On Womanhood and Statues

I am back, this time with a promise to myself to be more consistent.

2009 was a time of reflection for me. I embarked on a journey blindly, and as I crawled, walked, run, swam and flew, to save as well as discover myself, never having a moment to catch my breath, I became painfully aware of my weaknesses. I was up there on the scale with countries like Somalia and Zimbabwe.
I was the perfect example of the old African saying that when a problem visits, it never comes alone, it brings all its family members with it, such that one does not just have a problem, but problems. Never have I felt so apprehensive about myself, never have I doubted myself and my abilities as I did in the year 2009. Yet, in the same breath, I also discovered my strength. Strength that I never knew I possessed. I consider the year an opportunity to polish myself.

Therefore, this year I have decided to view myself as a woman first (then of course an African second), and embrace the power in that. This does not necessarily mean I am better than the man, or that I want to dominate the man, it simply means that I am a woman first.

This leads me to an interesting article I recently read on Rwanda with specific focus on the representation of women in parliament. As a post-conflict country, one has to admire the achievements Rwanda has made. My interest was on the representation of women in parliament, and with 56 percent representation, they are an example to the rest of the world. It is on very rare occasions that a country in Africa gets to lead positively in such statistics. With Somalia leading as one of the worst countries in the world, Rwanda sheds some light in the continent.

However, my story is about a statue that stood at the centre of a very busy roundabout in Rwanda that depicted a woman carrying a baby on her hip and balancing a jug of water on her head. Now, considering that 55 percent of Rwandese are women, one would understand the urgency of women when demanding the statue to be removed. The image was a clear representation of a patriarchal system. Women organisations and activists mobilised the removal of the statue which was replaced with that of a woman holding the hand of a little boy beside her, and this is where my problem lies.

This image puzzles me greatly. Several questions haunt me: why was the statue not changed to simply represent a woman? Why does the child have to be present? Is womanhood tied to motherhood? Can’t a woman just be represented as a woman? The statue seems to emphasize reproduction as part of the role of the woman in national development. I am not objecting to motherhood (I am glad and I consider myself blessed to be alive), but does motherhood have to be part of the woman’s identity, or in this case image. This is what I am questioning.

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