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第4册 - Unit 2, Section B - The Political Career of a Female Politician

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Modest and soft-spoken, Agatha Muthoni Mbogo, 24, is hardly the image of a revolutionary. Yet, six months ago, she did a most revolutionary thing: She ran for mayor of Embu, Kenya, and won.

Ms. Mbogo's victory was even more surprising because she was voted in by her colleagues on the District Council, all men. For the thousands of women in this farming area two hours northeast of Nairobi, Ms. Mbogo suddenly became a symbol of the increasingly powerful political force women have become in Kenya and across Africa.

Ms. Mbogo launched her dream of a career in politics in 1992 by running for the Embu Council, facing the obstacles that often trouble African women running for political office. She had little money. She had no political experience. She faced ridiculous questions about her personal life. 'My opponent kept insisting that I was going to get married to somebody in another town and move away,' Ms. Mbogo said.

Ms. Mbogo also faced misunderstanding among the town's women, many of whom initially were unwilling to vote for her. She became an ambassador for women's political rights, giving speeches before women's groups and going from door to door, handbag in hand, spending hours at a time giving a combination of speech and government lesson.

'I was delighted when she won the election, because men elected her,' said Lydiah Kimani, an Embu farmer and political activist. 'It was the answer to my prayers because it seemed to be a victory over this idea that 'women can't lead'.'

Education of African women has become a top priority for political activists. One organization has held dozens of workshops in rural Kenya to help women understand the nation's constitution and the procedures and theory behind a democratic political system. One veteran female political activist said that many women had not been taught the basics of political participation. They are taught to vote for the one who 'gives you a half-kilo sack of flour, 200 grams of salt, or a loaf of bread' during the campaign, said the activist.

Women politicians and activists say they are fighting deeply held cultural traditions. Those traditions teach that African women cook, clean, take care of children, sow and harvest crops and support their husbands. They typically do not inherit land, divorce their husbands, control their finances or hold political office.

Yet, political activity among Kenyan women is not a new phenomenon. During the struggle for independence in the 1950s, Kenyan women often secretly provided troops with weapons and spied on the positions of colonial forces. But after independence, leaders jealous to protect their power shut them out of politics, a situation repeated across the continent.

Today, men still have the upper hand. Women in Kenya make up 60 percent of the people who vote, but only 3 percent of the National Assembly. No Kenyan woman has ever held a cabinet post.

Against that background, Agatha Mbogo began her political career. After winning her council seat, she declined a spot on the education and social services committee after a colleague called it 'a woman's committee'. She instead joined the town planning committee, a much more visible assignment.

Then last year, she decided to challenge Embu's mayor, a veteran politician. Ms. Mbogo said she had become frustrated because the donor groups that provide substantial aid to Kenya's rural areas 'did not want to come here'.

'We weren't seeing things done for the community,' she said. 'It was a scandal - the donors' money seemed to be going to individuals.'

After a fierce campaign, the council elected her, 7 to 6. She said women in Embu celebrated. Men were puzzled; some were hostile. They asked, 'How could all of those men vote for a woman?' she recalled.

Ms. Mbogo has not met with the kinds of abuse that other female politicians have been subjected to, however. Some have said their supporters are sometimes attacked with clubs after rallies. Last June, Kenyan police attempted to break up a women's political meeting northwest of Nairobi, insisting it was illegal and might start a riot. When the 100 women, including a member of the National Assembly, refused to go, officers tore down their banners and beat them with clubs and fists, witnesses reported.

In contrast, Ms. Mbogo generally receives warm greetings from the men of Embu, and many say they are now glad the council chose her.

Donor groups are now funding projects in Embu in earnest. A new market is going up downtown. A 200-bed section for new-mothers is being added to the hospital. A dormitory-style home has been built for the dozens of homeless street children who once wandered the city. Ms. Mbogo is especially proud of the market and the hospital because 'they have an impact on women'.

At the current market, where hundreds of people, shaded by umbrellas, lay out fruits and vegetables, one person who sells lemons said she liked the new mayor.

'I feel like if I have a problem, I can go to her office,' she said. 'The other mayor shouted. He acted like an emperor. He did not want to hear my problems.'

Nearby, a man said he found Ms. Mbogo a refreshing change. 'I'm tired of men,' he said, watching over his pile of onions. 'They give us so many promises, but they don't deliver the goods. As long as she keeps giving us what we want, she is all right.'

24岁的阿加莎·墨丹妮·姆波戈,为人谦虚,谈吐温柔,算不上是个革命者的形象。

然而就在6个月前,她做了一件极富革命性的事情:她参加了肯尼亚恩布市的市长竞选,并且当选。

更令人感到意外的是,姆波戈女士是由区议会的同事们投票选出的,而那些人全是男性。

在肯尼亚乃至整个非洲,妇女的政治力量日益壮大。恩布市是一个位于内罗毕东北部的农业地区,距内罗毕两个小时的车程。对于生活在此地的数千妇女来说,姆波戈成了这种力量的标志。

1992年,姆波戈女士开始追寻她的从政梦想,她竞选了恩布市议员。像其他打算从政的非洲妇女一样,她面对着很多阻碍:

她缺钱,

没有政治经验,

要回答许多关于她个人生活的荒唐问题。

她说:"我的对手一口咬定我要与外市的人结婚并搬走。"

姆波戈还要面对本市妇女的诸多误解,她们中间有许多人起初并不愿意为她投票。

她成为捍卫妇女政治权利的使者,向妇女团体发表演说或者挎着手提包挨家挨户去做演讲,并给他们讲解政体,一讲就是数小时。

"她胜出我很高兴,因为是男人们选举了她,"恩布市的一位农民政治活动家利迪亚·基曼尼如是说。

"这正是我期望的结果,因为它似乎战胜了'女人当不了领导者'这种观念。"

非洲妇女的教育已经成为政治活动家们着重考虑的问题。

有个机构已经在肯尼亚农村举办了十几次研讨会,目的是帮助妇女理解国家宪法以及民主政治制度的程序及理论。

一位资深的女政治活动家说,许多妇女连参政的最基本知识都没学过。

她说,有人教她们,在竞选运动中谁 "给你半公斤面粉、200克食盐或一条面包",就投票选谁。

妇女政治活动家们说她们正在与根深蒂固的文化传统作斗争。

这些传统要非洲妇女做饭、打扫屋子、照管孩子、种庄稼、收庄稼、支持丈夫。

她们通常不能继承土地,不能与丈夫离婚,不能理财,也不能从政。

然而,肯尼亚妇女从事政治活动并不是什么新现象。

在20世纪50年代争取独立的斗争中,肯尼亚妇女就经常秘密地为部队提供武器并监视殖民军的阵地。

但是独立之后,领导者们惟恐失去自己的权力,将妇女排斥在政界之外。这种现象在非洲大陆随处可见。

今天,男性仍占有优势。

肯尼亚妇女占选民人数的60%,但在国民大会中的席位仅有3%。

从来没有一位肯尼亚妇女担任过内阁职务。

在这种背景下,阿加莎·姆波戈开始了她的政治生涯。

在赢得议会席位之后,她拒绝了被同事称为"女人委员会"的教育及社会服务委员会的职位,

而加入了城市规划委员会。这是个更显眼的工作。

接着,在去年,她决定挑战恩布市市长,一位资深政客。

姆波戈女士说,为肯尼亚乡村地区提供大量捐助的团体 "不愿意到这里来",为此她感到很失望。

"我们没看到有人为社区办过什么事,"她说。

"这是一件丑闻,捐资者的钱似乎落入了个人腰包。"

经过一场激烈的竞选,她以7比6的选票当选。

她说恩布市的妇女为此兴高采烈,

而男人们则很不解,有些甚至心怀敌意。

她回忆说,男人们不解:那些男人怎么会选一个女人?

但姆波戈女士并没有像其他女政治家那样受到攻击。

有些女政治家曾说她们的支持者有时在集会后会受到棍棒袭击。

去年6月,肯尼亚警方企图驱散在内罗毕西北部举行的一次妇女政治集会,坚持说它是非法的,可能引发骚乱。

目击者报告说,当时有100名妇女,包括一名国民大会委员。她们拒绝离开,于是警官扯下她们的标语,并对她们棒打拳击。

与此相反,姆波戈女士通常受到恩布市男士们的热烈欢迎,许多人说现在很高兴议会选择了她。

如今,捐助团体正式给恩布市的若干项目提供了资金。

在市中心建起了一个新市场。

医院新增添了有200个床位的产房。

为几十个流浪街头、无家可归的孩子建起了集体宿舍。

姆波戈女士对这个市场和医院感到特别自豪,因为"它们对妇女有很大的影响"。

在现在的市场上,数以百计的人在遮阳伞下摆卖果蔬。一个卖柠檬的妇女说她喜欢新市长。

"我感觉如果碰到问题,我可以到她的办公室去找她,"她说。

"以前的市长呼来喝去,好像是个皇帝,他并不想听我的问题。"

旁边,有个男人说他发觉姆波戈女士带来了一种清新的变化。

"我厌倦了男人,"看着自己那一大堆洋葱,他说。

"他们只会许诺,但没有实际的东西。只要她能不断带来我们所需的东西,她就行。"

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