Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
19 March 2020 | Story Opinion article by Prof Hussein Solomon | Photo Supplied
Hussein Soloman
Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor: Political Studies and Goverance

The world celebrated International Women’s Day on 8th March 2020. Such symbolic days, however, seem to have little effect on the actual status of women in the world as a recent United Nations report notes. Despite strides towards greater gender equality, the world body notes there is not a single country which has achieved gender equality. Moreover, 90 percent of men and women hold some bias against females. The statistics are alarming: 50 percent of men thought they had more rights to a job than women, and a third of respondents in 75 countries felt it was acceptable for men to hit women. In China, 55 percent of respondents felt that men make better political figures. Even in what used to be regarded as the bastion of liberal democracy, the USA, 39 percent agreed with the statement that men make better political leaders than women.

Participation of women in the labour force

Disappointing as these figures are, there is hope if one considers how patriarchy is being overcome in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. It is here where patriarchy first developed between 3100 B.C and 600 B.C. It is also the region which has experienced the least gender progress in the world. The figures are incontrovertible. Given the widely held view that women belong in the domestic sphere focusing on keeping house and child-rearing, there are low rates of participation of women in the labour force. Only 24 percent of women in the MENA region are employed, whilst the figure for their male counterparts is 77 percent.  Moreover, according to a report of the International Labour Organization, young women with higher education have a slim chance of entering employment than their less-educated male counterparts. This has negative consequences for the household economy and the economy at large, and it perpetuates greater dependence male family members (husbands, fathers, brothers) -patriarchy, built as it is on vertical power relations, is further entrenched.

The absence of women in positions of power is glaring in the MENA region, as is their absence in governance which is made possible by patriarchal attitudes.  According to the Arab Barometer the majority of respondents believe in limiting the role of women in society. Within the home, 60 percent believe that the husband should be the final decision maker in matters impacting the family. Moreover, only a third of the Arab public believe that women are as effective as men in public leadership roles.

Resisting marginalisation

Whilst the marginalization and oppression of women is a sad truism of MENA countries, this should not be the norm. Patriarchy was constructed and can be deconstructed. The challenge for feminists then is to actively resist their marginalization in conjunction with other progressive players and to utilize the tectonic changes underway in the Middle East – from the penetration of the internet, to making common cause with progressive forces in society to open up the democratic space. Democratic space in this sense does not only mean the fight for the ballot but also emancipation in every sense – including freedom from patriarchy. There is reason to believe that some of this is beginning to happen in the region.  Consider, for instance, how Morocco’s rural women in an effort to access land from conservative tribal authorities, formed action committees called Sulaliyyates. These challenged tribal authorities and women’s subordination in the family and the work place.

There is reason to believe that women’s experiences in mobilizing against authoritarian regimes in the region have resulted in a new consciousness on their part. They see the connection between their own oppression and the need for emancipation of the broader society. When women took to the streets against Al-Bashir in Sudan it was their awareness of how fuel shortages and inflation brought on by corrupt and inefficient governance were increasing household food security. Following the July 2019 agreement between the military junta and the alliance of opposition parties, there was an effort to force women back into the home to play their “traditional” roles. However, women have remained politically engaged and mobilised – decrying everything from the persistence of sexual harassment to demanding the prosecutions of those involved in wrong-doing from the Bashir era.

Social justice and gender equality

Women activists are also pushing back on the streets of Tehran, Ankara and Algiers. In Tehran, women’s’ grassroot movements are calling on Islamic Republic to fulfil their promises of social justice and gender equality. Their resistance to patriarchy has taken the form of disobedience, refusal, and subversion. Initially their activism sought to reform the rule of the mullahs within the prevailing system spurred on by a reformist president – President Khatami - who demonstrated greater receptivity to gender equality. In the past two years women’s groups in Iran increasingly called for the end of Iran’s post-1979 system of governance as they view such theocracy as antithetical to the cause of gender emancipation. In Ankara, feminists have taken on domestic violence by forming the Purple Roof Women’s Shelter Foundation in an effort to collectively fight abuse in the family.

Meanwhile, in Algiers, women have been at the forefront of the protest movement against the establishment or what Algerians term a “Le Pouvoir” – the cabal of generals, businessmen and politicians of the ruling party which govern this North African country. For 19-year old Miriam Saoud, it was seeing the back of this political elite that impoverished ordinary Algerians through their corrupt practices. For 22-year old political science student Amina Djouadi, it was about real political representation for male and female citizens. Whilst the presence of this younger generation of women makes sense given the fact that half of Algeria’s population is below thirty years of age, who bear the brunt of unemployment - older women have also been on the Algerian streets. Elderly Nissa Imad was also on the streets protesting. All five of her children are unemployed. Explaining her presence against the barricades she defiantly states, “I am here for the young, for our kids. There’s nothing for the young generations. No jobs and no houses. They can’t get married. We want this whole system to go”. It is clear from the narratives of these women that they see the connection between their daily lived experiences of disempowerment and marginalization, and the broader structural causes, and therefore are actively seeking the end of the patriarchal and oppressive political and economic order.

Changing attitudes

Despite the MENA region having the largest gender gap of all regions in the world, there is hope too. Attitudes are changing and becoming less patriarchal - the Arab Barometer starkly demonstrates this, where 75 percent in the MENA region support women’s access to tertiary education, 84 percent believe that women should be allowed to work in the labour force, whilst 62 percent believe that women should be allowed into political office. What accounts for these progressive attitudes? First, there seems to be a generational divide with younger people (which comprise the majority in the MENA region) holding less patriarchal views. Second, with access to tertiary education, those holding post-secondary qualifications are less discriminatory in their attitudes than those without post-school qualifications. The momentum for a post-patriarchal MENA region is therefore increasing.

This article was written by Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor: Political Studies and Goverance 

News Archive

Volksblad: Moshoeshoe Memorial Lecture

27 Mei 2006

Moshoeshoe het mense saamgebind
KONING MOSHOESHOE kon bewys dat verskeidenheid ’n bindende eienskap kan wees. Dit blyk ’n sleutelbeginsel van sy leierskap te wees – en dit is nie ’n maklike een om te begryp nie.

Jy bereik die grootste eenheid tussen onderskeidende entiteite waar jy relatief vrye ruimte aan hulle gee om hul eiesoortige kenmerke na vore te bring.

Dít blyk uit prof. Njabulo Ndebele se gedenklesing oor koning Moshoeshoe.
Lesotho; het; onder Moshoeshoe se leierskap mense van verskeie dele van die subkontinent gelok.
Dié mense het hierheen gevlug van die verwoesting wat as lifaqane bekend geword het toe Shaka sy koninkryk met militêre onderwerping verstewig het.

Ndebele het gesê daar is algemene ooreenkoms dat die oorloë wat hieruit gespruit het, die maatskaplike grondslae van talle samelewings in Suider-Afrika geskud het.

“Dit was in dié konteks dat Moshoeshoe leierskap getoon het.”
Prof. Frederick Fourie, rektor en visekanselier van die Universiteit van die Vrystaat (UV), het gesê die lesing vorm deel van ’n groter debat oor leierskapmodelle, veral die konsep van Afrika-leierskap, en die voortgesette diskoers oor nasiebou en versoening.

Die Moshoeshoe-projek is in 2004 aan die UV begin om met Suid-Afrika se eerste dekade van demokrasie saam te val.
Die projek was deel van die UV se eeufeesvieringe in 2004.
Met dié projek word geprobeer om ’n groot Afrika-leier te vereer en die UV se verbintenis tot transformasie te toon sodat ’n ware inklusiewe en nie-rassige universiteit geskep kan word.

“As die stigter van die Basoeto-nasie, word daar wyd erkenning aan koning Moshoeshoe vir sy buitengewone leierskapstyl gegee.

“Diplomasie, versoening en vreedsame naasbestaan is van die kenmerke van sy leierskap, soos getoon in sy pogings om verskillende groepe in een nasie te verenig,” sê Fourie.

KONING MOSHOESHOE, een van Afrika se eertydse groot leiers. Hy is meer as 130 jaar gelede dood. Foto: verskaf

Waarde van openbare spraak ‘nou bedreig’
AANDUIDINGS bestaan dat die waarde van openbare spraak wat hoog deur koning Moshoeshoe van Lesotho op prys gestel is, nou onder ernstige bedreiging kan wees.

Om dié rede dra hy die koning Moshoeshoe-gedenklesing op aan al dié mense in Suid-Afrika en elders wat die moed het om hul oorwoë mening uit te druk oor belangrike sake wat die samelewing in die gesig staar, het prof. Njabulo Ndebele, visekanselier van die Universiteit van Kaapstad, gesê.

Ndebele, wêreldbekende skrywer, het gesê dié lesing kom op ’n kritieke punt in Suid-Afrika se nuwe demokrasie.
Dié lesing, om die buitengewone nalatenskap van een van Afrika se groot leiers te eer, is eergisteraand op die kampus van die Universiteit van die Vrystaat (UV) gelewer en het ’n staande toejuiging deur ’n groot gehoor uitgelok.

Ndebele het gesê die mense wat hul menings uitdruk oor belangrike sake, kan rubriekskrywers, redakteurs, kommentators, alle soorte kunstenaars, akademici, koerantbriefskrywers, nie-gewelddadige optoggangers met plakkate en strokiesprentkunstenaars wees “wat ’n spieël voor ons oë sit”.

“Selfs wanneer hulle dit waag op heilige gebied, soos sommige strokiesprentkunstenaars onlangs gedoen het, herinner hulle ons net dat selfs die heilige misbruik kan word vir doeleindes wat min met heiligheid te doen het.

“Dit is hul manier om ons te help, dalk meer diepsinnig as wat ons besef, om daardie einste ruimte van heiligheid in ons lewe te bewaar.

“Hulle verdiep ons insigte deur ons begrip te verdiep.
“Dit is gepas om hul dapperheid te vier,” het Ndebele gesê.
“Hulle herinner ons dat leierskap nie al is wat ons doen wanneer ons in ’n sekere magsposisie geplaas is om ’n organisasie of ’n sekere instelling te stuur nie.”

Hy het gesê onder die mense wat gevier moet word, sluit hy nie dié in wat deur haatspraak ander aanhits om geweld te pleeg; teen; mense; wat hul andersdenkende menings lug nie.

“Dit is nie met dapperheid dat hulle aanhits nie, maar weens hul toevlug tot die narkotiese beskerming van die skare.”

Mense voel glo ál kwesbaarder
Vise-kanselier lewer Moshoeshoe-gedenklesing
’n TOENEMENDE aantal hoogs intelligente, sensitiewe en toegewyde Suid-Afrikaners oor die klas-, ras- en kulturele spektrum heen bely dat hulle – soos nog nooit tevore nie – onseker en kwesbaar voel sedert 1994.

Só het prof. Njabulo Ndebele, vise-kanselier van die Universiteit van Kaapstad, gesê in die Universiteit van die Vrystaat (UV) se eerste koning Moshoeshoe-gedenklesing.

Die onderwerp was Reflections on the leadership challenges in South Africa.
Wanneer ontembare optimiste beken hulle voel dinge is van stryk, versprei die naarheid van angs. “Dit moet iets te doen hê met ’n ophoping van gebeure wat die gevoel van dreigende inploffing oordra.”

’n Gevoel heers dat Suid-Afrika ’n baie komplekse samelewing het wat liewer eenvoudige, gesentraliseerde beheer voortbring in die hoop dat dienslewering dan beter en vinniger gedryf kan word. Die kompleksiteit van beheer word dan in ’n enkele struktuur van gesag gevestig, eerder as in die afgewentelde strukture soos wat in die Grondwet beoog word.

Dat die afgewentelde strukture nie hul grondwetlik-gedefinieerde rolle verwerklik nie, moenie toegeskryf word aan die mislukking van die beheermeganisme nie.

“Dit is te vroeg om te sê dat wat ons sedert 1994 bereik het, nie gewerk het nie,” het Ndebele gesê.
Dit lyk of ’n kombinasie van omstandighede tot die “gevoel van ontknoping” lei.
“Ek wil dit vermy om te sê: ‘Kyk na Khutsong’, asof u sal verstaan wat ek bedoel wanneer ek sê u moet na Khutsong kyk.”
Sulke kennis lei tot wanhoop, want dit roep ’n werklikheid op wat só oorweldigend is dat dit fatalisties kan wees.
Ndebele het gesê niks kon meer vreesaanjaend wees as toe ’n komplot van die Boeremag oopgevlek en sekere Boeremaglede aangekeer is nie.

Sekere Boeremaglede het van ’n maksimum-sekuriteit-tronk ontsnap. “Sover ek weet, is hulle nie weer gevang nie.
“Wat is gedoen om die gaping te oorbrug?” was een van sy vrae hieroor.
“Van só ’n belangrike saak weet die publiek nie baie nie. Die karige kommunikasie kan die gevaarlike boodskap uitdra dat óf niks gedoen word nie, óf die staat in dié saak misluk.”

Hy het gevra: “Hoekom het die kwessie van munisipale afbakening tot die situasie in Khutsong gelei? Dit lyk of die probleem voortgaan, sonder ’n oplossing in sig.”

’n Aantal soortgelyke, oënskynlik plaaslike rebellies het oor die land heen plaasgevind. “Is hier ’n patroon?”
Ndebele het na die onlangse verhoor van oud-adj.pres. Jacob Zuma, wat van verkragting aangekla was, verwys.
Dié drama blyk ver van oor te wees. Dit beloof “om ons almal sonder verligting te hou, in ’n toestand van angs”.
Die gemene draad van dié gebeure is die gevoel van ’n oneindige spiraal van probleme wat vertroue tap. Daar kan ’n sterk suggestie in al dié gebeure wees “dat ons dalk nooit sosiale samehang in Suid-Afrika gehad het nie...”

“Wat ons sekerlik oor dekades gehad het, is ’n mobiliserende visie. Kan dit wees dat die mobiliserende visie onder die gewig van die werklikheid en omvang van maatskaplike heropbouing kraak en dat die legitieme raamwerk om oor dié probleme te debatteer ineenstort?”

‘Swart mense staar hulself in die gesig’
DIE swart meerderheid staar homself nou in die gesig: dalk werklik vir die eerste keer sedert 1994.
Só het prof. Njabulo Ndebele gesê toe hy die koning Moshoeshoe-gedenklesing by die Universiteit van die Vrystaat in Bloemfontein gelewer het.

Hy het gesê dit lyk of Suid-Afrika ’n meganisme nodig het om selfvertroue te bou.
Deur dié meganisme “kan ons die situasie waarin ons is, erken, wat dit ook al is”.
“Ons het ’n meganisme nodig wat die verskillende posisies van die mededingers sal bevestig en hul eerlikheid sal bekragtig op ’n manier wat die publiek vertroue sal gee dat werklike oplossings moontlik is.”

Dit is dié soort “openheid wat nooit maklik kom nie”, wat lei tot deurbraak-oplossings.
Ndebele het gesê ’n komplekse demokrasie soos Suid-Afrika s’n kan nie oorleef met ’n enkele gesag nie.
Net veelvuldige owerhede binne ’n grondwetlike raamwerk “het ’n ware kans”.
“Kan ’n deel van die probleem wees dat ons nie in staat is om die idee van ‘opposisie’ te hanteer nie?
“Ons is verskrik dat enige van ons ‘die opposisie’ kan word.
“Dit is tyd dat ons die koms voorsien van ’n oomblik wanneer daar nie meer ’n enkele, oorweldigende, dominante politieke mag is soos wat nou die geval is nie.”

Ndebele het gesê: “Ek glo ons het dalk ’n oomblik bereik wat nie fundamenteel verskillend is nie van die ontnugterende, tóg hartversterkende nasiebourealiteite wat gelei het tot Kemptonpark in die vroeë jare negentig.”

“Die verskil tussen toe en nou is dat die swart meerderheid nie nou na wit landgenote oor die onderhandelingstafel kyk nie.

“Die swart meerderheid staar homself in die gesig: dalk werklik vir die eerste keer sedert 1994.”
Dit is weer “tyd vir visie”, het Ndebele gesê.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.