Women Leadership in African Society

Christine Andela was interviewed by Elomo Andela, African Representative in the CPDE Working Group on the Enabling Environment for Civil Society and Member of the CPDE Communications Working Group
Interview date: Wednesday 2 July 2014.

  1. Following the election of Catherine Samba-Panza as the first female president of the Central African Republic, are we likely to see more women become political leaders in Africa?
    Africa already counts a number of women political leaders, like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, or Aminata Toure, current Prime Minister of Senegal. Indeed the African Union is since July 2012 under the leadership of a woman, Nkozana Dlamini-Zuma. Thus the position of women within african political spheres is increasily being consolidated although there remains a lot still to do. If anything, I see the election of Catherine Samba-Panza in the Central African Republic as another encouraging sign that African women can be entrusted with places of political influence.
  2. What can women in governance do differently?
    I am one of those who think that there is a feminine way of managing public affairs. Women usually avoid getting entangled in political intrigues and other self-serving manoeuvres, and instead tend to focus on winning the battle of ideas; needless to say, they do this for the common good. From experience, this female perspective leaves little or no place for party politics. As women we are rather more interested in and concerned with issues like equity, social justice, solidarity, and by and large, the welfare of present and future generations. In my view these really are the hallmarks of female governance.
  3. How would this strengthen African Civil Society?
    African Civil Society is at a crossroads. Except for a handful of countries where democracy has been adopted in practice, most African states have some way left to travel when it comes to creating an enabling environment for Civil Society action and engagement. I note, however, that Human Rights organisations, Women Rights institutions, and organisations promoting the rights of children have achieved great prominence in a number of African countries. The 2010 Beijing Summit for instance saw an active participation from African women. They were able to mobilise around a capacity building network which today is still going strong. At the time, women meaningfully advocated for improved women rights both within regional and country-level legal frameworks. Since then I must say there has been something of a conceptual shift towards regional integration, conflict management, and of course development effectiveness as the glue that holds it together.
  4. How important is girl education?
    Studies which corroborate the importance of girl education have been well-documented across the world. Among other things, these show that an educated woman is far better equipped to support the development of her children as full-fledged members of society. By the same token, being educated also strengthens a woman’s ability to look after the health of her children and that of her wider community. Above all, it gives the woman an opportunity to be free and autonomous, creating for her a sure path towards freedom of thought and self-realisation.
  5. What are the biggest obstacles to African women realising their potential?
    I consider lack of education, including civic education and training, to pose a significant threat to African women realising their potential. To be a woman and illiterate in 2014 is an unimaginable burden which, sadly, many African women are having to endure.
  6. Would positive discrimination for women advance the regional gender equality framework?
    Absolutely. Equality between the sexes is by no means an abstract slogan as we’ve sometimes been led to believe. Africa must rise to the challenge of making gender equality a lived reality.
  7. Given the current challenges to women empowerment, what lessons can be learned globally 3 years into the Busan implementation process?
    Development effectiveness will only be achieved if the Busan and Mexico commitments are adequately funded. Under the leadership of the African Union focus has turned to Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM). This is welcomed news, not least because african countries seem to have learned the lessons of development aid producing lacklustre results and altogether failing to bring about development for the people.
    Equally, renewed emphasis on DRM creates an excellent opportunity for women who have long tapped into local resources to meet their funding needs. As a result of the latter, important resource mobilisation mechanisms have been established which can further aid thematic reflexions had within local Civil Society, and between CSOs and both the private sector and political class.

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