I’ve spent the best part of a year trawling through endless newspapers and websites. No, I’m not that obsessed about news, I’ve been looking for jobs. You get up in the morning spend what money you have on newspapers, rifle through them, barely glancing at the stories and wonder what you will do with the rest of your day when yet again you realise that that K3 was spent in vain. It’s the depressing face of youth unemployment.
I’ve since abandoned the newspapers and discovered that you get so much further by networking, just putting yourself out there, but that’s not what I want to talk about, yet. I want to talk about something that stood out to me. I saw it scribbled at the bottom of countless advertisements. There seemed to be jobs created specifically to address it advertised everyday. Gender; the new buzzword, its absolutely everywhere.
Of course, I write a lot about gender inequality so I’m bound to notice these things, but it keeps cropping up.
I’m doing a short course at the University of Zambia and almost everyday a lecturer mentions the word gender, often as though it’s some new-found phenomenon imposed on us by those interfering Westerners. ‘In Zambia’, they say proudly, ‘we only have two genders’.
One of my lecturers is a ‘gender person’, works in that field. At the end of his lesson he asked all the Lozis and Tongas who had brought them to Zambia, he also asked the Chewas who chose their chiefs. The right answer was of course women. ‘There’, he concluded, ‘don’t let anyone tell you that it is not in our culture to have women in politics’. I was grinning from ear to ear until the lady in front of me commented that the kind of politics he had described was of a lower calibre. You know I didn’t let that one go, right?
The Junior Reporter is a magazine produced by young Zambians; teenagers, who have been given a platform to highlight issues that affect them. Last months publication was dubbed, ‘The Gender Issue’, there’s that word again. It had articles such as, “I Can Do a Man’s Job, “Why So Few Female Politicians?” and “You Can’t Beat and Love”. Much of the magazine was thought provoking and hard hitting.
As part of the Barefeet Festival, the Junior Reporters hosted a discussion about gender and had the opportunity to question representatives from the Ministry of Gender, Women for Change and Save the Children. It was a lively event and I’m sure it’s true to say that we all learnt a lot about some of the policies government has set in place to combat Gender Based Violence as well as the challenges faced in implementing them.
During the discussion the audience was asked to recount some of their experiences of Gender Based Violence. A young girl stood up and told her story. It was harrowing but it wasn’t about GBV and the representative from the government was at pains to point this out, he said we should be careful to understand what GBV actually is.
Bertha Ngozi of Save the Children summed it up perfectly by placing emphasis on the fact that Gender is a social construct. Only when we truly understand this statement and its implications can we effectively educate people about the need for equality of opportunity.
Oh, and yes, I’m still on the look out for that dream job. Law graduate turned creative, advocate for gender equality, good communicator, seeks employment, will consider offers from men as well as women.