In a patriarchal society like Tanzania, women are often regarded as inferior to men and some men feel happy about it and would like to think and decide for women. Actually, in most families the husband decides everything including what the wife should do and not do. However, the husband has the discretion of choosing what he wants to do or not to do. This is not so to a woman.
It is also the case that, girl children are brought up and conditioned to think they are inferior to boys and are taught to do most of family chores as a preparation for their future lives, when they get married. To make matters worse some religious leaders often quote out context to show even the scriptures accept to treat women as inferior to men as shown in some Paul’s letters: “A husband is the head of the family… You wives should obey your husbands in everything…”
Since this has been done for a long time generally women are conditioned to think they should do more than what men do because that is what women should be. On the other hand, men expect women to behave in a certain way in their presence; otherwise, they tell them off.
In some cases women are told to keep quiet, when men are speaking but when women are speaking no men are ordered to keep quiet. Sharing on what women go through in life during a videoconference, which linked Tanzanian and Kenyan senior women managers last year, one of the Tanzanian participants said some men were fond of showing off they were in control of women not only at family level or the workplace but also wherever they happened to be.
“One day, I was driving in Dar es Salaam and I arrived at the traffic lights and they showed red and so I stopped. When they turned green on my side I drove and in the meantime there was a man driving from a side road and was signalling to me to let him pass first and when I refused because I was on the main road and had the priority to do so, she started insulting me saying I was stubborn and my husband should be suffering a lot under my unseemly behaviour,” said educationist and videoconference facilitator Dr Ellen Otaru-Okoedion.
Dr Otaru-Okoedion noted that, every person needed respect and biological differences were not a criterion for showing, who was superior and who was inferior. “Nobody is superior or inferior because he is male or she is female respectively,” she explained further.
Jane Mwangi, one of the trainers with Kenya Institute of Administration (KIA), said there were many challenges that uniquely faced women everywhere. “Men are important part of society and women cannot be on their own. Millennium Development Goal 3 emphasised gender equality and empowerment for women,” she said.
Other participants from either Tanzania or Kenya expressed similar experiences. One, in particular, said she happened to be the only woman at a seminar somewhere and her colleague asked her to serve men tea since she was the only woman present at the seminar but she refused saying every participant had to serve themselves.
If it happens there is only one chair and there are a man and woman, a man would think he has the right to sit on it and if a woman happens to do so, she will be regarded as having no good manners. This mindset will take a long time to go before people think they are equal in dignity and, therefore, biological differences do not make one gender superior to the other.
This year, a similar videoconference on leadership dynamics for women senior managers organised by Tanzania Global Learning Agency (TaGLA), in collaboration with Kenya Institute of Administration (KIA), is scheduled for August 6-10. Free attendance may be accessed at www.clknet.or.tz and participation confirmed can be made at email@example.com
Expected outcomes include handling better some of the special challenges facing women in leadership roles, recognising self-limiting behaviour and attitudes and acting with more confidence and articulating an inspiring vision.
Others include applying techniques for increasing one’s visibility and impact at work, asserting oneself and influencing others more effectively. There is also creating support to sustain one’s progress beyond the videoconference.
Despite increased representation across all sectors and in a wide variety of industries, women still face particular challenges when aspiring to leadership roles in their organisations, companies and institutions.
This workshop builds on research that identifies key factors that have proved vital to successful women leaders. It at helping women develop both their inner confidence to realise their career potential and practical skills required to lead themselves and others effectively.
It is a tailor workshop that will provide room for sharing and exchange of experiences with other East African women. So, women managers, who have the potential to take senior roles in their workplace should not miss this rare opportunity of sharing information, knowledge and experiences from fellow senior women managers.