Alternative leaderhip

Posted on March 30, 2012

Emang Basadi' - a Setswana phrase meaning, 'Get up women, Take charge”

Equality of the sexes should be a mark of an advanced, balanced society, yet can we truly attest to this? Or can we say that the glue that held families, communities and nations together is being greatly challenged? Women's innate, emotional intelligence or social consciousness is being suspended and been replaced by a male-managed, individualistic, non-collaborative tendency to control.

Her prime importance as a woman means promoting human welfare concerning matters of loving, rearing and caring for her family and the community. Family, the most basic human structure within which potential leaders are born, nourished and nurtured has come undone. It has come so undone that it has been replaced by fear, distrust, antagonism, chauvinism, materialism... the isms are endless. Clearly it has shown lack of vision and mission to transcend the barriers it has created. These systems of control over society's women, children and the family have upset the natural course of humanity, the family. Children are reared in this male order structure so role models are scarce.

The theory of equality of the sexes and its stark realities in practice are reflecting just the opposite whilst its guise reveals a warped sense of family and community relationships. This veiling disturbs the notion of 'equality of the sexes' - an artificial theory that smothers the workings of the household. What is left clearly does not have the will and vision to change. Instead of the sexes complementing each other as they should, in reality they are on opposing sides, and it shows.

As I paged through books, searched the web from one article to the next for answers to my many questions, such as why equality between the sexes is a farce, I found many more questions. However, what I did discover was something of myself, that I am an integral part of this discourse.

As a classified 'coloured' working class woman from Cape Town and like many others my age I grew up in a home abundantly capable and endowed with a strong motherly presence. What this meant was a support base from my father who upheld and complemented her social characteristic, that of being a mother. Not just my mother, but everybody's Mom or Grandmother, role model Moms that were unquestionably respected at home, in the community and public places. By all means my parents were not perfect, considering that both of them inherited a history of colonialist genocide, slavery and apartheid, notwithstanding capitalism in democracy today.

The business of government's globalisation, which is mostly materialistic and male managed, thrives off the accumulation of profits and wealth which further tightens capitalists' reign over women. Their work at home, in the factories, shops, hospitals and other industries became sites of struggle to survive. Fighting for the rights of children and the poor became women's responsibilities instead of that of both sexes. Leaders in all sectors of society, government, non-governmental organisations and institutions have almost no ethically-based coaching and mentorships to combat the scourge of wrong-valued individual male leadership. It does not take a rocket scientist to see and feel the tensions stirring between the sexes; we are literally on opposite sides. It is time to look within our own circles to find examples of new alternative voices. These social workers hold the capability to transcend government's tainted pipeline of a corrupt traditional leadership styles of power.

It is in seeking answers to my many questions that I was invited to participate in one of the Human Sciences Researches Council projects called the 'Red Tent' concept. This concept, named after a novel that makes biblical reference to women during their period of menstruation, acknowledges women's struggles. And as I enter this space safe from my struggles I am confident that my fight against African traditionalism, racialised categorization, and colonial subjugation is my story, herstory, our story. I was allowed the freedom to shed light on my own work and deliberate on my mission. In pursuit of restoring humanity's real meaning, that of an instinctive collective culture of self development, of family the community and always in relation to others. What I have learnt thus far is that I am not alone. My daily struggles are not invisible, but valuable in their contributions to transcend my own construction as a woman in post-apartheid South Africa. This concept, which is still in its infancy, has already shed light on my own consciousness and development as an alternative leader.

During my stay in the Eastern Cape and guest to the Human Sciences Research Council I attended a lecture by Prof. Sandra Rein, co-principal investigator of the 'Red Tent' project. This is where I was introduced to the teachings of Raya Dunayevskaya (1910–1987) the founder of the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism. Her philosophy stems from a lifetime of revolutionary commitment to change. She participated in most freedom movements, whether it was workers, women, people of colour or the youth. She became Leon Trotsky's Russian-language secretary in 1937 but during his exile in Mexico, she broke with him in 1939 during the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Her study of the Russian economy and of Marx's early writings (later known as the 1844 Humanist Essays) led to her 1941-42 analysis that not only was Russia a state-capitalist society, but that state-capitalism was a new world stage.

Raya gave me new hope and understanding that reflecting on my own struggles, at history/herstory and its constructions that I can learn and teach others. Equality of the sexes remains a guise for male-managed state capitalism to survive with women's so-called liberation on the opposite side. It is only through acquiring knowledge and experience that we comprehend that South African society is the most imbalanced in most sectors. And at this juncture of herstory, the divisions between rich and poor, men and women, state and social organisations and the masses are heightened. Yet it is within this paradigm that transcendence emerges and family values will have the chance to be restored.

Lucy Campbell is an Archival Platform correspondent based in Cape Town