Celebrations on May 25th, crowned as Africa Day, recite the annual commemorations of Africa’s independence, freedom and liberation strife from colonial imperialists.
Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) continues to remind the African Union that there is still work to be done by way of leading, guiding, defending and coordinating the African Union’s efforts on gender equality.
Women constitute more than half the world’s population, yet their participation in electoral and governance processes where decisions regarding their lives are made and remain peripheral in many countries.
Women and girls have been leading and continue to lead at the front-lines calling for reform, regime change, renewed and lawful democracy in a number of nations within the Greater Horn of Africa. African women’s role in political participation can no longer be minimized to casting votes and mere quota systems.
It must be reiterated that true democracy is effective when women are allowed to fully participate in political activities right from formulating their agenda, to claiming and taking their seat at the table of negotiation and policy-making in view of the lived realities of masses of women and in the interest of achieving gender equality.
Women’s representation in political decision making has been on the rise globally however the increase has been stubbornly slow, barely 1% in 2018 compared with the previous year. In 2018 the number of women ministers worldwide reached an all-time high at 20.7% (812 out of 3922).
In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of women seated in parliament grew in 2018, with a regional average share at 23.7%, according to the just-released 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics.
Ethiopia saw the largest increase in women’s political representation in the executive branch, from 10% women ministers in 2017 to 47.6% in 2019.
On ministerial positions, the report highlights another striking gain more women in Africa are now in charge of portfolios traditionally held by men than in 2017. There are 30% more women ministers of defense, 52.9% more women ministers of finance, and 13.6% more women ministers of foreign affairs.
Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18. Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).
Of the 210 parliamentary seats in Zimbabwe, only 26 are held by women
Two main obstacles prevent women from participating fully in political life, according to UN Women. These are:
- Structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and
- Capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
The number of women in politics is not proportionate to the population of women and as highlighted by the statistics above – reaching a point where women are adequately represented in politics is taking a long time… however, change is change, the rate could be slow but that is way better than no change at all.