Another Milestone For African Women

 

Fauzia Yusuf Haji, Somalia’s soon-to-be First Female Foreign Minister

Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan is set to become Somalia’s first female Foreign Minister in newly elected Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon’s cabinet. Her appointment along with that of Maryam Qasim as Social Development Minister in the Somali ministerial cabinet while “historic” for Somalia, follows the recent trend across most of Africa where an increasing number of women are acquiring more access to positions of power.

African women have certainly come a long way. This much was underscored by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s 2012 Index on Good Governance published on 15 October 2012 which revealed that considerable progress has been made in the area of women’s rights, at least in terms of women in positions of power.

The notable ones in such positions include:

  • Two Female African Heads of State: Joyce Banda of Malawi and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia
  • Nobel Peace Prize Winners: the late Wangari Mathaai (Kenya), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia) and Leyma Gbowee (Liberia)
  • ICC Chief Prosecutor: Justice Fatou Bensouda (The Gambia)
  • Chair, African Union: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (South Africa)
  • Nigeria’s Chief Justice of the Federation: Justice Aloma Mukhtar
  • Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
  • Director, World Economic Forum:  Elsie Kanza (Tanzania)
  • UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict: Zainab Hawa Bangura (Sierra Leone)

….and so many others.

In the area of parliamentary representation, African women are relatively well represented. Cross country comparisons by the Inter-Parliamentary Union show that in Rwanda, women make up 56% of the parliament, 42% in both Senegal and South Africa and 36% in Tanzania. These figures are higher than France’s 26%, the UK’s 22% and the United States’ 17%. In Nigeria, one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign promises in 2011 was assuring women 35% representation in in the Federal Government.

There are scores of women in various fields making waves all across the continent as well. ARISE Magazine this week, published its list of 100 women shaping modern Africa across various fields – Business and Law, Politics and Activism, Culture, Sport and Media and Science and Technology (Full list HERE, PDF).

Notwithstanding the admirable milestones attained by these women, many other less privileged African women remain voiceless, marginalized and discriminated against for access to the most basic things such as education. This is where the real work lies, empowering these women and giving them a voice. As Hannah Pool, Associate Editor of ARISE Magazine notes, “It remains to be seen whether the increasing visibility of African women in power translates to better prospects for women on the continent.”