By Job Shipululo Amupanda
PART of the reason why women struggles have not succeeded like other struggles is the privatisation of such discourses by charlatans defining themselves as advocates and activists of women emancipation. To these charlatans, the emancipation of women and indeed the exploitation of women is something that is exclusively limited to females and such a discourse can only be championed by women.
To help society understand this tendency, there have been political scientists who looked at this question and characterised this tendency as ‘ultra feminism.’ Ultra feminism is different from radical feminism – the struggle to bring about the reordering of society to ensure that male supremacy is eliminated in all socio-political and economic contexts. Ultra feminism has to do with an obsession with projecting women as better than men in all aspect of life. Some ultra-feminist also seek to reorder the natural order of things. It is for this reason that most ultra-feminist are advocates of trans-gender activities.
The struggle for the emancipation of women and against patriarchy also suffers from a setback of women who project themselves as advocates for women emancipation, not out of strong convictions, but on account of interest in profit and limelight. It is these women ‘activists’ that are easily bought by power holders to project a particular posture and further sustain patriarchy. If women can be bought for the use by male power holders, it indeed becomes difficult to distinguish these bought women from hotdogs. Like hotdogs bought for the use (eating) by a person with money-power these women bought by the male power holders in the political system are not any different. Those having difficulty in comprehending the above must be quickly alerted to the reality characterising the 50/50 gender representation of the ruling party.
When they do so they must inform us how and why weak, illiterate and semi-illiterate women often triumph and benefit most from the 50/50 arrangement compared to strong and enlightened females cadres of the party. The enlightened women themselves are not innocent. As we have stated before on this page, it is an occurrence that most of them are involved in the struggle for women as long as it results in personal benefits. It is for this reason, for the Namibian context, that I had developed and articulated the perspective on ‘perfumed women’. The narrative of perfumed women deals with those rich and educated women who stand at the pedestal masquerading as advocates of women issues but on close inspection it becomes clear that their struggle is really limited to fighting for women to climb the corporate and political ladder and not really the struggle to bring about the reordering of society to ensure that male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts. They are concerned with becoming chief executives and not really advocating for girls at the villages. They are concerned with becoming board chairpersons and not advocating for female vendors under constant harassment by generally male security agencies in the street of Windhoek and elsewhere. In short, these characters are advocates for their fellow ‘perfumed women’ and project such as the struggle for women emancipation.
To the unsuspecting, listening to ‘perfumed women’, given their polished English, gives them hope that society will change for the better. Little do they realise that perfumed women have no plan whatsoever to get their hands dirty and damage their nails. The poor women themselves seem to have surrendered to an understanding that in order to advocate for their issues in the new Namibia, they need to become ‘perfumed women’ for the media and society to carry their narratives. While this may be the brutal truth about the truth – given the power relations and the order of things in our capitalist society – we should be able to find examples to inspire poor women to fight against patriarchy regardless of their proximity to perfume. It has happened elsewhere in history. Consider the case of Kuku Gwanale Namupala gwaAmunyela yaShuumbwa and her fight against patriarchy in a difficult African traditional society. I recently, and finally, managed to get this story out of her following our discussion how they dealt with patriarchy in Ondonga during their time. Kuku Namupala was an extremely beautiful woman who attracted interest of many Aandonga men at the time. King Martin Ashikoto could not resist the temptation and ‘ondjelo’ of a beautiful girl; Namupula – a daughter of Ishiwe yaShindongo and Hamunyela gwaShuumba. She was named ‘Namupala’ after Namupala yaNehale lyaMpingana – the daughter of warrior Nehale lyaMpingana. Her other sister, Ndengu, was also named after another Nehale daughter; Ndengu yaNehale. Her grandmother, Kuku Nantinda yaAndapo and her father Hamunyela yaShuumbwa took her to Iitsali (the Aandonga version of what is popularly known as Olufuko today) at Onambeke. It was at Iitsali in Onambeke where King Martin Ashikoto could not resist the temptation and thus chose her as one of his wives. That Ondonga has been a patriarchal society is well acknowledged. At his headquarters at Okahonde in Ontananga, King Martin gaAshikoto had seven wives at his disposal; Katrina kaLeonard, Nangombe yaNamalenga, Iipumbu yaMushindi, Nantinda yaKaluwapa, Mpupa gwaNamupala, Shivunda shaKakangwa and then Kuku Namupala gwaHamunyela. Kuku Namupala was opposed to this arrangement for a number of reasons. Firstly one of the wives, Katrina kaLeonard was related to her through Maria gaShimweneni of the linage of warrior Amupanda gwaShiponeni. Secondly, she despised this idea of many women belonging to one man. In her words; “otwa li mo twa fa iikombo” (we [referring to wives] were many like goats). She now and then escaped from Okahonde to her father’s house. Hamunyela yaShuumbwa could not offer her protection; to him and Kuku Namupala’s grandmother, Nantinda yaAndapo, their daughter’s marriage to King Martin Ashikoto represented prestige and an accomplishment of a lifetime.
The men of King Martin gaAshikoto will now and then come to collect her from her father’s house and returned her back to Ontananga each time she escaped. She found another strategy, this time choosing for escape to a faraway place, Ongula yaNetanga, where her relative Kathindi kiIkololo lived. This too did not work as they still came to get her. Be it as it may, she remained defiant and stood firm in her opposition to patriarchy. She faced a powerful establishment and never surrendered.
As years passed, she devised a plan that worked. She decided to escape and this time find hiding in Ondangwa staying with her relative Ester yaSakaria. Ondangwa was then inhabited by the Aambwela. The interpretation was then that Kuku Namupala was now in the company of Aambwela. For his wife to associate with the Aambwela was something King Martin gaAshikoto could not accept. The men of the king did not come get her as was the case. She later got married to Kuku Adolf yaElia yaNdafenongo who was then the headman of Ekolyanaambo village bordering Ondonga-Oukwanyama and Ondonga-Uukwambi. Ekolyanaambo was initially part of Ondonga and Kuku Adolf, as headman, was reporting to the Aandonga leadership. One day, when Kuku Namupala went to fetch water she discovered the demarcations the Aakwanyama had done repositioning Ekolyanaambo and making it part of the Oukwanyama territory. She travelled to Okaloko the capital of King Sheepo shaNamene to go report this occurrence. The King’s men came to observe the situation and reported back. This was an indication that Kuku Namupala still identified with the kingdom but simply refused to associate with patriarchy. For some reason, the Aakwanyama succeeded in capturing Ekolyanaambo that remains part of Oukwanyama until today. The point of this narrative is this: there have been women, even in the African traditional society, who stood opposed to patriarchy. The fight against patriarchy is not a result of the advent of democracy. This story clearly demonstrates to poor women that they do not need to become ‘perfumed women’ in order to fight against patriarchy. In Ondonga today, the King is only known for one wife; not seven as was the case with Martin gaAshikoto where of the seven some were related.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015