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        Friday, March 24, 2006
        An African Lesson for American Women
        Zambia is facing two elections in December 2006 – presidential and national council elections. Power is up for grabs amongst the 17 parties – in theory at least because since 1964, the country has been going through interesting varieties of democracy. According to the Africa Election Database, Zambia has made a full circle going from “emerging democracy” to one party state then a multiparty transition to full democracy and back to “emerging democracy”.

        Now women are saying enough with this none-sense and mobilizing rural women to be active participants of political life in Zambia. A women organization, Women for Change (WfC) is urging rural women to vote for women candidates in the upcoming polls. Their brave and bold argument is that educated or not, women are better managers and it is time that they take charge of political decisions.

        There are a few lessons for the US from all this. First, there are 17 parties to choose from in Zambia, while the US offers only an ass and an elephant. Second, given the lo…ng history of American women in politics, it is a surprise that there has never been a woman president. It is actually more fascinating to learn that although American women earned the right to vote in 1920, their involvement in politics was minimal until 1984. It is admirable what American women achieved, but I think it is time to crank up the momentum. I do not see the reason why there are no women presidential candidates in every election. A lot is at steak for American women, which I think will take a woman to deal with. For example, the maternity leave in the US is shameful and it seems that women have accepted the situation. The Baby Center states in as-a-matter-of-factl tone that “maternity leave is not common in the US”. Excuse me? May I ask why not?

        Women in the US are supposed to mix and match a combination of excuses to keep their jobs after child birth because there is no guaranteed paid maternity leave. Not surprisingly, because lobbyist and crooks are abound, that decision is left for companies. This put the US in the same category as Lesotho, Papua New Guninea and Swaziland, reported the Washington Post. Depending on the generosity of her company, a woman might get six weeks paid off leave. Otherwise, a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do. Take maternity, short term disability, paid and unpaid vacation, sick leave, unpaid family leave and I do not know what else. But why go through that trouble? Why can’t there be a law that says give the poor woman a break and give her 3 months off? Women in Ethiopia get that so it is not a fantacy. I am not even going to touch Sweden because I will turn green with jealousy.

        The much needed support for women long after the hormones settle is also dismal in the US. Child care is ridiculously expensive, few companies offer meaningful subsidized child care, and a woman’s career suffers most of the time when kids get sick. According to the US Office of Personnel Management, “ leave for the care of a sick spouse, child, or parent often are either unavailable or unpaid.

        And yet, there are ‘experts’ like Linda Hirshman , who wage verbal war on educated, professional women who decide to stay at home. Hirshman found out some statistics about 54% of educated women do not work anymore, and she argues that they are hurting themselves, their children and others. Boo hoo! Just by applying common sense, one can reach the conclusion that it is difficult for women to take days off every time their children are sick. What is that going to do for a woman's career and nerves? Other Western countries (except Australia) have got this right, and they do a much better job the US in retaining their women in jobs. For example, a Belgian health insurance company provides a wonderful service to its clients. It has a list of nurses and professional nannies, who are available to take care of sick children of clients. So, when my daughter was sick every other week (almost), I did not have to make up excuses to my boss because my insurance company would send me either a nurse or a babysitter (depending on the severity of my daughter’s illness). May be there is a clue here for either an already existing insurance company or a new one. An insurance company only for women and children, and as one of the enlighted services it provides professional babysitting for its clients.

        Now the US should take lessons from the above examples, and women should organize themselves like the Zambian NGO. Educated or not educated is not the question. To demand or not to demand, that is the question.

        It is a shame I did not think of this post last March 8 for women’s day, but better late than never.
        posted by Fikirte @ 6:10 AM   Digg!
        • name<="c114346516806087400" id="c114346516806087400">

          At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

          "It is better late than never".
          I do admire American women, who just keep giving birth to the future Americans despite the punishment on doing so.
          As woman you have to fight your own war. Keep fighting, and one day, it will be achieved!!
          I have a dream!!

        • name<="c114424653895187198" id="c114424653895187198">

          At 10:15 AM, Blogger landismom said…

          Great post. Although I will say that not all of our women political leaders (such as they are) have turned out that well for us (or in some cases, the rest of the world--Condoleeza, I'm looking at you).

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