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OF THE 36 lower houses of parliament worldwide that have reached the 30% threshold considered necessary for women to have an impact on decision-making, 11 are African. At the end of 2012, one-fifth of sub-Saharan MPs on average were female, according to figures of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. That may not sound a lot, but marks an increase of seven percentage points on 2002, and puts the continent on a par with the global mean. By comparison, women MPs make up 23% of Britain’s House of Commons, and 18% of America’s Congress.
In many cases, the gains are because of quota systems, which are increasingly popular. Last year Senegal’s parliament saw the fastest advance in female representation globally after it enforced a parity law. Women make up almost half of it. In September Aminata Touré was appointed as Senegal’s prime minister.
South Africa is not far behind, ranking eighth in the world, with women taking 42% of Parliament’s seats, almost double the rate in 1994 when the ruling African National Congress (ANC) created a voluntary party quota, allocating 30% of posts to women. And they run some of the country’s grandest ministries, such as home, defence and foreign affairs. The central bank governor is a woman, too.
Women will also vie for South Africa’s presidency in next year’s election. Most prominent is Helen Zille, head of the liberal Democratic Alliance, the main opposition. Mamphela Ramphele, founder of a new party called Agang, is also set to run. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former wife of President Jacob Zuma, has been urged to bid for the ANC leadership when he goes; she has been minister of foreign and then home affairs and now chairs the African Union’s executive commission. Liberia and Malawi have elected women to be their presidents.
Even in less democratic countries female representation is on the march. After the genocide in 1994, Rwanda’s authoritarian president, Paul Kagame, engineered the election of the world’s highest proportion of women in a legislature. When a new parliament assembled in October, women had a world-record 64% of the seats. The president jokes that “women are almost taking over everything” and says that soon it will be the men who need help.
Botswana, by contrast, has dipped from 17% in 2003 (ranking it 54th in the world) to 8% (putting it 125th). Nigeria has increased its proportion up a shade from 5% to a still paltry 7%.
It takes time for female MPs to improve women’s lot. Despite law changes in South Africa, the World Economic Forum’s gender-gap report shows that women earn 35% less than men doing the same jobs.
In Rwanda a higher proportion of girls than boys enroll in primary and secondary education, but they perform worse, and the balance reverses in university, when household duties call daughters and wives away from their studies.
Despite the heading in this article, ‘Women Are Winning’, by the time one reads the last two paragraphs, one gets that feeling that despite gains in numbers when it comes to parliamentary and governmental roles for women, there’s is still so much to be done - and urgently so - when it comes to the progression and empowerment of girls and women, from all walks of life, throughout the African continent.
Are African women really winning? And where, or in/at what?
"At the end of this month, President Obama will begin his trip to Africa, visiting South Africa, Senegal (in West Africa) and Tanzania (in East Africa)," Jonathan Berman wrote Monday for Harvard Business Review. "The trip will be expensive, and The Washington Post has highlighted the large cost at a time of budget tightening. However, even the myopia of the U.S. budget process cannot obscure reality in this case — this is money well spent.
"Putting aside security, global health, and other national issues, US commercial interests alone make Africa an important destination for our President. There is a lot at stake.
"Africa ranks second — behind emerging Asia — as the fastest growing region of the world. The IMF forecasts that Sub-Saharan Africa will grow at a rate of 5.4% this year, about 50% faster than Latin America, and infinitely more than Europe, which is currently expected to grow not at all or even contract.
"Also, Africa’s growth is not from a small base. Africa today is a $2 trillion economy, roughly the same as Brazil or India (where few would say a presidential visit is wasted). Of course, Africa is not one country — its many individual nations mean the growth, risks and opportunities vary widely. However, few would deny that West Africa, East Africa and South Africa each hold significant growth opportunities for US companies. It’s wise of the White House to have the President visit all three, drawing guests from the whole region and not just the host countries… ."
"The failure to address conflict situations effectively is creating a global underclass," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General.
"The rights of those fleeing conflict are unprotected. Too many governments are abusing human rights in the name of immigration control - going well beyond legitimate border control measures."
He added: “These measures not only affect people fleeing conflict. Millions of migrants are being driven into abusive situations, including forced labour and sexual abuse, because of anti-immigration policies which means they can be exploited with impunity. Much of this is fuelled by populist rhetoric that targets refugees and migrants for governments’ domestic difficulties.”