PROFESSOR Nkandu Luo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, says the reason why women keep oppressing each other is because they have been oppressed for too long. Speaking when she featured on a Round Table Talk show to commemorate International Women’s Day, Friday, Prof Luo lamented that in her political career, it is women who have fought her the most.

Prof LUO: “I want to agree with everybody [who says women don’t support each other], and I have said this and I don’t even apologise that women don’t support each other: that’s a fact and nobody will take it away. But the psychologists explain it, the psychologists explain that people who have been oppressed for a long time, oppress others. So because women have been oppressed for a long time, the women tend to oppress others. If I take an example of my political career, the people who fight me in Munali are women.”

It is difficult to disagree with Professor Luo. Women have been oppressed for too long and evidence is also all around us pointing to the fact that women do not support each other. But in as much as we can say that women don’t support each other, we cannot claim that this is the reason why they are oppressed in society. If what women needed, to have a fair share of opportunities in our society, was the support of other women, this was going to be a very easy problem to solve.

Whoever said men support each other more than women is a liar. Where there are 10 women trying to pull down another woman from an achievement, there are 300 men or more trying to do the same to another man. So the problem is more complex than that. Men don’t support each other either, but it cannot be denied that they are supported by women. That is where the problem begins. There is even a saying that behind every successful man, there is a woman. The question is, why don’t men support women the same way that they are supported by the womenfolk?

In our opinion, our women have remained in oppressed positions because the men have not recognized women as equal partners to national or any other form of human development. We see women as assistants and not participants on national matters. To borrow Prof Luo’s example, the adoption of women as candidates in the coming election is not out of realizing the value that our women add to politics, but simply in a quest to satisfy the political correctness. When a woman is considered for a position, it is considered a favour and not a right. It’s as if our women are lesser beings. This is wrong. To accept that it’s a man’s world is an assault on human rights!

We are all entitled to human rights. These include the right to live free from violence and discrimination; to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn an equal wage. Gender inequality underpins many problems which disproportionately affect women and girls in this country. We claim that because of the unique responsibilities bestowed on women, they form the backbone of our society, but how have we truly embraced this in our politics, in our decision making?

For many years, women’s rights movements have fought hard to address this inequality, campaigning to change laws or taking to the streets to demand that their rights are respected. But in the end, society simply doesn’t care. This is a conversation we must be having on this day. This is the ugly face of our oppressive system that we must face.

All day on March 8, we see women being applauded on social media and in speeches for their contribution towards society. It’s a day for opportunism on the part of marketers and advertisers who consider International Women’s Day a perfect time to flog all manner of ‘feminine’ accolades to women. But we put up all these messages and say all the nice things we say in speeches as a matter of obligation, not that we mean it.

The reality in the society we live in is painting a picture that our men have been less considerate, they have not cared as much as they are cared for. As the sun sets on March 8, so does the respect and recognition we claim to have for women. Tomorrow, as the sun rises, our women go back under the feet of an oppressive society where they belong. Instead of celebrating International Women’s Day, why then don’t we observe it with all the solemnity with which we accord a religious fast, or a day like Good Friday? Why not let it be a day in which we take special pains to point out how much we fall short on this count of placing women on the same stage as men? We owe our women a debt of gratitude that we can never repay!