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Monday, January 25, 2021

On Women’s Empowerment: Letter to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

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But while we plan our counter attack on the feminist crusade against the male in the human species, we can and we should recognize the role and importance of our women who are definitely no less human than us. Okay I just stated the obvious and please do excuse me but in a world where Boko Haram exists, it is prudent that we keep reminding ourselves about the reality that Allah created all of us as human beings and never said that women are less human. Sometimes I wonder if those who oppress women in the name of Islam are using a different Quran than mine? And it is that same Holy Book that gives the severest of warnings to those who oppress the girl child as exemplified in this verse in Surah Takweer verses 8-9 “And when the girl-child who was buried alive is asked. Upon what sin was she killed for?”

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Madam Zuma, March is the month of International Women’s Day and also Doubles as the month most of us celebrate Mother’s Day. So it is quite fitting to celebrate great women in this moment and I have one in mind. Lest you rush to conclusion, I am not talking about some camera-happy lady in high heals gasping for every minute of media attention with the feminist mantle while in her action she is cheating and beating the true essence of the feminist cause. I do not know about you in person but many of your female colleagues in high office are feeding off the gender cause rather than feeding it. In fact that is why in an essay I published some two years ago I wrote:

 

With all the talk about the oppression of women in work places and the need to open up the space for our sisters to participate in the boardrooms on even keel with their brothers, female bosses have been cited as some of the worst enemies of feminist progress. The irony is that such female leaders did indeed benefit from efforts expended by pioneer feminists. 

Now here’s my hero; or should I say shero? A woman of true substance who lived and fed the cause of our women rather than use that cause to enrich herself at the expense of genuine women’s empowerment. In a few elegant verses the Poet Jainaba Teeda Sarr does it for me:

 

Have you heard of Wangari Maathai

Of the Greenbelt Movement and the Nobel Peace Prize?

This woman of the trees says of our blue planet earth;

“We take what we need, not to satisfy our greed.”

 

My celebration of International Women’s Day included sharing, on social media, two verses from the Quran that are very relevant to the progress of Women’s empowerment: “And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people. “And [the example of] Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into [her garment] through Our angel, and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient. (Surah Tahrim V.11-12)

 

A comment from a friend of my mine on the above two verses is apt and revealing: “even if your husband is bad a woman also will stand in front of Allah and be equal to men on the day of judgment.” 

 

Your Excellency, as I sat on the glistening beaches of the Smiling Coast of Africa, on International Women’s Day, my daughter began to fidget and I had to carry her on my back for a walk. After some 50 meters of walking, I heard someone call from the back; lo and behold, it was my 5-year-old son Latirr, he decided to follow us and when I saw him; a light bulb switched on in my head.  We need to take heed, Your Excellency, because in our rush to play catch-up in feminist affirmative action, we are leaving our sons behind. In one African country, the drive for gender parity in school enrolment was so charged with energy and incentives that now they are trying to increase male enrollment to catch-up on the obverse side the gender divide.

Am sure by now you would agree with me on the need for us men to converge, Beijing-style, to fight for our own eroding rights? And what better venue for this grand assembly of the emerging global Men-naissance than the home of the Grand Ruler of Pyongyang? Just, one more thing before you tear my letter apart because I know you Madam; from your ministry in Pretoria to Addis, you are not the kind of lady to be spoken to in the offhand manner that my letter veers into occasionally. There is one more agenda item in our proposed programme set for Pyongyang; it’s a complicated, if vexed issue, and I approach it most times with trepidation. In poetry I captured it on page 39-40 of my book “To The Gambia: The Smiling Coast”. It was also published in a global anthology we did as Facebook group, “Muse for Women” entitled “Acerbic Anthology: Protest Poetry and Short Fiction against Gender Violence and Rape” Here is the most important item to be discussed in Pyongyang if our plans succeed:

 

Manhood Crisis

Our manhood is in crisis

We should protect our sis

But out we go molesting

What for are we demonstrating 

But how little we think

The Wolof man truly sees

Wisdom here and overseas

Who should protect and enhance things 

Should never be the source of mischief 

Or everything will look ugly, truly dirty

At home be the guardian angel of your sis

Be decent to that female colleague at the office 

She is no less human than you, so please

Man up, buckle up, and also shut up

If it’s a “no” please belt up.

 

Now, Your Excellency Madam Zuma, I must stop here for I have to confirm the acceptance of our proposed chairman for our envisaged Pyongyang summit. I need to get a ticket to Harare to see the man, the one African we all agree is never afraid of controversy. Bye Madam Zuma; here I come Mr. Baffour…

 

Momodou Sabally

The Gambia’s Pen

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