REFLECTING ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, 2019: Women in decision-making is not about women being appointed by patriarchy

Dear SIHA Friends and Members,

It is International Women’s Day in 2019.

The engagement of women in decision-making is key to ensuring gender equality and women’s human rights are recognized and secured. However, in many parts of the world and particularly in the Horn of Africa, the presence of women in decision-making continues to be an extension and representation of the ingrained patriarchy and often a representation of toxic masculinity deeply-rooted in our societal structures. Many of the Horn of Africa Parliaments have a considerable number of women that are merely an extension of dictatorships and regimes that systematically repress women and men.

In Africa and the Horn, despite the fact that we have hundreds of women serving as Members of Parliaments, leading government departments and international organizations, in a majority of the cases, women’s presence has no legitimacy as it rarely stands for a pro-gender equality political position. Those positions except for a few cannot extend beyond the boundaries drawn for them by patriarchy.

International Women’s Day (March 8th) is a global day acknowledging the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. International Women day is the outcome of centuries of women’s struggle. Between 1908 when the women workers marched in New York demanding equal pay, all the way to 1975 when 8th March was recognized by the UN as the day to observe international women rights – women have come a long way building and crossing bridges towards equality. Having said that, the struggle for equality is still complex. And although a new paradigm is emerging, the power of patriarchy, misogyny and male supremacy is prevailing and becoming more and more confrontational in clenching to power.

On International Women’s day, it is important to assert and remember the essence of Pan-African feminism; calling for global solidarity and cooperation among Africans nations in order to liberate themselves from racism, oppression and (neo)-colonialism. The harnessing of the continent’s resources for the benefit of its own people will serve as the basis for liberation.
It is critical on this day to remind ourselves that women’s participation in peace and democratic transformations cannot be meaningful unless women acknowledge and unpack women’s inherited subordination and the magnitude of their political battle.

On this day, we remember the 12-year-old Aisha killed by the toxic masculinity in Somalia. SIHA also reminds the world that young girls like Nyalong Ngong Deng (a 17-year-old South Sudanese girl from the country’s Eastern Lakes state) are still sold in South Sudan for commercialized bride-price (dowry), and the misfortune that extreme poverty is manifested on women and girls unable to acquire the education, and to help them earn a secure living in Uganda and across the region. While women continue to be detained in Sudan, fighting for their liberation from dogma and repression, Ramaz a 30-year-old mother, lost her child to the negligence of the anti-riot police. Conversely, the fight by Ethiopian women to be part of the power structure and transform their country perseveres.

While treading the bumpy road challenging layers of power structures, we shed light on the struggle of our fellow citizens who are fighting to assert their gender identity and political views under massive scrutiny and widely-spread politics of hate.

Dear colleagues, the question is – in light of our evident struggle, are we capable of leading and engaging in this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #BalanceForBetter, or are we doomed to be subordinates for years to come?

In solidarity,

Hala Alkarib
Regional Director