Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
Imagine a society in which every voice has a say and everyone counts – young, old, women and men. This is the kind of society philosophers Henri Bergson and Karl Popper imagined when they developed the concept of an open society. Looking at societies in southern Africa, even the ones that are believed to have the slightest semblance of ‘open societies’, ensuring the participation and voice of all citizens is still a challenge. This is more so for the so-called marginalized social groups, especially women who are treated as perpetual minors. One wonders what spaces are there for young people, especially young women, in such polarized societies that make their voices count? This article will critically analyse the significance of giving space and voice to young women when participating in society generally and in the women’s movement in particular as a prerequisite to achieving open society ideals. Young women matter in realising
In open societies, governments are responsive and tolerant and political mechanisms are transparent and flexible. In his book Open Society and its Enemies, Popper alludes to an ‘open society’ as one which ensures that political leaders can be overthrown without the need for bloodshed, as opposed to a ‘closed society’, in which a bloody revolution or coup d'état is needed to change the leadership. He further describes an open society as one “in which individuals are confronted with personal decisions and these are respected”. To further invest in the promotion of open societies, George Soros founded the Open Society Institute in 1993, with the aim of shaping public policy and promoting democratic governance, human rights and, economic, legal, and social reform. This article will dwell on the last part of Popper’s definition of the importance of the ‘personal’ as it argues for the promotion of young women’s rights as a vital facet towards achieving an open society. This is so because as Chantal Mouffe claims ‘the personal is political’. The fact that young women’s voices are lacking in sociopolitical discourse and even in the women’s movement has to be analysed in light of the broader structures that seek to shift the balance of power, turf and influence in any society.