is born. This is where the mother-in-law gets out of her head by telling the new mother how cursed she is that she’s given birth to a baby girl. She even advises her son to get another woman who will bear her a baby boy.
The above is not really a unique case in the African traditional culture. It depicts the alleged importance placed on the boy child compared to the girl child. A few years ago, boys were being educated more compared to girls and they are also socialized differently. Men are socialized to view themselves as breadwinners and heads of households whilst females are taught how to be good mothers and home-makers. A woman’s sexuality is further defined for her, as she is taught how to use it for the benefit of the male race. Furthermore, the society expects men to be stronger and in fact, if you find a boy or man who cries easily or is shy, he’s usually shamed for behaving like a girl. That’s why women who are viewed as being strong, and especially those who venture into politics and other high profile roles are usually termed as women of steel. This is the single-handed work of a patriarchal society.
Different religions have contributed to the interference with women’s desires to lead and even vote by insisting on the subordinate role of the woman. In Islam for example, the pre-Islamic law inhibits women aspiring to be leaders and discourages faithfuls from vouching for a female leader. This could be interpreted differently in different contexts but the common context is in the case of commanding armed forces.
No people will ever succeed if they hand their affairs to a woman لَنْ يُفْلِحَ قَوْمٌ وَلَّوْا أَمْرَهُمْ امْرَأَةً
Quran 33:33 also states that women are religiously required to remain in their houses and to undertake the important task of taking care of their home and offspring. This could still be interpreted differently by different people.
Am glad this trend is slowly changing as we can see different Muslim women take up high profile roles in organizations and government. For example, The Cabinet Secretary for Home affairs is a Muslim woman, so is the former nominated MP for Kisauni Constituency.
In Christianity, a woman has been allegedly depicted as a second-class citizen for the fact that she was created from man. It’s even worse when Eve ate the forbidden fruit first, something that has been allegedly construed as women being the weaker sex because she gave in to the serpent’s temptation. Furthermore, Proverbs 31 explains what a woman is expected to do or how she’s supposed to behave. And many of us wonder how we can ever measure up to such a humble, hardworking and godly woman. She is referred to as the virtuous woman.
Others would even argue that the fact that Jesus’ disciples were all men means that the Bible also failed to elevate the role of women from being just home-makers.
Women In Leadership
In many organizations, including the ones I’ve worked for, very few women are found at the top most leadership positions. In fact, majority of the women will be found occupying the allegedly less challenging positions like customer care or front office, secretarial or clerical positions.
The same case can be said to be true in our government. As much as the recently held election saw more women take up legislative roles compared to the previous elections, the numbers are still very low even with 2/3 gender rule enshrined in the constitution. The National Assembly failed to pass the legislation and adjourned indefinitely to allow members to start campaigning for the just concluded general election.
In the recently concluded elections, out of the 47 governors, women clinched three seats. We also have 3 women senators, 23 women MPs and 47 women reps. Some of these great women include Ms. Anne Mumbi Waiguru, who floored her political rival Martha Karus in the Kirinyaga County gubernatorial race, the youthful former journalist Naisula Lesuuda who won the Samburu West seat to become the first elected woman MP from the community, Joyce Laboso who won the Bomet County governorship and Ms. Susan Kihika who clinched the Nakuru County Senatorial seat, among others. Njoro Constituency in Nakuru County got its first female MP in its 25 years of existence.
Voting patterns differ between men and women. Personally, I am likely to vote for someone who has the interest of women and children at heart. This means someone whose manifesto is more inclined towards education, public health, youth and women empowerment. I have no doubt I share the sentiments with many women. In most countries, women occupy only a small fraction of legislative positions and are generally less likely to participate in politics (The World Bank 2012).
Another issue that affects voting patterns is traditional culture and religion. Like I said before, some religions and traditions thwart the idea of a female leader, so even other women in this case will be inclined to support a man rather than their fellow woman.
In my last article, I presented the challenges facing women in running for political offices. Bottom-line is, women candidates and voters continue to face violence, intimidation and harassment both on social media and in-person. The article also highlights a few cases of how women seeking leadership roles were harassed. This is something that has been spearheaded by a patriarchal society where men feel so superior enough to intimidate women.
Women play a significant role in nation-building efforts. However, the above patriarchal attitudes have to change in order to see more women take up leadership roles. The evidence on evolving attitudes towards women’s role in society suggest that cultural change may have contributed to political reform, by changing legisla-tors’ and voters’ views about the society they want to live in. This has however increased the conflict between the traditional roles of women and that which they seek for in reality. Achieving women participation in all spheres is key in strengthening the ongoing national reconstruction efforts.