By: Lineo Segoete
I sat down for hot chocolate with two friends one morning to brainstorm ways in which we could pay reverence toward women, being that it was women’s month. We sought an angle that would directly address the perils women face without taking the typical approach of men-bashing and what I consider: “dry feminism”.
Being young activists, we did highlight chauvinism and the marginalisation of women, as key issues to be tackled. We did not dwell on complacency however, we also acknowledged milestones that laud female Lesotho citizens, as well as note the challenges and victories we each experience in our personal lives as young Basotho women.
This little exercise of ours attracted passers-by, one of which illustrated to us that inasmuch as August is set aside as African women’s month, in Sesotho, veneration of women is a 365-days-a-year affair. Naturally we jumped at the chance to debate this, what with the high rape statistics, gender-based violence and other anomalies. We had a healthy discussion that left me personally with something delectable to chew on.
For starters, the virtue of the woman is engraved deeply within our oral tradition, with idioms such as: “a woman holds the sharp end of the knife”. To me this says that women were given the platform to live up to their own calling, in order to fulfil themselves within the different contexts they practised. For example, Queen ‘Manthatisi is still renowned as one of the fiercest warriors in our history. Today, many female figures hold key offices within our legislative authority and government and (although a bit of a sore subject) many households are run by single mothers who breed powerful leaders who go on to effect positive changes within their communities.
Once upon a time, King Moshoeshoe himself regaled the worth of the female child to the extent that he wanted Senate, daughter of King Letsie I to assume position as Queen upon her father’s death (why this was short-lived is a story for another day). The founding father was aware that women help shape the space within which they operate. He realised that force had to be carefully proportioned and boundaries set, a feat that could be aided by the graceful conduct of women.
Unfortunately, nowadays we have more to complain about without actually looking at the bigger picture. In the old days it was not entirely taboo for a man to beat his wife if she got out of hand, in fact there are still women who believe themselves to be unloved if they are not beaten. In those days, although a sad situation, the logic was simply a matter of discipline, today things have escalated beyond that. Men beat women to shield their insecurities and failures, hence the current form of “dry feminism” I speak of, where women are trying to out-do and ridicule men, an act that is not really helping the cause.
Yes there are issues that need to be protested against with vigour yet, so long as women are trying to assume masculinity, very little will be achieved. We do not have to compete with men, rather, we need to stand up for what we believe in and use our competence to challenge our struggles and make our points heard. There needs to be cooperation and synergy between female and male exertions to combat social ills and create a much healthier and progressive atmosphere for younger generations to garner from.
Society as a whole must do away with contention and focus on sharpening its strengths. Educating and empowering women translates into benefits for the entire nation, this is fact.
In conclusion, August has since ended; this does not imply that we go back to neglecting women or undermining their role in our lives, in the office, in the boardroom, at school, in relationships or whatever context the interaction is based on. Lesotho prides itself in being one of the most gender-balanced countries worldwide. We have a duty to ourselves, our history and the children of this land to rectify irregularities which still persist and intensify our efforts to live up to our fullest humanity, whether we are women or men. In living up to our highest ideals, adoring our women and our men, and working together towards a creative harmony, we shall become the pillars that keep this nation upright and steadfast.