Above all, let’s get this right: a concern about the state of African manhood and boyhood does not mean ignoring the realities, struggles, and achievements of black women and girls. Certainly the opposite. Definitely not here at New African Men.
Fact is we share in the realities under which African women, even though too often African women and girls suffer from the acts of African men. And so the achievements of African women humanise all African people.
Please, then, can we hear some noise for Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka whose was appointed as the head of UN Women this week.
As one thinker has said, “I tell audiences all the time who ask about the dearth of black leadership that there are radical visionaries among us willing and able to lead us in the direction of true liberation and the vast majority of these folks are black women”. Google that. Did you see that I added a word? No matter.
The ascension of an African woman to the top of an agency of the UN is an achievement for both African women and men. It doesn’t mean that the lives of all black women are going to be better next week. And it doesn’t mean African gender struggles have reached the ultimate goal. However, it is a step in the direction of free voice and visibility for African womankind. And, among other things the appointment falsifies prevalent views on gender equality. We have been doing this gender equality thing for millennia. We just called it life. It’s time the world took note.
Even then, let’s say it again: New African Men recognises gender inequality as the most deep-rooted forms of social inequality in the modern world, and Africa is part of that global modernity. The subordination of African women and girls by patriarchy is inextricably entwined global economic inequality. More crucially, the domination of males as a group over females defines all areas of life in all societies, inhering in the very definition of sex.
Thus, even though men who believe that black men must never allow themselves to be ruled by white men might have led the liberation struggles which freed African nations from colonial and racist oppression, New African Men are convinced that patriarchal leadership, whatever colour it has, imprisons our potential as individuals and collectively.
For us gender justice for women and girls is not only a basic human right. It is part of our efforts to reclaim the meaning of botho/ubuntu. To think of and treat girls and women as lesser beings is essentially to act against our best interest. To enact laws and maintain traditions that consider females as naturally subordinate is to diminish our being and personhood.
Mlambo-Ngcuka’s appointment means she will lead the global efforts against gender inequality from the location of Africa as the UN Women is the global Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
For those who don’t have time to read up on UN Women, it is the body that brings together and builds on the work of four previously distinct sections within the UN system whose mandates was to focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, including the Division for the Advancement of Women and United Nations Development Fund for Women. At the level of nations, one of the main roles of UN Women is to help member states of the UN to implement global policies, standards and norms around women’s empowerment and gender equality formulated by inter-governmental bodies such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women, provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society.
Mlambo-Ngcuka’s appointment as Executive Director Designate of UN Women is good news for black women the world over. It is massive achievement on behalf of South African women. It deserves far more attention than it’s gotten since the appointment was announced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday July 10, 2013.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was deputy president of South Africa during Thabo Mbeki tenure as president, takes over from the first head of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, ex-president of Chile. Bachelet stepped down in March to have another go for the presidency of her country. Lakshmi Puri has been acting Head of UN Women.
In other great news, another South African black woman and former cabinet minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi was named Special Envoy on Gender for the African Development Bank.
Whatever else are these African women going to do next? Carry the world on their backs! Run the world, I suppose.