What are the sources of a woman’s leadership?
For women worldwide, as opportunities open up, priorities have to be shuffled, creative ways dreamed up to save time. But unlike
societies that increasingly respect the array of choices that free up space for their careers (such as having children later,
foregoing motherhood altogether), Rwanda has a narrower acceptable realm. If legitimacy in leadership comes from homemaking,
what becomes of a single or even married career woman without children? Very few have tested the scenario.
The vast majority opt to do it all. They hire a housekeeper, a common arrangement for Rwandans at almost all income levels, where
basic tasks like washing clothes (usually by hand) and making dinner (often over a small charcoal stove, in a pot that needs
stirring over several hours) are far more time consuming than in the West. Career mothers find child care, often by a younger
relative. Still, many are plagued with self-doubt about how they’re managing the balancing act.
In Rwanda, of course, there’s the added dimension that most women faced great loss. Now they cope with an array of challenges (for
example, folding orphaned children into their traumatized families) unlike their peers in other countries. Even for those with
families intact and thriving, secondary trauma takes a toll. The pain they see close colleagues and friends confront on a daily
basis looms as a reminder.
—Rwandan Women Rising, p. 320
- Do challenges like the one described exist elsewhere in the world?
- Are married women with children considered “more legitimate” than a single woman with no children?
- Do women with children still face challenges to their legitimacy in leadership positions? (Consider questions aboutchildcare posed to women political candidates but not to men.