|Lessons from Nkosazana-Zuma|
|Friday, 20 July 2012 00:00|
Gender Forum with Ruth Butaumocho
seat swept across the region like veld fire.
Madam Nkosazana-Zuma was not handed the commission chairmanship on a silver platter, but she won the leadership of the powerful African body in a third round of voting, where she got 37 votes at the 54-member body, scoring the 60 percent majority she needed to be selected.
The 63-year-old is currently South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister and has also had spells as Minister of Health, Foreign Affairs, and happens to be among the country’s longest serving ministers.
If anything, her recent appointment to the African Union is an endorsement of her unwavering dedication, commitment and ability to diligently execute her work, something that women need to continuously improve on and take a cue from leaders like her.
Even in communities, at church, or work, leaders in both physical and spiritual realms often acknowledge the importance of working hard and often say achievement is better obtained through hard work and personal development. These virtues are not a modern ideology, but have been espoused for generations across nations and races, and those who continue to follow them can easily attest that they are currently riding on fertile land, which came about because of hard work.
So when her name went up for elections, the 54-member states of the African Union did not merely choose her because she was a woman, they chose her because she had proven beyond reasonable doubt that she was capable and competent enough to steer the ship. They were looking for her meritocratic record, which spoke volumes of her capabilities, and most probably the issue of gender was not the trump card in her appointment.
Even in South Africa, her home country and across the region, she has been described as a decisive, strong-willed revolutionary with a high level of ingenuity, something, which has contributed to her overall standing, among other attributes. Like any other African woman who grew up during her era, she could have encountered quite a number of gender stereotyping, discrimination for being a girl child and a host of historical disadvantages, but she managed to overcome them because she wanted to create a better environment for herself, her community and the world at large.
She consciously branded herself, and worked around in overcoming her shortcomings without losing her vision. Her victory and that of other African female leaders like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Joyce Banda of Malawi and Zimbabwe’s Vice President, Cde Joice Mujuru, has opened up a world of possibilities that women can surely ascend to the top.
However, thousands of women aspiring for these positions and similar turf will need to realise that it is not easy as it may look, but it takes hard work, discipline, integrity and the right attitude to ride on leadership pedestals, slow and tedious the process may be.
They will need to learn from Nkosazana-Zuma and other equal-minded leaders that the systems can support you to certain levels and probably work towards removing certain social and physical barriers, but they will need to develop a right frame of mind, where they begin to see the glass as half full instead of half empty all the time.
Impediments, institutionalised or otherwise, will always be there, but women now need to think outside the box, and create synergies among themselves, do away with political barriers rather than continue to regard each other as enemies. Of course, their long cherished vision of getting into leadership and their ascendancy to the top will be met with trepidation and cynicism, where they will be perceived as being icy, tough, emotional, single and lonely and deemed to possess a lot of other toxic conflicting attributes.
But all that amounts to nothing, something that an aspiring leader ought to dismiss with disdain, because those toxic statements are some of disempowering tactics that women need to be wary of.
The world is slowly moving towards gendered leadership, an aspect that women should embrace with haste.