Mother Courage

I read this profile of the new President of Central African Republic with a little disquiet.

It’s true; a crisis does often allow for a woman to take charge, but like so many women before her, the pressure of expectation can almost seem to set the stage for disappointment:

“Why did the CAR, where the level of early and forced marriage is above 60%, choose a woman to save it? “

I hope she does a good job and she sounds like a sound candidate. But she won’t do a good job just because she’s a woman; I hope she’s got the skills, nous and ability to steer a nation in crisis into calmer waters. She only has a year.

I remember another woman who received similar plaudits and admiration; as time went on the reports of dissatisfaction at home began to clash with glowing plaudits abroad, often more for what she said and signified than what she actually did (or, rather didn’t do – like stay put long enough to actually run the country.) And right now Malawi’s Joyce Banda is up to her neck in the cashgate scandal . She may yet pull through, but like so many, my high hopes were dashed when she disappointed, more through neglect of her duties and due diligence than the usual grand plots. But there’s still more to come on that.

We do female leaders no favours by not subjecting them to the scrutiny we would any man, or expecting gender-neutral attributes such as professionalism, dedication, skill and integrity.

As an African, I don’t want a “Mother” of the nation any more than I want a “Father”. I want a public servant, who is keenly aware of the second half of that word.

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