News / Africa

    Female Politicians Express Need for Greater Political Voice in W. Africa

    FILE - Delegates from Delta state take part in a parade during the "peace rally" organized by the National Council for Women's Societies (NCWS) in Abuja, Nigeria, Aug. 15, 2013.
    FILE - Delegates from Delta state take part in a parade during the "peace rally" organized by the National Council for Women's Societies (NCWS) in Abuja, Nigeria, Aug. 15, 2013.
    Jennifer Lazuta
    More than 200 West African elected officials and civil society leaders have converged on Dakar this week for a conference on female leadership.  As parity laws bring more and more women into local and national governments, experts say it isn't translating into improved policies on so-called women's issues like health, women's rights and development.
     
    Despite improvements in women’s participation in local and national governments in some countries, women remain largely excluded from democratic processes in most West African countries.
     
    In Nigeria, for example, just 15 out of 745 local leadership positions are held by women.  Elected female officials account for less than five percent of Nigeria’s Senate and National Assembly.
     
    This is in stark comparison to Senegal, where 44 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women.  Many experts attribute the high number of female Senegalese leaders to a May 2010 parity law, which requires the equal participation of men and women in government.
     
    Henrietta Akaaka is the president of Africavance, a Nigeria-based pro-democracy group that works to promote women’s participation in government.
     
    “Women’s full participation in public affairs and nation building is a fundamental condition for enduring democracies," she said. "It is therefore not in doubt that the access to leadership and decision making positions remain key to development.  Parity of affirmative action; this is the only way we women can fully participate in the social and economic development of our various communities, regions and nations at large.”
     
    Akaaka said that including more female leaders in politics could mean an improvement in social protection and development programs, for both women and children, such as education and health.  
     
    Unfortunately, women face many challenges when it comes to gaining access to and then exerting political power.
     
    One of the biggest obstacles is overcoming traditional cultural and religious expectations.  Many women in Africa are raised to be neither seen nor heard outside the home.  Men often discourage or even outright forbid their wives to enter into careers, particularly those in politics, which are viewed as a “man’s work.”
     
    Another barrier to more female leadership is the low rate of literacy among women, which is often a requirement for active participation in the government.  According to UNESCO, an estimated two-thirds of women worldwide can’t read or write.  The majority of these women live in sub-Saharan Africa.
     
    Even when a woman can overcome the odds, the election of more female leaders doesn’t necessarily mean a change in policy on women’s issues.
     
    “It’s true that women leaders have had an impact on decision making processes, but their impact can -- and needs to be -- much bigger," said Marieme Badiane, a minister of the state under Senegal’s President Macky Sall. "In order to affect policy in a significant way, women must take advantage of their political power.  They must fight, they must lobby, they must debate to obtain change.  That’s fundamental.”

    Nigerien women’s rights activist and media consultant, Moji Makanjuola, said another reason female leaders haven’t made more of an impact is that they forget about what is important to women once in power.
     
    “Women themselves are not helping women.  Women do not identify with their constituency, particularly when they get elected into offices or get appointed," she said. "They become so far away from other women.  They see themselves as new leaders.  They do not see you as part of them.  They are up and you are down.”
     
    Women’s rights activists say they will continue to call for gender parity laws in all West African nations, as well as giving more voice to current women leaders.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora