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Leadership at the peak – Challenge to women leaders

By George W Nyabadza

I WAS at it again last weekend, helping my South African colleagues celebrate the advancement of women in society.

s-serif”>Last Saturday, South African women in politics and business, in honour of President Thabo Mbeki’s directed efforts to promote women at all levels of society, held a lavish dinner banquet. President Mbeki has a simple goal; to ensure that key business and parliamentary positions are held by women.

As far as parliament is concerned, he has made significant strides in that women already hold 30% of the ministerial positions. In business however, it’s a different story. According to statistics presented at the banquet women hold less than 5% of key executive positions. The statistics are even less favourable when one considers the winners of the current wave of mega black economic empowerment deals which are mostly driven by high profile male figures – hardly are there any women involved in these deals.

President Mbeki noted these shortfalls and literally promised to ensure a correction of the imbalances as time progresses. It must be borne in mind that he only has one term in office left so it needs no mention that he is going to do all he can to ensure that his stated 50% targets are reached. Simple goal but it will demand of him enormous will power and energy to achieve it.

As I enjoyed the best of the food and drink on offer, I reflected on the power of a leader prepared to fight the current trends in society to ensure an equitable redistribution of resources not just between black and white but also between male and female. Mind you, the drive for inclusion of women in not just positions of authority but also access to wealth even at grass roots level is not merely an issue of black versus white, but cuts across all races. The issue at hand is a realisation that the achievement of democracy did not end with mere political freedom but rather that political freedom created the enabling environment to pursue freedom of all classes of society.

When I reflect on the status of women in Zimbabwe’s society, in the absence of accurate statistics about parliamentary and business roles, which possibly could reveal a different picture, I am positively encouraged by the strength of their activity across all sections of the community – business, politics, religion, the academia to name a few key dimensions of our society.

The last census revealed that women were more than half our population. I wonder how many of our male leaders really reflect on the issue of gender equality when it comes to promotion? I wonder also how many male leaders hold the view that women are not suitable for certain key executive roles in business or in the church? Do our women fully realise that it is their democratic right to aspire to any level of leadership and that should they be prejudiced in any way it is also their right to make enough noise to cause change to occur? This is where, possibly, lessons could be drawn from South Africa’s women power of organisation.

They have organised themselves into such a united force that their organised structures are beginning to be heard across all sectors.

Organisation however doesn’t just happen on its own; it demands leaders who are prepared to sacrifice their own immediate benefits for the greater good.

I wonder if some of our visionary Zimbabwean women will answer the call to lead the struggle for the emancipation of women, ushering them into complete freedom, one that enables them to demonstrate their God-given beauty, power, authority and wisdom not just in the boardroom but even in the village wards.

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