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When I was in my fourth year of university, I was elected secretary of the SRC in the local government where I was with another woman, but eventually became the only woman.

The secretary and chairperson of local SRCs automatically become members of the executive SRC. There I was also the only woman among 11 men. I remember how the SRC would often meet with the then minister of Labour and Social Security, and before we started every meeting the minister would comment about the gender imbalance in the SRC.

We’d all laugh and brush it off. But in that same year, the national elections had only produced one woman MP, out of the 55 constituencies, only one woman was voted into Parliament.

It couldn’t be more obvious that the outcome of national elections is only a reflection of the small governments that are elected in lower, but still as influential, institutions.

This includes universities, churches, organisations, community committees and others. For as long as I remember, I have seen the process of voting producing more men leaders than women. Despite the fact that most of the voters in most instances were usually women. Even if there are fewer men than women running for office, what will happen is that people would rather vote for all the men, and then give the rest of the positions to women.

 The sexual objectification of women in politics is very unsurprising when you consider how female politicians are talked about by the media.
We have learned that women in politics will be questioned not on their political beliefs but on their favourite designers. No matter how great your ideas are, people will still want to see a pretty face and apologetic smile on the corridors and in offices, no matter the mood you’re in.

Why is it not obvious to emaSwati that achieving First World status requires us to completely unlearn everything toxic about women in politics? I swear, at this snail’s pace of change it will be 3022 before we can claim balanced political representation.

Constructive criticism is welcome but unless further action is taken, Eswatini will continue to miss out on women’s skills and talents for many generations. Maybe women should turn things in their head - stop fighting for equality in areas that interest us, and start fighting inequality even in areas that don’t interest us. Women should stop allowing men to judge their leadership skills by how pretty or sexually appealing they are.

Nomsa M

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