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In Africa, women don't need to be in politics to fight corruption

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Not long ago, a short article I wrote for the Christian Science Monitor, about Rwanda's majority female parliament, prompted a wee spat in this blog's comment section, where various professional approaches to what counts as data (slash truth) were batted about. What got people riled up was this post, about the stereotype (sexism?) that women holding public office are less corrupt(ible) than men.

I'm on the losing end of a data battle, working as a journalist does in anecdote and contextualizing that anecdote with the research (and quotations, which are variations on anecdote, supported or not) of others. So while I'm losing by privileging individual voices, let me throw another one into the mix.

Sarah Ongole wrote recently in Uganda's New Vision that women can "fight corruption" even without elected guardian angels of the public coffers. Right off the bat, she disassociates herself from what I called the neo-Victorian assumption that women are more virtuous than men. "As a woman, I believe that women can play a big role in the battle against corruption, not that they themselves are corruption free," she writes. She continues:

"Women can start to question the source of money their husbands, brothers or fathers have, especially if it can not easily be explained. In most cases, the women know that the source of their husband’s money is not right, but keep quiet because the money brings them comfort."

Casting corruption as a violation of the private morality of a marriage, rather than the public virtues of the national-international complex, seems to me an idea worth trying. (And if you know where it's already being tested, by all means, let us know.)

Assuming those guys'll listen to their wives, of course.

Jina Moore is a freelance journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda who blogs here.


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