Gender parity in the United Nations Senior Management Group is just the beginning. Our goal – and my commitment – is to achieve gender parity at all levels. — António Guterres

In 1917 against the backdrop of the World War One, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). …

Fifty-eight years later in 1975 during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March. And globally, Malawi included, the Day has been commemorated in a variety of ways.

As we join the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres leads global women celebrate this day, there’s a grandeur celebration on recent events coming out of Africa in recent months, that makes me hold my head high and reconfirm my Africaness.

It was a great uplifting experience sitting in an (albeit dingy) movie theater in Queens with my friend Gail Farngalo, watch one blockbuster scene after another of Black Panther. And yes, I joined other hand-clapping and laughing patrons in the small compact theater section.

The movie other than celebrating an immensely organized, culturally rich and mineral prosperous and technologically advanced African country hidden from the rest of the “corrupt, non-peaceful world,” the film comes complete with women in numerous non-stereotyped roles.

The technology buff that gives the warrior king (it is his responsibility to protect Wakanda), like the smart scientist in James Bond films; there is also the grand general who stands by the king, even in times of great uprising and civil unrest. Both these are women. Even the military is made up of karate-chop women.

Before the classic Black Panther film, all Africans must remember two dates: November 19, 2017 and February 6, 2018. On these two dates, change of power took place first in Zimbabwe where the military surrounded the presidential palace and talked the 90+ year-old president to resign. He did. Former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, replaced Cde. Mugabe.

Then on February 6, 2018, after discussions with the leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) convinced him to resign. This followed negotiations of conditions for his early retirement. He did. Former Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Zuma.

In both instances, no blood was shed, no one was imprisoned and most of all, the former presidents were promised to be respected and to enjoy their dignity as former leaders. This is rare for Africa, which in numerous occasions military take overs (coups d’états) led to many leaders and their families losing their lives in tragic and gruesome ways.

The pictures coming out of Southern Africa is welcomed by women on the continent for two different reasons. In the case of Zimbabwe former President, Comrade Robert Mugabe, the First Lady Madame Grace Mugabe was usurping power from her ailing husband. This is a scenario that was backlashing women’s attempts to attain gender equality.

“The actions of Madame Mugabe, was her husband’s undoing. She became a Jezebel,” a Zimbabwean woman activist said following Mugabe’s ouster.

With respect to former President Jacob Zuma, women activists were pleased to see the president leave the State House in South Africa.

He was a known sex-offender and accused rapist. Women have been calling for his ouster and resisted his reelection. Many women parliamentarians repeatedly brought to the floor, reasons for his ousting; prim among them are Mr. Zuma’s corrupt practices.

On the global platform, after 70 years in existence, the United Nations, through its Secretary General Mr. António Guterres announced that the global body has reached gender parity. This is a laudable achievement, worthy of commendation.

However, getting back to Southern Africa, on September 2, 2014 – the ruling ANC party voluntarily adopted a zebra-list quota in all post-apartheid parliamentary elections. One reason gender quota advocates pushed for institutional measures to ensure equal political representation, is the claim that the presence of women in parliaments will increase the attention female get in laws.

Namibian legislation did not provide for quotas for women’s representation at national or regional level or even party levels, but the 1992 Local Authority Act mandates that 50% of nominated candidates be female, and 50% be male, hence the reference to the zebra. This requires all parties submitt “zebra-lists” [alternating male and female candidates].

These actions are working in Namibia. The president is Hage Geingob; the Prime Minister is the Right Honorable Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, MP. The cabinet is the zebra effect up and down the ticket.

Special laws that stipulate the quota system or zebra model, should be adopted by African governments to ensure gender parity in representative governance and corporate placements in private and public circles.

The continuation of marginalizing fifty two percent of the population, should stop.
Long live genuine democracy!