The struggle for gender equality according to research can be traced to three stages. Stage one is reported to have begun in the late nineteenth and early twenty centuries. This period witnessed the struggle of Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony of the US and Virginia Woolf of Great Britain for women rights. These women were the key pioneers of first-wave feminism, a period in which women organized themselves into public and high profile advocacy campaigning for gender equality in property, economic and voting rights (http://www.wikigender.org/index.php/History_of_the_Movement_for_Gender_Equality).
Stage two targeted new objectives from the first stage. The slogan and battle-cry for this period according to research was invented by Carol Hanisch. This second wave deconstructed and criticized power relations between men and women in the realm of the personal as well as the public: culture, sexuality, and political inequalities; subjecting women to discrimination that only self-realization of these power relations could overcome. key women of this period included Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan. This period also saw international committees and conferences dedicated to promoting gender equality with specific objective to raise the status of women irrespective of nationality, race, language or religion (http://www.wikigender.org/index.php/History_of_the_Movement_for_Gender_Equality).
By the late 1980s, the campaign for gender equality had entered the third wave. This period saw the spread of campaign predominately among white and middle class agenda of the second wave. As modernity evolved in the campaign, the third wave criticized the second wave: “For many of us it seems that to be a feminist in the way that we have seen or understood feminism is to conform to an identity and way of living that doesn't allow for individuality, complexity, or less than perfect personal histories. We fear that the identity will dictate and regulate our lives, instantaneously pitting us against someone, forcing us to choose inflexible and unchanging sides, female against male, black against white, oppressed against oppressor, good against bad." (Rebecca Walker,1995).
Prior to contemporary time, women’s inferiority to men was justified by their physiological weaknesses and that woman was considered “imperfect version of man”. Meaning, women were “matter whereas men were form”. For the Greek Philosopher and medical doctor, Galen, women lacked self-restrain whereas men were characterized by self-control. The tradition further justified then that women were physiologically, intellectually and spiritually inferior to men. (http://www.wikigender.org/index.php/History_of_the_Movement_for_Gender_Equality).
Now that these backgrounds information have been provided, let us now look at women empowerment in our own country (Liberia) where the head of state is a woman. In Liberia, though men remain to be dominant, but significant progress has been made over the years to bring women on par with their male counterparts in both private and public life. But what could this equality for women in Liberia be: development, arrogance, obsession, disrespect, accommodation or abuse of power?
Well, as a student of social science, I have been thoroughly looking at the behaviours and performance of some of Liberia’s female government officials and have thought to share my experience with the general public. Firstly, let me acknowledge the tireless efforts of local and international NGOS as well as well meaning Liberians involved in promoting gender equality. Their objective as seen over the years is to empower women to take part in national development without discrimination. But the drama is, those being empowered are taken gender equality as war against their male counterparts and not for national development evidenced by the series of public outcry on the arrogant nature of some of the women government officials.
In recent times, if not all but most of the troubles and confusions whether wrong or right are being caused by women in high profile positions. Some of these problems warrant immediate suspension or dismissal, but Africa first female President has decided to keep them in their respective positions as if to say that the essence of their appointment is based on the provision of job for women empowerment and not based on performance or national development. Practical example is the former GSA boss, Pearine Davis Parkinson, former Acting Monrovia City Mayor, Mary Broh, Wede Elliott Brownell of the University of Liberia, Ellen Corkrum and the Public Works Minister, Antoinette Weeks.
Let me, for fair and accurate analysis single out Mary Borh for some praises even though for her business, the city nearly plunged into civil unrest few months ago when some citizens decided to arrest her and turn her over to the national legislature for contempt. Though arrogance, but Mary Broh is hard working and above all her goal is national development. Sometimes ago, the General Services Agency (GSA) was a scene of chaos and disagreement simply because its former head, Pearine Davis Parkinson was unilaterally running the entity with so much report of tension between she and some employees which political observers say, may have been one of the reasons behind her dismissal.
You can also recall the “you eat, I eat and the Minister eat” recording situation between former Montserrado Superintendent, Grace Kpan and CDC Representative, Edward Forh. Madam Kpan with the support of “General Broh” publically defied Liberia’s first Branch of Government; the National Legislature where she (Kpan) was summoned to respond to charges of alleged misappropriation of the County Development Fund. Just about two months after that, another war of words began between a prominent Liberian woman, Medina Wisseh and the Editor and Publisher of the FrontPage Africa News Paper, Rodney Sieh. Madam Wisseh without any regard for civility announced on a local radio station that Rodney Sieh was HIV positive. How Mrs. Wisseh was privileged to know that Rodney has AIDS is exclusively a Medina and Rodney’s business.
One of the most shameful and embarrassment things ever experienced by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf since her ascendency to the Presidency is caused by a woman. As head of Roberts International Airport, Madam Corkrum secretly recorded some of President’s Sirleaf key government officials. She did not just record for the sake of recording, Ellen Corkrum made sure that she played those recordings on local radio stations with its contents published in some local dailies, a situation that forced the court to place a “gag” order. Again, the closure of the University of Liberia is as a result of what some students and faculty of the university describe as arrogance, poor human relations and lack of team work on the part of the Vice President for Academy Affairs who is also a lady. Both the students and faculties had called on Madam Brownell to resign her post or else there will be no academy activities.
Now comes one of the biggest problems currently at hand for which the public is condemning President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Madam Sirleaf, some few months ago appointed Engineer Antoinette Weeks as Liberia’s first female Public Works Minister. Since her appointment, not much has been heard about the once proactive Ministry even though her employer, President Sirleaf is on record of asking for her footprint. To make matter worst, President Sirleaf on Thursday morning December 5, 2013 visited the Ministry of Public Work twice and did not meet her Public Works Minister in office. Observers say, if Dr. Weeks was a male government official, the president would have immediately suspended him as was the case of the three male officials of the Labor Ministry who were recently suspended due to their absence from office at the time of President Sirleaf’s visit there.
Report emanating from inside Public Works speaks of lack of coordination, consultation and team work among top officials of the Ministry. “The spirit of work at the Ministry has diminished due to Dr. Weeks’ leadership style,” a staff said. Recently, the Informer Newspaper reported of serious tension between the offices of Dr. Weeks and one of her deputies, Christian G. Herbert.
The media is also complaining of the arrogance nature of Liberia’s first female Public Works Minister. Notwithstanding these complaints, the President is yet to take action as though Dr. Week’s appointment is to showcase to the world that Liberia has a female infrastructure Minister amidst poor performance. I want the President to know that while it is true that she must empower our women, the rating of her government in terms of the performance of key ministers like Education, Agriculture and Public Works all of whom are females is decreasing. Classical example of this is President Sirleaf own description of the country’s education system as a big mess. This is in no way trying to molest our ladies. But the fact of the matter is that some of our female government officials are not performing. Rather than focusing on their works, they are using their offices to abuse their male counterparts in the form of vengeance.
Such vengeance is not just unique at professional level, but also at community and neighborhood levels. Riding in a vehicle on 14th December 2013 with plate # 27602, the red light booked us on the bypass. Waiting for the green light, several blind male persons stopped by our vehicle asking for their usual assistance of any kind. Neither I nor anyone pay attention to them. But when a blind female lady stopped by the same vehicle, a lady in the front seat instantaneously gave her an unspecified amount of money. “What a discriminative and selfish attitude is this”, I intoned as our vehicle responded to the call of the green light.
Analyzing from the political perspective, I have come to realize that many women in the Liberian politics are politically immature and are over zealously of their inclusion in the body politics of Liberia for which many of them are abusing power. Until some of our women politicians can mature and are willing to learn, the problem of bad political leadership in ministries and agencies where they serve as head will continue to exist.
On the social landscape, about 75% of educated and “well to do” Liberian women are grossly disrespecting their husbands as if to say the primary mandate of gender equality in Liberia is to demoralize men. It is also sadden to note that some of them usually abandon their matrimony homes in the name of going to rest somewhere private. Investigation has shown that contrary to their claim of going to rest, they get engage into extramarital affairs to their so call resting places. Credible report available reveals that, a female lawmaker is currently out of her matrimony home and is resting in some part of Monrovia.
Unlike Liberia, well educated and high profile women politicians in the United States and other parts of the world try as much as possible to fulfill their domestic or marital obligations. The case in point is the constant reunion of US President Barrack Obama with his wife and children. A US Secretary of State (Madeleine Albright) under former President Bill Clinton, attending a meeting in Monrovia asked to be excused in order to direct her husband were she had placed the cookies in their home since it was lunch time, one of the participants at the meeting told me. A high court judge in Nigeria still prepares food for her husband.
In Liberia, educated and high profile women hardly return to the chicken as of the date of their appointment in public or private positions. In addition, unofficial statistical research has proven that the more educated and financially potent Liberian women become the more arrogance; disrespectful and unmarried they choose to be making it difficult for men to settlement down with them. That is why several of them in high profile positions remain unmarried. In fact, the unmarried situation is common among female lawyers than any other women group in Liberia.
Women of Liberia, the struggle for gender equality must not be seen as revolution against male counterparts. The objective of this campaign as initiated by women like Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony of the US and Virginia Woolf of Great Britain was for women to attain equal level in economic, property, and voting rights vis-à-vis national development in a male dominated society; a society that looked down upon women as lacked of self-control and were “physiologically, intellectually and spiritually inferior to men”.