Economic And Political Empowerment Of Women In Africa
By Paul Ndiho
Friday, march 8th, is international women’s day. This year’s theme is “investment in women and girls for inclusive green growth.” But as women the world over celebrate this day, most African women still face enormous challenges to reach their full potential, as they look for ways to advance gender equality, and empowerment, particularly in politics, entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology.
Investing in women’s economic empowerment across the globe is setting a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. In February this year, U.S president Donald Trump signed the women’s global development and prosperity initiative, that’s focused on advancing female participation in the global economy.
The initiative will look to improve women’s’ access to quality education and skills training, support female entrepreneurship and reduce barriers to women’s’ participation in the global workforce in the developing world.
“Thank you very much. We’re here today to launch the first-ever U.S. government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries.
Across Africa, women are slowly breaking into the historically male-dominated domain of becoming elected officials, business owners and techpreneurs. For decades, women have been calling for equality. And today, they are making their mark. For example, the tech industry has provided unprecedented opportunities for women, even though trends indicate a growing gender digital divide and under-representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design.
“Promoting the participation of women and girls in science means changing mindsets, fighting gender stereotypes and biases that limit girls’ passion, expectations and professional goals since their early childhood.”
Across Africa women are also raising the bar and igniting dialogue as they strive to reach the top of the ladder in the tech industry. Tadzoka pswarayi, a co-founder of impact hub Harare, says women in the tech sector are shaping the future, despite repeated hardship:
“The role of women in the tech space is precisely the same as the role of men; we have programs where we bring young women to teach them about technology. But when we do this, it’s imperative that we bring men to the table. At the end of the day, what we’re striving for is equality and technology is one of the spaces that are open for that.”
In politics, women across the continent are shaking the pillars of government patriarchy and are putting the government establishment on notice– that they are now a political force to be reckoned with. For example, in October 2018, the Ethiopian parliament approved shale-work Zewde as the country’s first female president. While the president’s post is a ceremonial one, her appointment marks another shift in Ethiopia’s political system.
In Malawi, former president Joyce Banda is running again for the top seat after reversing a decision to join an alliance with former vice president. Her announcement could be a game changer. Women activists are also making their voices heard, for example in Nigeria, thousands of women from across the country marched for a violence-free election ahead of the country’s presidential elections.
“Time has gone when they thought that we women didn’t have a say – women should be seen and not heard. Our voices cannot be subdued.”
Despite these success stories, violence against women and girls is still rampant across the continent. It negatively affects women’s general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society. Analysts say that perhaps game-changing start-ups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists and women innovators may have found the right mechanism in which innovation can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality and build an unshakable foundation that meets the needs of women and girls.