"Women in positions of power in Africa need to do more"
I am really proud of all the heroines that you meet whenever and wherever you are in Africa, in the rural areas, in cities, urban slums and in refugee camps - their resourcefulness, their ability to learn and speak many languages, and their bravery when they must gather their families and belongings and go in search for a future elsewhere. It is always encouraging and an unparalleled learning experience.
I like to think that women in Africa are better off today than they have ever been. There are more women than ever in positions of power and in Liberia, Malawi and the African Union women are leading in the highest offices, many countries are actively pursuing and enforcing policies to ensure women are active in parliament and driving policies. The main challenges are to do with the inequities between and within African countries and their consequences.
We can accelerate progress to improve the realities of many African women if (1) we demonstrate and advocate on the value of investing in women, in particular their health and education, on development. Healthy girls and women can benefit most from their education and in turn, if they marry and if and when they decide to have children, they will add to their children’s life expectancy and opportunities. 2) Women and men work together to help promote and enforce gender equality, the rights of women and the most vulnerable groups of people.
African women in power can and must do more to shape some African men’s attitudes towards girls and women on issues from polygamy to violence against women to access to family planning. We will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals if we do not increase significantly our investment in women; and investment is not only about money but about freedoms too.
Women in positions of power need to do more to improve the position of less fortunate women in Africa today; they can educate their sons, their husbands and other men in their families to respect women, and empower them to encourage them to contribute to the development of societies where there are more and better options for girls and women.
Susana Edjang is a Global Health consultant and an RAS council member