Seven things that women want in Africa’s future
More than 100 women leaders met in Santiago de Chile at the end of February to attend an event called by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet entitled ‘Women and Power: Building a Different World.’ They came to discuss new strategies to tackle poverty and underdevelopment, but most importantly to put their influence behind women’s empowerment and progress.
The backdrop to the event was the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Action Plan (Bejiing+20), a global blueprint for advancing women’s rights, as well as the ongoing discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the replacements for the Millennium Development Goals. While Beijing+20 is a great initiative, it is the inclusion of women in the SDGs and especially their role in eradicating poverty that really matters.
Personally, I would like to see rapid change in Africa. I’m not the only one. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is co-hosting the Santiago meeting with Bachelet, published a commentary last year entitled Women’s Role in the Next 50 Years – the Africa We Want. It’s a really good, really feminist piece and a message she reiterated in Santiago.
I’d like to amplify the six key things Mlambo-Ngcuka says that African women want for the future so I’m directly posting them below. I’ve added a seventh point of my own because I have a thing for the number seven and, more importantly, because the other six won’t happen without it.
1. Women of Africa want to live in a peaceful continent in which there are no widows as a result of senseless killings and war, a continent in which they are not sexually abused and violated and in which suffering is not caused by the self-interest of a few corrupt and power-hungry leaders. Instead, they want to be a force that creates cohesive and peaceful societies, that builds generations of prosperity.
2. We want an Africa which is a common and equitable marketplace, where laws of the market are not manipulated but shaped to permit entry and benefit for all. We want a continent where women are empowered to transform their subsistence farms to businesses that supply food and income, enabling them to create wealth and assets and move into business leadership.
3. African women want to be recognized not as vulnerable members of society in need of charity, but as a formidable force that needs to be released empowered and massively invested in.This will fulfil their potential and drive growth, development and food security to phenomenal levels. Women want to be an equal part of the force that makes decisions in social, political, economic and cultural affairs.
4. The young women of Africa want to be considered not just as leaders of tomorrow but leaders today, with the ability to champion innovations in technology, agriculture, industry and societal welfare.
5. We want an Africa where gender equality and women’s empowerment is recognized as an important agenda for all, not just for women. Remember, when women are empowered their husbands, sons an daughters and communities are empowered.
6. We want men to commit to and join us in finding solutions that will make the 21st century a period in which gender-based discrimination is truly eliminated.
7. [Mine] We want an Africa with more women in top political positions. We want women in parliament, in the senate, as ministers, governors and as heads of state. We want feminine power pumping up the muscles of the political skeleton of our countries like never before. We want our countries to follow the model of Rwanda and put systems in place that ensure that women gain access to decisionmaking processes.
We do not want this simply for its own sake, but because having more women in power makes countries wealthier, safer, happier, wiser and more beautiful. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we want female leaders because male leaders are not going to deliver Mlambo-Ngcuka’s list however obvious the items on that list may seem. They did not care about implementing these things yesterday, they do not seriously care about implementing them today and they won’t tomorrow.