"BOTH now and then, we had to accept your eternal wars. And patiently we forgave whatever you did. You didn’t receive critics – you were our idol. But we did understand your play. When we smilingly asked you “How did your peace negotiations go? Did you decide upon peace?” The man said: “Don’t bother. Leave me alone” – and I silenced.”
The words are Lysistrata’s, in the play by Aristofanes originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BC (Before Christ) but could have been said today by women in Solomon Islands, the Pacific and the world.
Women constitute about half of our population but only one is among the 50 members of our national parliament.
And of the 172 members of our nine Provincial Assemblies, only four are women.
Oh yes Permanent Secretaries too, just two of the 25 (PMO & RAMSI included) are women.
So how can we create lasting peace and sustainable development if we continue to neglect half of our population and its experience?
How can we afford to use only half our talent and resources to rebuild and restore confidence to a country and a people already ravaged, displaced and disoriented by a four-year bloody civil war?
A war that was exceptionally cruel towards women?
And how can we just continue to ignore this one basic fact when our today’s complicated challenges demand more than one vision – the vision of our other half; the vision of our women?
We all know that women are different because of the different experiences they have been through, and the different means by which they gain authority.
And this difference is recognised, slowly but surely, in the fabric of world organizations.
Both the European Union and the United Nations have quotas for numbers of women in peace-making and peace-keeping missions.
This is because these two world organisations recognise women as community builders who know the back door to peace, cemented by their bonds as mothers demanding a stable and peaceful environment for their children, our children.
And here let us all recall the old biblical story of Jochebed (Moses’ mother) and the Pharaoh’s daughter.
The baby Moses was doomed to die because his presence was a threat to Pharaoh.
Jochebed took Moses where the Pharaoh’s daughter would see the crying baby and feel sorry for him.
There and then, then and there, two women – one Arab and one Jew – together secretly planned the baby’s survival.
And thanks to these two women a whole nation was saved.
And arguably might I add - the world’s first trade unionist, Moses - who finally led his people out of Egypt because of the inhumane working conditions the Pharaoh imposed on them as slaves.
Moses’ mother sent her child into the house of the enemy because she knew what the men did not know - no mother was an enemy to a child; any child - black, white, brown or yellow.
She put her hope in the open heartedness and peaceful co-existence of women.
The presence of women in the Moses story, the empowering cooperation of Moses’ mother and the Pharaoh’s daughter was a solution to madness then.
It was also the start of community then, and the seed of another newer, more nurturing world that was needed then and which is needed now in this country.
The lives of our children, protection of our old, the hopes of all our people wait again now for women to step up and make the difference we desperately need and deserve.
By our own traditions we all know that there are certain situations in our lives where they need a woman’s touch.
So many issues and problems in a male-dominated world derive from the aggressive, secretive and often insensitive masculine ego.
Problems could be more effectively addressed when female qualities of intuition, compassion, compromise and harmony were added to the equation.
The female touch, we all know and have in fact experienced in different forms and situations, can pour oil on troubled waters and help unblock choked lines of discussions and communications.
For when women and men rule side by side, it changes and strengthens democracy; it allows women to put forward a different vision that allows men to act differently.
For women not only see different things, they also see things differently.
Only then can we get from bothgenders and their agendas fresh eyes, fresh ears and fresh solutions to solve old problems that continue to haunt us and new, frightening ones which are staring us in the face.
Indeed women have a place to fill, a stake to claim and a role to play in this country and any other country.
Some have tried and it really worked.
Holy one, the disciples ask, “what’s the difference between knowledge and enlightenment?” and the holy one replied “when you have knowledge you light a torch to find a way. When you have enlightenment, you become a torch to show the way.”
Our women too have enlightenment.
It’s about time for them to take their seats next to us and bring more light to the House, be it Parliament, Provincial Assemblies, House of Chiefs, Church Committees, etc so that the way ahead becomes clearer and fairer.
This is one solution we have not tried, but the one most likely to work.
Let’s remind ourselves of the wisdom of Shakespeare:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
To use this analogy, we are now at the flood and must act, but the tide of opportunity may well recede quickly if the potential provided by a stable and peaceful country, thanks to RAMSI, is not seized.
And if not seized, what would be the consequences? What shallows and miseries would a failure portend?As the Shakespeare quote continues:
“On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”
This is not a call to remove power from men and turn it all over to women.
It’s a call for sharing the huge burden of governing and navigating a country – women ruling and steering side by side with their fellow men, allowing their calm voices to rise, heard and listened to.
It’s a call for us men to think outside of our comfort zones and accept that for a change; a change for the better.
Let’s try it.
No, I have changed my mind.
Let us do it.
By ROBERT SISILO
Red Beach, North Guadalcanal