I woke up on a blue Monday with an urge to wear black- in mourning of the rapid decline of the value system in our society today with little protestation from communities. There are people who write to be controversial in these forums, and there are people who don’t write out of fear of being controversial. You don’t have to be either of these to be concerned about a growing trend of leaders who seem to use their elected positions of power to hold women’s economic progress at ransom. These are the people who are supposed to be the moral beacons of hope, the highly placed individuals we have entrusted to lead us to a place we can all be proud of as South Africans.
Women’s voices are conspicuous in their absence on these issues. What is at stake here is much bigger than many of us realise. The message we are sending to girl children is that education is not enough to get you a job or secure advancement in the workplace unless you are willing to sleep with those who hold the power to decide how far you go. Yes, by ignoring it and shrugging off suggestions the big contracts and positions given as reward for sexual favours equals saying we approve of such practices.
In 2007 at a SACP rally in COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi accused some men in government of being legendary womanisers who want 50/50 representation so they can take advantage of the women they voted into power. It was controversial women rights organisations responded with some furry. In debates with my friends on the topic many of us agreed that he had a point to some extent. It took a man to point out what many cry about behind closed door but are afraid to be caught saying it out loud.
Does this mean that our women’s worth is only measured in how resourceful she can be in bed? Where does this leave women who are talented but not willing to go that extra mile in order to get that job in government or those promotions? For every principled woman that can say no to unwanted sexual advances there are many more women desperate for that quick climb up the corporate ladder or just for basic employment that will agree. The predators hiding behind big positions of influence know of the power they have over such women.
Try as we may to be positive about government’s gender equality agenda is work places, recent media reports about the conduct of public figures like Fikile Mbalu, Sicelo Siqeka, Malusi Gigaba are not really helping. These are the kind of reports that should make us question the progress we have made- in terms of addressing inequalities and encouraging women’s participation economic development. Such reports just contribute to the fear that leadership positions are used for narrow gains of the few and delegitimize the so-called 50/50 representation stance of government. Promiscuity is nothing new but it shouldn’t be allowed to hamper service delivery and reward intellectual laziness. How long before we put our foot down as women and girls and speak out against those who seek to get their way by exploiting feminine vulnerability.
As a woman I find it difficult to be witnessing such moral decay and not be stirred to want to act against it. But this is where women unity should win the day. Many of our leaders today cannot proudly claim that they are representing the values passed down to them by leaders of Nelson Mandela,Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo’s caliber. Equally women today cannot be said to embody the kind of values that defined women like Ruth First, Lilian Ngoyi and Albetina Sisulu worked who looked patriarchy in the eye and wrestled it to the ground. I am afraid to even say it aloud- but we might have dropped the baton somewhere along the race.
Surely if this has been happening in ignorance, it’s shouldn’t be too late to stop the rot and build a society where the future generations wills won’t be broken on the basis of the sexuality.