Written by Tabita Nakamba 

From their earliest years, Zambian girls are taught to believe their role in life is in the kitchen; they are taught to cook, take care of the family and how to be a good wife. Even if a woman is smart and educated, the African culture does not see it acceptable for women to work outside the home. In as much as this is changing, a lot remains the same. African culture is very patriarchal, men have most of the power both in the home and work. Zambia has a long way to go before women could have the same opportunities as men. The Law in Zambia is not the problem; the constitution recognizes that men and women are the same and should be treated equally. The problem is the culture and its general attitude towards girls and women.

These are the three definitions of sexism according to Dictionary. com

Attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles.

Discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women.

Ingrained and institutionalized prejudice against or hatred of women.

I one time asked my six-year-old niece if she would love to be an engineer like me when she grew up, she said, ‘’I am a girl. Only boys do such kind of jobs, only boys go to work. Papa is a boy, so he goes to the office. Momma is a girl, and she stays at home so even I will stay at home.’’ Who teaches a Six year that?

In my first week of college, I was so sure I was never going to make it to the end, the thought of exams made me sick. The fear was as a result of male students in school who would always shout through the windows of their hostels every time I passed on my way to class. They would always say thing like, ‘’ engineering is not a course for girls, if you don’t find a senior boyfriend pursuing the same, you’ve no chance of surviving at such a school.’’ The sexism and prejudice were so bad that my engineering drawing lecturer once told me; in his own words here,”I never thought you would have come this far; I never saw you completing because some fields are strictly for men.’’ My grades weren’t bad but why he thought I wasn’t going to make it is beyond me.

Sexism starts from home; children are taught to believe they meant for specific roles in life. Boys work and go to school and girl stay home, cook and look after the children; the sad thing is even when the woman works, they are still expected to do a lot of the work at home. Worldviews have consequences,  good worldviews have good consequences, and bad ones have severe consequences, sexism is a bad ideology.  Cultural Inequality in Africa is one of the reasons we are so poor. We tell ourselves and our children that this is how things are and hence give free-rein to cancerous ideologies like sexism and misogyny.

Sexism is not only practiced by men, but women also play a role. Women and men, need to work together and support each other. Only then can we have equality, I am not arguing for sameness here, I am advocating for equality of opportunity. I don’t want to get a Job just because I am a woman; I want to get the Job because I am the best person for it. We also do not want “US” against “THEM,” in such a case, we all lose.

In conclusion, Zambian, and Africa in general needs to start debating ideas and question the existing ones. The Ideas that hold up to scrutiny we keep and the ideas that don’t, we do away with, the culture of treating women as second-class citizens and blaming it on culture is wrong and has to stop. And to this, we need to start changing the culture at a very young age while children are at home.

Written by  Tabita Nakamba


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