Being a woman is not a disability

Commerce minister Margaret Mwanakatwe during the Zambia public and private dialogue in Lusaka-picture by Tenson Mkhala

Zambia has millions of women who are strong, intelligent, exposed and qualified. One example of such a women is the new Minister of Finance Honourable Margaret Mwanakatwe. We have nothing against Mrs Mwanakatwe and we admire her career achievements.

People may accuse madam Mwanakatwe of having a few moral skeletons in her closet, but which human being doesn’t? She goes out to drink at night? So what, if she can afford a few beers and whatever accompaniment? It’s her money and she has the right to decide how to spend it.

However, the fact that she has been appointed in charge of the country’s coffers, all that changes. It’s no longer her hard earned money which she will be spending, but hard earned money belonging to the Zambian people; taxpayers money!

This being the case, Zambians have every right to critically look at the credentials of the person appointed to look after their resources and their country’s economy. In so doing, we urge critics to ignore the gender of the new Finance Minister; if she fails to perform, it will not be because she was a woman.

We have seen already that the NGOCC issued a statement, celebrating the appointment of their fellow woman. In their statement, they never outlined what Madam Mwanakatwe brings to the table; they have not indicated how better qualified she is than her predecessor Felix Mutati. In this case, her gender is what NGOCC is supporting, regardless of her skill set. Well, we must say that we have no qualms with NGOCC because they get funding to do just that.

However, that should not be the case for every female Zambian patriot. We have observed that on our News Diggers! social media platforms, anyone who has questioned the President’s choice has been lambasted for “pulling down a woman”. But we cannot condemn a person who demands to know how Mrs Mwanakatwe left all those powerful financial institutions she worked for. If someone asks if it’s true that the new Finance Minister messed up wherever she has worked at the highest level, that person deserves answers not insults – and the answer cannot be “support a fellow woman”.

It’s great news that Mrs Mwanakatwe becomes only the second female Minister of Finance after Edith Nawakwi, but unfortunately, gender won’t help the minister turn Zambia’s economy around.

There is a particular profession in which gender alone can win someone a house overnight, but beautiful as she is; that is not the ingenuity that President Edgar Lungu expects from Madam Mwanakatwe. She has to use her brains and experience.

It is for this reason that we ask feminists to sit down for now, while we hear from those who know Mrs Mwanakatwe. Let professional critics tell us what we need to know about her career past so that we base our expectations purely on that.

Women, despite being naturally denied the average masculine advantage, have the same brainpower as men, and far much better in some cases. Therefore, it is dangerous for citizens to lose their ability to appreciate and scrutinize the intellectual and moral uprightness of an appointee, just because it’s a woman.

This is the danger of radical feminism. Extreme feminists appreciate gender more than skill; which is, quite frankly an insult to women’s intelligence. Such people are not any different from sexists who build stereotypes against women in the places of work. Feminism is not about making women strong, they are already strong; it is about changing how the world perceives their strength.

Look at Linda Kasonde at the Law Association of Zambia. How many men has she outperformed already in that position? LAZ has woken up from slumber under her leadership and kept a dictatorial government in check – against all odds. She has been threatened by state agents, insulted and chased around by political cadres, but with every attempt to oust her, Linda Kasonde is only getting more and more powerful. She has not achieved that because she is a woman, but because she has a powerful brain and a clear agenda towards protecting the Constitution of Zambia and the rights of citizens.

It’s not Linda alone. Although Zambians (male and female), on average, have a phobia against being led by a woman, their track record speaks volumes about their capabilities. We had the first female Inspector General of police, State House had to remove her because she was “giving too much leverage to the opposition”. Rosewin Wandi had to quit as Anti Corruption Commission boss because she couldn’t take the nonsense of being told what to do. Anna Chifungula left a historic record as one of the toughest Auditor Generals. We have the first ever female Vice-President called Inonge Wina serving in the most scandalous government, but not once has she ever been implicated in any theft. Not even toothpicks are abused in her office.

This is why we insist that we must judge women and give them national responsibilities based on their qualifications and integrity. If we want to question the President’s choice in Madam Mwanakatwe, we must not ask “why a woman?” We must ask about her capacity to instill fiscal discipline in government institutions. Or we can ask what the President will do if his Finance Minister loses her parliamentary seat, because the law doesn’t allow him to nominate a losing candidate. But the question of her lipstick and makeup must neither be here nor there.

If we are looking for gravediggers, we should be concerned about the gender of applicants because apart from the lack of required physic, tradition and culture may not allow a woman to take up the position. But if we are talking about a person who has taken up the role of Minister of Finance, what has that got to do with gender? Why should citizens scrutinize the man so profoundly, but blindly celebrate the appointment of a woman without questioning their quality and character?

Madam Mwanakatwe must tell those who are congratulating the success of her gender that being a woman is not a disability. Never must we look at their biological distinction as an excuse for denying them key decision-making positions in society. That will be the beginning of real gender parity and equal representation based on merit.

When a female candidate vies for the presidency, we must vote or not vote for her depending on their intellectual capacity and how human dignity defines them. Never listen to people who say “mwanakazi ni matako” because even men have big buttocks sometimes, like Honourable Michael Kaingu, but they don’t use them to think.

         

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