" How is a woman expected to lead a man?" Jauntily snickering between each word. An existential question sprung on me, first thing in the morning, by a friend whom it would be impossible to escape due to our assignment. We stood at a water pump, on a dirt road pressed into an obstacle ridden mystery trail that connects thousands of people in an inconceivably narrow yet packed neighborhood.
A kind of gunk shot up my throat. Idled in my cheek, right at the edge of the lips. A cataclysm wiping out edifices of decorum built on decades of conditioning. The contempt was viscous. Belittling smiles, grimaces, head nods of affirmation, contents a know-it-all finds surveying his toolbox on the brink of annihilating his opponent with encyclopedic knowledge of a subject in a conversation I had no business being part of to begin with.
Like a practical joke played on me by some divine force; I watched nondescript matter, colored somewhere between a grey, mud brown and greenish-black, of a goopy feel, drop onto my bare legs after being ejected from a hole being dug in the road. Most probably in the intent to lay some tubular contraption I figured was for sewage. "I am wearing somebody's discharge on my leg!" Shouted a voice within. Somehow no one else caught on. This man carried on goading me to respond about Hilary being defeated in the polls a world away.
This shot me past verschiebung -displacement- and teetered reaktionsbildung -reaction formation- as far as Freud's defense mechanisms go. I too giggled. I gave my best Kanye shrug and kept mum. On the inside however, a scene unfolded where greater kinetic force than imaginable shot through my thorax; to my arms; pounding my colleague's chest; flinging him into the metal sheet covering the milk counter opposite where we stood. It was essential to shake him out of the fantasy. Chest-thumping aside, a chasm had suddenly formed . That irksome question set the tone for a seemingly unending day.
Water gushing out the head of my jerrycan. "Tafadhali makini na ndoo yako na kuangalia simu yako baadaye!" Said the lady who, out of kindness, made it a point to address me in Swahili so I become proficient. I resuscitated from my digital zombie state. Inundated with memes and endless 140 character rants and consolation messages, I looked up to force a smile and said "my head was somewhere else". The adjacent kiosk operator, a man who runs a laundry (a washing machine, iron and folding table), also an avid radio listener, had a program on. Made popular for being a sounding board of the regular everyday hardworking commuter. The question of the day was something to the effect of why America chose Trump who was nonpresidential but a big businessman over a seasoned politician, but a woman? Was it because she is a woman? Why does the rest of the world care? Were follow up questions.
Callers, women and men, conceded the woman candidate potentially came off more presidential. However the assertion she could not handle leading a nation with male constituents, influence the course of sociopolitical matters and global markets, which required telling other male world leaders what to do came up repeatedly. References to religious scripture were put forward, historically based examples and recent events like Martha Karua's bout for the presidency were thrown in the mix. Rationalizing the atypicality of a "most powerful woman in the world".
Returning from my final run to the pump, Evalyne, the coordinator of Kaloleni Care Support Centre where I volunteered, called me into the house. "You don't come say hello anymore? It's just work haraka haraka so you can go home?" I apologized for my rudeness. "You are very busy on your phone today, is everything okay?" She followed up with. I told her the outcome of the American elections had taken social media by storm and it was imprudent to miss a single beat if I believed in my skills as a journalist. Evalyne laughed and told me I could also benefit from taking in more doses of reality. In the thick of it all, her first argument was solid. "Look at me. I am a preacher, yes? Now if I was catholic do you think I would ever have the chance to become a pope?" The resoluteness of the argument was indisputable. I could not really count up to ten women I knew of who held leadership roles on a global scale. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, the CEO of Pepsi, Presidents Samba Panza, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Park Geun-hye, Ameenah Gurab, Joyce Banda, admiral Michelle Howard, and counselor Ann Sung Suu Kyi were those I could name with a little assistance from a Google search. To which she replied: "none of them have been responsible for the world's biggest economy. "
I saw another notification. Clicked the chat bubble to read my sister asking if anyone else was up to talk. A thread, started while away at grad school in Arizona, among girlfriends spread across North America from DC to Ottawa and occasionally travelling to Santo-Domingo, Brasilia, Hanoi and everywhere in between intended as a support system, that I crept occasionally. I felt it my duty to answer given in Nairobi it was morning and she was looking to talk at 2 am EST.
Back in that street where the sewer water had attacked me, I stood under another milk seller's balcony and took the Whatsapp call.
-"What just happened?! I can't believe it. These incompetent bleepers! It's plain and simple a vote to erase tremendous progress ushered in by this racist world's first Western administration led by black man! What did we just watch?"
I asked "do you have on CNN?" Which I followed up with "what time is it there? You know the 24hr news cycle is unhealthy right? They have subversive messaging playing on loop to get you hooked and lead you to advertisers peddling useless crap." I said this hoping to refocus her attention to something more virtual and less hurtful than this defeat she along with millions across the globe felt deep within their core.
-"Davy what does this spell out for countless women and minorities? How does cosigning that man's rhetoric make any of us feel validated in this tireless struggle waged to make a place in the world so we can scrounge the crumbs of the pie or American dream... or whatever?"
Man all I wanted was to feel bad about skipping breakfast, being exhausted from sleeping few hours and having sewer water on me. As I had three more hours of chores to perform in an impoverished neighborhood I would walk an hour to get home from: because a 300ksh boda ride, one-way, would be imprudent to make a habit of with my student budget.
-"It isn't the worst of outcomes and not all that unimaginable if you really think about the world we were handed at birth." My mansplaining was on point.
She retorted: "you're not seeing it the same way luckily. You're privileged to be on a full ride scholarship from the bank of mommy and daddy in a country where the face of every leader you will see at the helm of the nation's greatest office or even on the money you use is of the same hue. You cannot imagine how scared people must be, now all of a sudden having to wonder if the person whose gaze their eyes cross doesn’t automatically see in them a rapist, bad hombre and Al-Qaida militant. What does this mean for women and all the little girls, especially those of color?"
Maybe I was in a bad state or my empathy was running on full but I felt tears well up and overcome by fear. My neocortex took over control of my emotional brain and I started again.
-"The people's voice did not back him and the likeminded haters. Unfortunately the white man's system came out the winner in all this man. But the numbers speak volumes, the distribution of votes did not go in her favor but the hearts of many sided with the candidate that has a less supremacist outlook on things."
Immediately I heard.
-"That's exactly it! Who didn't vote man? Where were all these people concerned with equal opportunity for all at the eleventh hour? Man these old democracies have handicapped people."
Needing to say something intelligent I went on.
-"That's not fair yo! Think about all the mothers who could not find a sitter for their kid to go and vote? What about all the people who could not convince their employer it was their right to get time off? How about all the people too poor and disenfranchised to care, and who see no real way out the struggle by a single tick on some ballot? I mean you made reference to my vantage point in the matter well that's what I'm surrounded with people whose lives would not really change one bit if so and so wins an election because day in day out they still struggle to feed themselves and their babies."
-"I have work in the morning man and it's already 3!" She exclaimed.
-"Take a shot of something strong, get some rest and get ready to deal with this all over again in the morning. You're aight' and nothing will change that because some man won whatever office in a neighbor country."
Our conversation ended.
Almost robotically I finished my shift caught in a place between Fuata Nyayo in South B, North America's East coast and my mind's sadness. My friend and I walked past chapatis and mandazis frying, stray dogs being run after by children on break from school. The butcher was up to his ritual chopping and cleaning inside of a room before which hung an indistinct carcass. The only male run commercial venue other than a wood workshop at the opposite end of the road atop which sits a construction bearing a splashy sign of a more ostentatiously named church. On the tarmac road where the mosque stands at the busy intersection sandwiched between a street market brimming with second hand clothing, kitchenware, shoes and jikos, and a gas station, we parted ways. He took his matatu and I carried on walking home. The few words we exchanged during our walk were how necessary it was to contribute something more significant than USIU sanctioned volunteering hours that contribute toward a degree in our respective field of study. The something more, we needed to highlight: remarkable ingenuity, how girls and women faced with insurmountable odds managed to feed, clothe and educate the future generation in ways that could only be described as magical to the untrained eye.
The whole way down Mombasa road to Kenyatta and to State House avenue, I was inhabited by brilliant notions from the intriguing and animated conversations all around me, all day long. I remember thinking: there really are many women hard at work in this wonderful city but mere feeble attempts to celebrate their contributions, aside from Mama Nguina street and the arboretum I could not name another landmark paying homage to a woman who played a part in making Nairobi what it is today.
Convinced there was a robust collection of analyses left wanting, sitting in my living room facing the television customarily turned to Al Jazeera, I let myself be lulled into an afternoon nap exhausted an d saddened by all I had heard and witnessed. I typed the first sentences of this article that evening, got frustrated and pushed it to a later day.
Cut to nearly four months later, on a cold March afternoon roughly 12,000 kilometers away. At brunch with my youngest brother and eldest sister. I prodded for her memories of the conversation we had that morning in November. Like always she preferred to challenge me intellectually and asked "what is it exactly you're thinking to write about?"
I fumbled with the words and gave an answer that sounded approximately like: "it's about a woman, the most powerful one in the world and how she can't exist in this day and age, so I've been told. It's also about the contribution of women towards development especially on the African continent. It's more than regurgitating trite phrases about how resilient and innovative women become when faced with great adversity and the struggle to feed the children who will inherit this world of chaos."
We all burst into laughter. The grandstand spew of self-aggrandizing intentions could not go unchecked. Here I was telling a teenager born and bred in the West and a Thunderbird MBA holder that I wished to change the way the world views Africa's women merely through words written from some kitsch café in north America.
-"Read the joint Harvard and World Bank paper 'The Contribution of African Women to Economic Growth and Development in Post-Colonial Africa' to begin with. If you get anything interesting out of that find more works from feminist authors about the feminization of global leadership. Then, gauge if you feel ready to form an opinion." My sister left it at.
Defiant as ever I started by reading George Packer's piece 'The Defiant German' about Angela Merkel because all three of us -the siblings who brunch- had agreed on the fact that Evalyne was not entirely right when she challenged me on the fact that no woman ruled a nation whose economy was noteworthy.
I learned the Reichstag is boring and the Chancellor does not help much to enliven it. She is methodical, brilliant and almost never wrong. She is friends with popular filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff; a quantum chemist; co-authored a paper titled "Vibrational Properties of Surface Hydroxyls: Nonempirical Model Calculations Including Anharmonicities". She lived in East Germany and was born to a minister father; self-described as physically clumsy; and described by a senior official in her government as one who "looks at various vectors, extrapolates, and says 'this is where I think it's going.' " The deputy editor of Die Zeit called her "a learning machine."
She never saw politics as a long-term career goal, it was fate. The Democratic Awakening party was operating a stone's throw from where she lived. She walked in, offered to lend a hand; set up computers, and kept in the background. Scandal broke on the foreground, leadership of the party was transferred from Schnurr to Eppelmann. Merkel was tasked with speaking to the press. Eppelmann took note, having reportedly described her as "fleissig—the opposite of lazy". The praise in turn created the opportunity to serve as Prime Minister de Maizière's spokesman. She won a seat in the Bundestag; de Maizière suggested her for Chancellor Kohl's cabinet. Angela became minister of women and youth, an appointment journalist Karl Feldmeyer credits to "her perfect instinct for power". Having evolved from Kohl's "mein Mädchen”-his girl- to iconoclast op-ed author, she saw Schäuble to the door, along with her political father-figure, while taking CDU chairmanship. The party would later not back her bid for chancellorship. Displaying remarkable political adroitness she withdrew from the race in Stoiber's favor. He then lost to Schröder. Three years later early elections were called. Schröder, Fischer and Merkel faced off, the result was Germany gained its first ever woman Chancellor. Moral of the story: the "silent snake" worked tirelessly in the shade as "old horses" and "mountain cocks" traipsed about, playing the role of domineering father figure in a German post-macho era political theater. She waited for an opportune moment to strike then made a copious meal of them all.
Still unconvinced the problem could be dwarfed to taking issue with the feminization of power, or the problematic perspective of those who find it is senseless for women to assume global leadership roles, I turned to Lisa Adkin's 'Retroactivation to futurity, The End of the Sexual contract?'.
On my Merkel impulse, I carried on learning, and made personal notes on the following.
In capitalist economies the employment contract is built on the tenet that labor has an external relation to the individual and can be seen as property for sale. Labor is made up of an employee's abilities, capacities and skills. Capacities, an individual's stored knowledge or talent, become this intrinsic commodity through said contract which confers an employer the political right to own the worker's obedience, and compel the individual to use those capacities toward the completion of a given project.
A reserved exception was the labor of artisans and housewives. This assumption suggested employment contracts betokened a marriage contract which implied a worker had a wife at home to take care of his daily needs. Quoting Carol Pateman, the housewife "is a sexual subject who lacks jurisdiction over property in her person" including her labor power. Hence the gender distinction in the labor market where limitations persist regarding ways in which women could separate from capacities within their person to offer up for sale. Basically as social theorist Claire Colebrook pointed out man is a laboring individual counting that he (is not, and) controls the laboring body of woman.
Philosopher Pierre Bourdieu was brought up in introducing the habitus concept: ‘‘a present past that tends to perpetuate itself into the future by reactivation in similarly structured practices". I made out that this was because a person had trained in the past to activate a labor capacity in the present searching for whatever desired future result, an employee can quantify and sell his accumulated output.
On the heels of which I encountered "frontier masculinities". A heroic autonomous masculinity dependent on feminized labor which represented unpaid or low-paid, organized and privately provided intimate servicing that also encompassed hotel, domestic and catering services. This called for pause.
The deal was those jobs were the models recalled when looking at entrepreneurial, more artistic and creative employment fields. It intended to paint in the mind an image of the indefatigable man working behind the scenes on a labor of love, a dead ringer for the coder, software architect, writer, or whoever follows a passion project. Projects that incidentally made up the object of desire for tomorrow's job markets. This was where the article picked up on futurity. However, scratching my head I thought –"women in theory do not have the right to work because that would bring about imbalance between work and life?"
Based on the article, Marx posits a worker feels outside of himself at work and his work feels outside himself. So the gendered segregation assumed women could not occupy the position of passion/creative worker because they did not own property within the person, which meant labor power, given that their labor was keeping the home for man to be himself when not on the clock.
It was getting interesting. Talk of "intangibles" came up.
Intangibles were the sought after commodity, not the "'widgets' sitting in factories, on the shelf or in the cupboard" that held a value of spent labor-time outside the worker and convertible into money, rather "intellectual capital". The stuff bloggers make money with. The know-how, the prospective audience flocking to consume the material posted, "a range of projected calculations of customer loyalty", and much more. It returned me to that work-life balance notion, the cause behind the limitless contrivances made to cook, clean, add years to one's life or reduce stress, the logical conclusion being women had in time not only gained the right to store up and isolate labor power, "but also that the underwriting of the employment contract by the sexual contract has also to some extent or another come undone".
That was all and well but did not necessarily speak to the angst I felt brought on by one man's appointment to the highest office of a global super power. Albeit the tone of Adkin's study was a bit #FirstWorldProblems. The conclusion of an enduring sexual contract due to societies' failure to accurately adapt to changing arrangements of labor was pretty on target. Women would be indispensable for economic growth and development but somehow if one looks around it was as though people holding the reins of power, those at the executive level, remained predominantly men.
To –let's just say really understand what women contribute to the economy- I embarked on the mission to try and decipher the epic amount of impactful data in the joint Harvard and World Bank study. First, quickly perused Indiana U's Workshop in methods slides titled 'Introduction to Regression Models for Panel Data Analysis'. A Hail Mary that something oozed into my stock-still exterior concealing near melt-downs on the inside during my Intro to Applied Stats class followed; and I was off to apprehend panel growth regressions that investigate the dynamics of gender inequality and growth in Sub-Saharan Africa in the post-colonial period. On top of that, the paper also relied on historical and anthropological scholarship. So in essence if I managed to understand a single thing, I was about to be served a smorgasbord of quantitative and qualitative insight on gender and growth dynamics in the region.
I took to the notebook anew and jotted down the following points.
In the southern region of SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa) , particularly in the case of Botswana women, considerable employment numbers were recorded for the formal sector which was explained by the high levels of female education, accentuated urbanization, a small agricultural sector (2.1% of GDP) and large service industry(>52% GDP). In the past the service sector mainly had allowed for the influx of women on the workforce, the best comparison possible was Europe and America during the world wars. A time at which the reality within the colonies contrasted greatly. Women's contribution to economic growth then was predominantly home based or represented by subsistence agriculture. School was primarily intended for men, or, suggested to women in the optic of enhancing their reproductive functions.
The growing contribution from women to economic growth through wage employment outside the household did not spell out a light workload on the home front either. It meant long working days instead. On the informal market, most non-agricultural labor was provided by women. The unavailable manufacturing presence on the continent spelled out that aside from jobs handling raw material, most work was available in service sectors. A plus when considering that women had ascended in the social pecking order, or that many had moved to urban centers. On the other hand it established another layer of subjugation. Informal, the qualifier for work in this field dominated by women, reservedly implied some unofficial aspect. Current day African urban centers were also the breeding ground for petty trading which employed the majority of informal sector workers. This read like, not so subtly, another finesse on women. Seeing product markets were increasingly growing the space for competition between formal traders which in turn drove down prices and profit margins in the informal economy.
In other words: the vegetable lady from the down the street faces stark competition from the container shop a few steps from your front door. It stocks produce grown in the mashamba of your neighbor agronomist consultant for whatever organization. They have turned to the informal sector for supplementary income. Regional chains like Tusky's have adapted their business model and started franchising where small independent shops rebrand and trade as Tusky's outlets, illustrating how easily formal sector players can cross over into the informal market to lower costs and remain competitive. So the vegetable lady – even if she chose to start making githeri- gets backed further into the dark corner where one finds themselves exclusively after missing a matatu stop or when working the construction site nearby.
Studies conducted for the paper indicated gender gaps in labor force participation were smaller than gender gaps in primary school enrollment irrespective of the stage of development (low-income, high-income). School enrollment was more susceptible to that last variable. The gender gaps observed were limited by measurement challenges: design of household surveys and unitary model frameworks were not a window into intra-household resource allocation. I gathered that maybe labor and capital considered alone somehow also made it hard to weigh the impact of some social norms and cultural beliefs in neo-classical growth models.
When predicting a long-term trend in educational gender gaps, the spider web graphs showed that despite the uptake of female enrollees there were growing gender gaps between former English and French colonies, predominantly Christian and Muslim nations (even though across the board the gap is narrowing), agricultural and natural resource-rich economies.
These discoveries had historical backing.
France, highly motivated to lay claim on Africa, occupied much of Muslim north and West Africa. By the 1940s she was considered a great Islamic power. Her past in Algeria had acquainted colonialists with a politicized and radical Islam which they thought awaited them in West Africa. By concocting patriarchal relations with Muslim men, girls' education and marital rights during the interwar served as bargaining chips. They were relegated to afterthought in order to wane off the threat of alienating the men. Notwithstanding France's aspirations to offer free education with missionary oversight in addition to a more express objective and harmonic approach, gender gaps in education grew more pronounced in French colonies than British ones. The overlap between French colonies and Muslim lands offered a partial explanation for this trend.
Agricultural societies presented a lower education gender gap than the resource-rich or mineral-rich countries on account that female labor had been significant in farming throughout Africa's history. For instance in pre-colonial times women were valued for production and reproduction – how messed up!!- which made them more desirable as slaves. Women formed the main labor force in planting cultures, and did so using hoes primarily. Matriliny was also a noted feature of these societies thus strengthening the power women wielded in deciding on matters of their daughters' education.
A case study by Robertson published in 1984 pointed out Ga women trading fish in Accra tapped into female networks, made possible by gender segregated living arrangements in traditional Ga society, in order to invest in educating their daughters and female dependents. Male elites, the factotum of heavy external investment, held the necessary specialized technologies and control of mineral resources, either petroleum or diamonds. Both latter resources requiring more than the technology central to a planting agriculture. This was when it served to remember the question of social norms and cultural beliefs in neo-classical growth models, because judging solely by per capita GDP a lower gender gap in wages was to be assumed. However women might have actually sought out education in larger numbers as a response to asymmetrical gender-based power dynamics in the oil-rich West African country.
There were three following case studies presented: Senegal, Kenya and Botswana. Why? They help to question "the impact on gender of French versus British colonialism, predominantly Muslim versus predominantly Christian populations, mineral-rich (Botswana) versus agriculture-based economies (Senegal and Kenya), peasant versus settler colonies, and peaceful versus violent decolonization(Kenya)".
Senegal's story was the country had a colonial economy based on groundnut exports, dessiccation (conserving) whittled it up, and left her heavily reliant on donor assistance. External aid made up 7.6% of GDP and over 26% of the budget. An exporter of fertilizer, phosphate, and fish Senegal remained at the mercy of international competition as the artisan marine fishing industry contended with fierce competition from international commercial trawlers. Its population has consequently been on the move, as the westernmost country in Africa, many have been tempted to cross by sea into southern Europe. Poverty in rural areas had prompted rural-urban migration. More women were moving to cities to work as traders or home producers in the informal sector.
In the eighties, 1980 to 1984, 76 percent of non-agriculture employment in Senegal was in the informal sector. Recent Senegalese statistics showed 44.8% of informal sector workers were female when 27% of formal sector workers were male, however the case in general remained women outnumber men as workers in the informal sector. A 2006 study noted 72% of the country's female population was illiterate, as a counter-balancing element it also offered up that creating access to basic literacy and numeracy skills through adult education made for stronger political –voice and agency- in the country.
Formal medical training had been taught since 1918 at the School of African Medicine for French West Africa in Dakar. Originally designed with males in mind, in the nineteen-forties the school graduated talented women, many were products of the Ecole Normale des Jeunes Filles. What is known today as the School of Medicine and Pharmacy saw the number of female students swell to 52% by the late nineteen-seventies. From that era to the nineteen-nineties women led the Pharmacy Syndicate and the National Order of Pharmacists. Networks of women pharmacists collectively built repute and shared credit. The result was female pharmacists' visibility generated credit worthiness, and saw lending societies, banks, the state, pharmaceutical companies, and families elevate their perception of them to highly trustworthy and productive loan recipients.
In 1925 a 'Memorandum on Education Policy in Tropical Africa' became responsible for the creation of village schools where basic courses would be taught and local languages used at lower levels in the aim of shaping a curriculum suited to local needs and conditions. Universal access to education was partly motivated by the ambition to fashion better partners for educated men and thus curb infant mortality rates. More elementary school attendees called for more secondary schools to see the light of day. Nevertheless, more women gaining access to education was, in largely agrarian African economies, financially flawed. Primary level education took girls away from the field and alienated their prospective return as women. In turn it enhanced their vulnerability, while no longer being part of the labor force they became dependents and entrenched the control exerted by men.
It started to make sense that an argument such as "no woman, however qualified, can become president of the world's most powerful country" seemed like a viable claim for public discussion. Conditioning done at institutional levels through Western education created roles of subordination that were gender-specific: a female nurse assisting the male doctor, a female kindergarten teacher and male school principal, or any other pair you can think of. Given that only in contexts where African men are most externally dominated women can secure a relative economic advantage, the paper kind of suggested through citing Robertson that success was only achievable with educational reforms. They only promote broader development for women and men by becoming part and parcel of global and national economic reforms geared towards expanding opportunities for urban and rural communities. This might explain the astounding education statistics coming out of Kenya.
By 2010 youth literacy was almost universal in Kenya with 94% of female youth and 92% of male youth literate. The numbers were significantly lower at the tertiary level with 3% enrollment, women making up about a third of that figure. A phenomenon either resulting from the job market, or in response to, seeing as seventy percent of jobs in the Kenyan economy were in the informal sector. Seventy-five percent of the labor force was in agriculture, the industry responsible for about 65% of the country's total export earnings. More than 70% of agricultural workers were women involved in growing coffee, tea, cereals and flowers which are the country's main exports. In all its facets informal employment effectuated by women was about 60.3% of the total the last decade. According to UNDP figures as per the 2010 Human Development Report, women's labor force participation was 75.1%. With Kenya's diversified investments in agro-processing, textiles, chemicals, and vehicle assembly, no particular story about women breaking into traditionally male roles was documented as was done for Senegal surprisingly.
It was interesting to note that with its small population Botswana's GDP per capita was perhaps the highest in Africa at US $16,300 in 2011. By 1980, its school attendance rates for young women exceeded those for young men, 79% and 66% respectively. A 1995 World Bank report found a correlation between reduced fertility rates and female education, the list of countries surveyed in so doing included Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe. All three counted the highest numbers of educated women, in addition to being the site of the most vigorous family planning programs, which consequently displayed the lowest child mortality recorded. All in all, the lens used to view the contribution of women to development was tainted by a focus on reproductive capacity. I found myself laughing when reading quotes that followed in the report echoing the very sentiment.
Within two decades from its mid 1970s inception the National Commission on Education had achieved near universal access to nine years of basic education. Secondary schools were experiencing a total different reality. The number of students going from grade 10 onward was the half, at times, due to competition from "brigades"(apprenticeships) or other activities outside of school. The female reproduction capacity resurfaced, now as a hindrance to school attendance. Pregnant young women had been forced to leave over the course of their schooling and invited to reapply later. The deferment fell at a time when pupils had to be taught skills necessary for survival on the job market. The meager numbers of students actually attaining tertiary education, the fact that by 1995 gender parity had been achieved at Botswana university, and more than half the students were now female, did nothing to change the fact that systematic subordination of women persists. Women were pursuing fields of study that did not correspond with Botswana's market needs for economic growth. More teacher college students and less agricultural students spelled out two things: fewer young women outperformed men (in certain course matter) in high school exit exams, maybe due to the lack of trained instructors and course materials in peri-urban and less financially endowed districts; but also they would remain minorities in jobs that were more well paid and highly regarded.
Looking beyond the formal labor market, I came across the question: the informal sector had it emerged to employ a passive exploited labor reserve or was it an autonomous force capable of generating wealth?
The heavy presence of women in SSA's informal sector ought to have been architected by colonization. Urban economies started out with mining, railway work and lower-level colonial bureaucracy jobs among other fields from which women were excluded, on account of the physicality of the work and the requirement for education which they had little access to. The women who stayed in towns were left little choice but to earn a wage from domestic skills: brewing, preparing and selling cooked food, taking in laundry, prostitution, and cleaning work where available.
Sixty-four percent of Botswana's informal workers were concentrated in urban areas, about half were working in the sector independently, with or without employees, and 40% were women. Yet, women were entering the formal workforce with unprecedented numbers, usually as the sole breadwinner for families they were looking after, single.
Sixty-two percent of all employees in the education sector were women. They comprised 55% of the manufacturing sector, represented 35% of parastatal(state owned enterprise) employees, and made up 28% of the agriculture effective. The only place where women were underrepresented was the mining sector.
Four fifths of informal employment in Kenya, Ghana, Mali and Madagascar was self-employment. In countries where social norms did not limit the mobility of women, the data available suggested 73-99% of employment in trade consisted of work done by street vendors. Another component of informal trade, regional level cross-border trade had become more productive thanks to the participation of women. A UNIFEM study found that approximately 70% of informal cross-border trade in Southern Africa was done by women.
The takeaway from the article was SSA, perhaps with the sole exception of South Africa, had bypassed the stages of economic growth (agriculture-industry-service). In the aforementioned process, the needs and outputs of industries variegated, and while the dynamic transition took place, the region let opportunities to learn, adapt and improve slip away .
I understood with a little more clarity why it was a question of "no woman is capable enough to lead a man". Historically, and currently, women remained subject to control schemes put in place by institutions at all levels of personal development. Schools being either unattainable, or unable to accommodate young women until the end of their secondary education; trade skills, proving to increase employability when 'industry-relevant'6, in other instances, were the metaphor for a colonial heritage galumphing to perennial dominance through hierarchical labor distribution arranged according to the needs of a Western patriarchy (from the shoe buffer to oil rig operator).
A nearly permanent condition of economic inferiority, a paradigm shift from a sexual contract position predicated on capitalism's assumption labor capacity corresponds to accumulated effort, the dawn of an era where potentialities become more lucrative than stored labor, enhanced expectations, underwhelming available technology, weak social reforms; If this were remotely close to an explanation for the words which I heard in November - that fed my voracious curiosity for months- I had to hand it to all those who reduced the conversation to that one point: no woman can be president of the United States.
Not even if her dad, while away at school, had loved a wonderful white woman from the Midwest who would move her to Hawaii, by way of South East Asia. Not even if she had attended the most prestigious schools, were a constitutional lawyer, public organizer and then senator. How could she possibly want to hold the office that upholds these traditions of subordination and financial abuse? An entirely different conversation was endogenous to this boy vs girl phenomenon in the battle for power. As they toiled in the fields, sold coffee, cleaned homes, kept databases, managed personnel, were flight attendants, taught children, served in government, occupied the positions of president and prime minister in fifty-six countries. Women have been saying there is nothing which man does that excludes all possibility for them to intervene, and or take over, if they possess more necessary skill and training than him. In response men, brandishing the sword of politics yell out new rules of the game at every turn, taunt women with rhetoric and behavior reminiscent of a time before human rights were won. All to distract from their paralyzing fear of an eroding male privilege (which depending on your ethnicity, economic and geographic positions is kind of illusory). In a few words the reaction to an event from a world away, which I found hard to wrap my mind around, spelled out women were disabused of the notion of Hope in a man's world. From Fuata-Nyayo to Ottawa it seemed women were too busy, working tirelessly to make the world better for themselves and girls. In so doing they did not have to converge on a single opinion about global leadership or who to elect. What I gathered from the stimulating conversations and readings was that wherever, and through whatever channel a man accedes the rank of global leader, he should just heed the words my labor, my parts, hands off.