News / Africa

Women on the Rise in African Politics

Women Rising in African Politicsi
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February 08, 2014 11:57 PM
Africa now has three female heads of state, after Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic took office in January. Though women leaders remain the exception in African politics, activists say things are looking up. VOA's Anne Look has more.
VIDEO: Africa now has three formidable female presidents tackling everything from security to corruption.
Anne Look
Africa now has three female heads of state, after Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic took office in January. Though women leaders remain the exception in African politics, activists say things are looking up.

Women are breaking into the "boys club" of the African presidency.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, or "Ma Ellen," was the first in 2005 as the country emerged from 13 years of brutal civil war.
 
FILE - Malawi President Joyce Banda speaks during funeral service for Nelson Mandela, Qunu, South Africa, Dec. 15, 2013.FILE - Malawi President Joyce Banda speaks during funeral service for Nelson Mandela, Qunu, South Africa, Dec. 15, 2013.
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FILE - Malawi President Joyce Banda speaks during funeral service for Nelson Mandela, Qunu, South Africa, Dec. 15, 2013.
FILE - Malawi President Joyce Banda speaks during funeral service for Nelson Mandela, Qunu, South Africa, Dec. 15, 2013.
​Joyce Banda stepped up in Malawi in 2012 after the sudden death of the president. She had been the vice president. 

And now there's President Catherine Samba-Panza in the Central African Republic, a country torn apart by rebellion and sectarian violence.

Each of these women has taken office amid crisis and transition. Countries like Mali have seen their first female presidential candidates. Bad times are finally prying the doors open.

"There's a joke I read the other day - when everything gets messed up, the women are asked to come in and clean up," says Executive Director for the NGO Women Africa Solidarity, Oley Dibba-Wadda,

She says girls and young women are getting much-needed role models.

"To say it is possible, I can actually be a president being a woman…These trailblazers have just opened the flood doors and it's just going to happen. There is no thinking of going back. We can't go back," she said.

As African women break political "glass ceilings" at all levels of government, some are criticized for not doing enough for other women.
 
FILE - Interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza gives a speech in Bangui, Feb. 1, 2014.FILE - Interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza gives a speech in Bangui, Feb. 1, 2014.
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FILE - Interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza gives a speech in Bangui, Feb. 1, 2014.
FILE - Interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza gives a speech in Bangui, Feb. 1, 2014.
Samba-Panza made it clear from day one that she would be different. About a third of her Cabinet is female.

"I intend to respect parity because until now, the previous governments didn't give us a lot of seats," she said. "There were only two or three women. But I won't choose women no matter what. I need to have women of worth, who are able to accompany my actions."

Women hold just one-fifth of parliamentary seats and ministerial positions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Discrimination remains, but the pool of qualified women is growing as more girls get to stay in school.

At least 16 African countries have passed parity laws. Countries like Rwanda reserve a percentage of parliamentary seats for women, while others like Senegal have set quotas for women on candidate lists.

The percentage of women in Senegal's legislature doubled in 2012 thanks to the law.

But prominent Senegalese politician and presidential adviser Penda Mbow says true equality requires societal change.

"Parity laws may be one tool but they are not enough. We also need to fix what goes on inside political parties and let capable, promising women emerge naturally so that when they are promoted, no one can say they got special treatment," said Penda Mbow.

Africa now has three formidable female presidents tackling everything from security to corruption. Half a century after independence, women's time may have come.

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Comments
     
by: Rasheedat Sanni from: Nigeria
March 07, 2014 3:03 AM
There is actually nothing wrong with women leading,culturally though,in Africa,men are seen as leaders but unfurtunately,they have taken that position for granted and the care free ones have abused it to the detriment of those they are meant to lead whatever the case may be,so this challenging situation brings the women up to rule because naturally women are caring and loving,they tidy up!they are never comfortable with a disorganised system,as far as they are doing fine as leaders,giving every situation and people their due rights which I expect they will do because of their tending kind,then let's support them and believe in them.


by: Mamoeketsi Ntho from: Lesotho
February 24, 2014 9:34 AM
Qoutas go a long way to increase women's representation. But political party learders need to comply within their parties, more women need to occupy leadership positions within parties


by: Mwakhiwa from: Malawi
February 14, 2014 10:09 AM
Instead of tackling corruption Joice Banda of Malawi is the master mind behind all cashgate, the calamity currently rocking the nation!


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
February 10, 2014 12:16 AM
I support for women to take leading seats in politics because they are usually peace lovers and senseless battles would be more avoided.


by: JKF2 from: Great North (Canada)
February 09, 2014 9:39 PM
The fact that women are becoming heads of state, is the best and most hopeful sign that these African nations are transitioning to true democracies, and by so doing they will start the road to a better future. The most developed countries in the World, did so become only once their women were emancipated and allowed to fully contribute to the development of their nations. A strong participation of women in all aspects of their societies, not only needs to be encouraged, but it must be demanded from those that have obstructed the natural progession and advancement of women in society. One must take notice, that in most countries around the World in which women are denied their rights, those countries- contribute very little if anything to humanity, their economies are poor, in most cases they are tribal retrograde societies, they can't sustain themselves, and are involved in never ending internal conflicts. Bottom line, it is good to see that these African nations have taken one main step to real progress and a better life for all their citizens; all countries/societies, that are holding back women, by denying their full rights, need to emulate these few visionary countries, so that the emancipation of women is global/in every nation.


by: Vicky Sun from: SH China
February 09, 2014 7:41 AM
Great!


by: John marach from: South sudan
February 09, 2014 4:52 AM
But when women messed up who will come and clean them? Men will come and burry them.

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