Female policymakers in African countries positively impact women, girls, and society. Gender discrimination has long been entrenched in parts of Africa, and removing such restrictions will lead to equal organization. But some barriers must be overcome before women can reach their full potential as political leaders.
Women’s political empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa
Women have played vital roles in Africa’s history, economy, and society for centuries. However, their participation in political and electoral processes is often limited. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of female speakers in parliaments is only sixteen, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Only Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, and Togo have female speakers in their lower house of parliament. However, more women are in leadership positions in Africa than in other regions.
Very few studies have examined the effectiveness of women’s leadership in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite recent gains, however, the socio-political environment continues to pose significant challenges to female leadership in this region. The political climate is often hostile and patriarchal, with women viewed negatively for their leadership.
However, advances in technology and better contraception have opened up the possibility of more economically productive lives for women in the region. In addition, improved agriculture practices and contraception could help women in sub-Saharan Africa improve their socioeconomic status. But more than these developments are needed to overcome the challenges women in rural areas face. And although the socioeconomic situation is improving, the future of women’s economic capacity is at stake.
Women’s representation in leadership is crucial. It is imperative to ensure that women have equal opportunities to access higher education positions and the workforce. Women in leadership positions can set the tone for the future and inspire new generations of young people to take the lead. With the proper mentoring and access to networks, women can unlock the power of female leadership. Moreover, scholarships and other financial incentives can help develop women as leaders and help them overcome unconscious gender biases.
In the African church, women are increasingly taking on leadership positions and becoming the head of congregations. In many cases, these female leaders cannot take over a traditional leadership position dominated by male leaders. Instead, they are forced to conform to existing gender roles and stereotypes. In addition, they are less likely to be theologically trained or hold higher church offices than men. However, women’s ascent to formal religious authority has enormous potential for transformation and reinvigorating religious organizations and society. This is why future research must explore the effects of women’s ascension to leadership positions.
Despite efforts to promote gender equality, women still face numerous barriers to participating in formal jobs. Women in the legal sector often have lower education levels than their male counterparts, and even those who manage to obtain routine appointments tend to work in lower-grade jobs. Even when they succeed, elite women can expect to lose respect and honor. The problem is especially acute in STEM fields, where women typically compete with their male counterparts.
Barriers to women’s participation in public life
Women in Africa face several obstacles regarding leadership and political participation. These barriers are rooted in various contextual factors shaping women’s opportunities and actions in public life. In a nutshell, these factors prevent women from being elected to office or holding leadership positions.
First, the socioeconomic status of women in Africa can significantly influence their political participation. Without an economic base, many women lack the financial resources to campaign and influence public opinion. Limiting campaign spending and providing independent funding can go a long way in supporting women’s political participation.
In addition to structural constraints, unwritten rules and unconscious biases also restrict women’s political agency. These informal rules, rooted in social structures, cultures, and religion, impose significant restrictions on women’s time and access to resources. Furthermore, gender roles increase women’s responsibility for household care, which benefits men. Further, unconscious biases and discriminatory attitudes impede women’s equal participation. Lastly, threats of violence limit women’s mobility.
However, women’s representation in national parliaments has been rising in many countries. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), this percentage has grown faster than in other parts of Africa. Women’s political representation in the national parliament has reached 10.3%. This percentage is significant, especially in Southern Africa.
Moreover, young women in the region face various socio-cultural challenges that prevent them from becoming involved in governance and development. These barriers range from low skill and education levels to patriarchal practices. Further, many children in the region are brought up by their mothers, with little or no contact with their fathers.
Despite progress in recent years, gender bias and stereotype tendencies persist in African institutions. This is reflected in the gender disparities and the lack of access to research funding for women in the region. Further, women in the area remain underrepresented in higher education. It is difficult for women to access higher education in many African countries.
In addition, women’s political participation is impacted by political transitions. During these processes, women can be excluded from political roles or experience a backlash against women’s human rights. This requires a gender-inclusive perspective to ensure women’s full equality.
Education increases the likelihood of women filling such positions.
Women are better educated and more active in the labor force than ever and now occupy management roles. However, their representation at the top of business organizations still needs to catch up to that of men. Achieving gender balance at all levels of business is better for both economies and companies. Women are also outpacing men in third-level education. Despite this, women still earn less than men on average in Africa.
Violence against women in African politics
Violence against women in African politics is a global phenomenon, but a specific subset of women is most vulnerable to these attacks. These women are young, unmarried, and members of minority groups. As a result, these women face more danger and often suffer a higher level of violence. This article looks at some of these women’s challenges in their work as parliamentarians.
To counteract this issue, some African governments have introduced legislation to increase the number of women in leadership positions. For example, Uganda has introduced a law requiring a certain number of women to be in leadership positions to make the country more equitable. This legislation is similar to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the United States. Rwanda, in contrast, has enacted domestic violence legislation that criminalizes violence against women, although cultural traditions have hampered enforcement. For example, family institutions are traditionally superior to law enforcement authority.
Kenya has also taken action against perpetrators of violence against women. On Sept. 7, 2007, Flora Igoki Terah was beaten for four hours before being admitted to a Kenyan hospital. Her torturers forced her to withdraw her political candidacy, but she refused. Six months later, her son was murdered.
Violence against women is a global issue. One-third of women in Africa have experienced physical violence, and one-third have experienced sexual violence. Moreover, 51% of women report beatings from their husbands, which occur when they leave the house without their permission. They are also often beaten when they refuse to have sex or ignore their children. Some women are beaten after burning their food or arguing with their husbands.
Violence against women is a severe deterrent to participation in politics. It forces many women out of the political arena and silences their voices. According to a recent study by ACLED and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, 44.4% of women in politics had experienced violence, including threats of death, rape, sexual assault, and abduction. Many of these crimes go unpunished.