Since ancient times, women have ascended to powerful leadership positions breaking customary norms in largely patriarchal societies. The Bible has the story of Deborah, a prophetess of God and the fourth judge of Israel. African history is rich with stories of Queen Makeda of Sheba, Queen Amanirenas of the Kush Kingdom, Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar, Queen Nandi of the Zulu Kingdom, Queen Nzingha of Angola, Queen Amina of Zaria and Pharoah Hatshepsut.
2021 has so far been a remarkable year for women leadership. On April 4th, President Vjosa Osmani took the helm as the fifth president of Kosovo. In March, the world followed the inauguration of President Samia Suluhu Hassan as the first woman to lead the state of Tanzania, as the president and the head of the executive. In January, it was the American inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris that earned absolute admiration from many.
Women from different fields were well represented and included in the programme – from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who swore in the VP, to Amanda Gorman who was outstanding for her captivating and inspiring poem recital. An excerpt from her piece aptly states, “One thing is certain; if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.”
Last week, on Thursday 20 May and Friday 21 May, the Africa Liberal Women Empowerment Programme was launched and convened its first workshop, with 15 women from South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Guinea, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Somalia and Tanzania.
There are tangible benefits of having women in leadership. Norwegian PM Erna Solberg during her keynote speech at a global women leaders conference held in November last year said, “democratic countries where human rights are respected and where women are able to reach top positions in society are also the countries that are the best-equipped to handle crises by Covid-19.”
Closer home, women can draw inspiration from President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia. A seasoned diplomat credited for championing and contributing to the development of education in her country. In Tanzania, President Suluhu is already gaining admiration in the region for her stance on democracy and human rights.
Africa, the time is NOW, for women’s voices and representation to be strengthened in all areas and at all levels, especially in political leadership and governance. The appointment of Martha Koome as the Chief Justice, in Kenya is a great start. In 2022, Kenya’s will convene general elections and this is yet another opportunity, to ensure women are represented and supported, at the very apex of the Executive.
Later this year, Zambia will convene general elections, we hope they too, will prioritise diversity and inclusion in their government and supporting democratic institutions. Following Zambia, South Africa will also convene local government elections in October.
If we forget to prioritise gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, our states will not achieve the ratified targets by 2030. In fact, it may take us decades more, to witness more women attending the illustrious African Union gatherings, as heads of state.
About the Author: Vivienne Taa is a leading fashion designer, governance analyst and the Regional Vice President for East Africa at EiC Corporation. She is also an active member of the Orange Democratic Movement Party (ODM), where she champions the participation of young women in politics. She is passionate about inclusion and is an ardent advocate for equity and equal opportunities for all.