Shadreck Chikoti is one of Africa’s most prominent writers. He lives in Malawi where he not only writes and promotes literature through the Story Club that he founded, but he is also an activist for women’s empowerment and rights. I consider him a true ally and brother-in-arms for women’s rights. Here is a Facebook post he’s written inspired by a a recent Women’s March against gender-based violence in Lilongwe. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce his post here as a guest blog.
We must not lose grip of our mannishness which is the supremacy conferred on us by nature. If we let women get their freedoms, and rights, and voices, what will become of us? We will become men only by name. We will not have the freedom to grab women’s breasts in town as we please. Remember how we do it? A woman is walking, in a crowded town, towards you, and you just cup your hands around their breasts, just in a flash of a second, and let go as if nothing happened. You continue your walk. If we let these women get their rights what will become of us? Do you know we can easily get arrested with the things we do if the government really noticed and cared? Do you remember the time we strip women naked in town just because they were wearing miniskirts and trousers? And the government said nothing. And the church said nothing. And the chiefs said nothing. Oh the chiefs said it was not our tradition for women to put on trousers. The chiefs never said that the trousers, for both men and women are not our tradition. That our tradition was really zibiya, and nyanda, and no shirts or dresses or shoes. But any way, it worked.
Now you want the government to notice such things? You want these women to be noticed? We, men, need to retain our hold onto that power. The power where every man is supreme over a woman, (mphongo ya chiwala sichepa), the power where we decide what women should wear or not wear. The power where we decide how they should treat their body, where we can easily have sex with them in order to employ them. The power where we can force them to be in love with us even if they do not want, (okongola sanyada).
You heard about the march? There are several things I want us to do in order to distort information and divert attention. 1. We must never say that the march was against gender based violence. Because if we do, then we make it relevant. Instead, we must say it was a women’s march. Ignore the fact that even men were there, and that it was really about the violence that we mostly perpetuate. 2. Don’t mention that girl who was killed by her boyfriend because she’d rejected him. Don’t talk of that policeman’s wife who was battered to shreds by her very senior police husband. Don’t talk about that other woman whose hands were chopped off by her jealousy husband. Don’t talk about that other woman in Mangochi who was killed by her ex-husband because he did not want anybody else to enjoy her. In short don’t talk or think about the ills that these women meet because then we will make the march relevant. Do you hear me well men? 3. Our efforts should only be concentrated on one placard. OK. That placard that mentioned a woman’s part. That it was vulgar language, offensive, against the modesty of women, zochotsa ulemu, zamahule. We should congratulate that male police man, in words such as “Brave Malawi Police for arresting her.” We should say the march was useless. We should even caught the Bible and say the march was evil. Ignore the vulgar language, and the hate, and zochotsa ulemu that we actually do to these women.
How about our sisters, and our mothers and our daughters, you ask? Dear men, please don’t bring your relatives into this matter because if we do, we will fail. Look at all women as women; mere women. Because if you start bringing in relatives then you will begin to say, “What if that woman who was killed was my daughter? What if it’s my wife whose breasts they grope in town? What if it’s my niece who is being battered by her husband? What if it’s my aunt they strip down naked in town? What if it’s my mother whose hands get to be chopped off? So, relatives, out this discussion.
Must gender based violence come to an end? Men, the answer is a big NOOOOOOOOOO. Women must be beaten, they must know their place. If you leave a woman do as she pleases in the home are we still going to retain our manhood? She undercooks the food and you just leave her? She stands while talking to you and you don’t do anything? She asks you where you have been and with whom and you just look at her? Now who is man here?
Aren’t women flowers? Whose beauty is but for a moment? Aren’t women created to please us? Oh they are what? Helpers! Yes our mothers, and daughters, and aunts, and cousins. Helpers, useless, powerless, with no brains, no will power.
So, please when it comes to the march, just speak about the placard. Please disregard the fact that we have names of places and people that are more offensive than the placard. Names like Kachindamoto, which are very public and which actually denotes an action as compared to that placard which was really just calling a spade by its name. Names like Kwataine, and others. Forget the fact that our public radios play more offensive songs and poetry and plays every day and nobody notices. Our efforts should be on the placard; just that one placard. The more we talk about that placard, the more we make the issue and the march irrelevant.
Men, especially you who have the power to get on the pulpit, please talk about the indecency of these women in your sermons. Talk about the last days and how women will turn away from God. Talk about the authority of man over a woman. We must bring this to a stop at once by using all angles. Our mission is to make sure we are in control. But we must also bring in women on our side. Women who can also speak on our behalf.
And when talking about the march, please ignore the fact that the speaker of the national assembly was there, from the beginning to the end. Please do not mention the fact that there were some silly men who joined the march.
DEAR MEN, this is not for all men. This is for only those who love violence, who love to ridicule women, who love to force women into sex, whose wives live like prisoners, who love to use power to their advantage and so on and so forth.
ORGET the fact that there are some men out there who truly fight and celebrate women’s rights. Men who are fighting against gender based violence. Men who don’t care when women put on miniskirts because it’s their right. Men who don’t care when women put on trousers because it’s their freedom. Men who are never bothered when a woman is their boss because they pray that their daughter would also be a leader someday. Ignore that fact.
When they mention words such as freedom, and rights, you should bring in issues of responsibility, not infringing upon the rights of others and all that.
Dear Men, must we let these women have their freedoms and rights and voices?