Education and Governance Reforms Promote Women’s Equal Participation in Leadership: WDN-Africa


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Women’s Democracy Network- Africa (WDN- AFRICA), a vibrant network of exceptional women political leaders influencing women’s rights and gender equality in Africa joined the rest of Africa in commemorating Africa Day on 25 May 2024.

AWD-Africa said the theme “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century” with a focus on building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa and a special focus on women in agriculture calls for improved political will, legal reforms, addressing harmful social norms, religious and cultural practices, adequate resourcing of institutions and mandate holders’ capacities to ensure implementation of commitments and programs supported by strengthened oversight mechanisms to ensure accountability by duty bearers in their diversity.

The Africa Gender – Index Report 2019 states that African girls and women continue to be disadvantaged in education and training. Despite the progress made in some African countries on girls’ education, especially through the adoption of policies on Universal Primary and Secondary Education, the number of girls who complete secondary school education is small.

Girls and women face health-related barriers and are more vulnerable to violence, including sexual violence. Strong cultural or religious traditions have led to much lower literacy rates for young women. UNESCO, in 2020 stated that 66 percent of girls in the sub-Saharan region of Africa completed their primary education compared to 61 percent of boys.  Seventy percent of African women work in the agricultural sector. Women and girls are hard hit and mostly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Unequal land rights are a major driver of gender inequality in Africa because a majority of African families still derive their income directly from agriculture. According to the International Monetary Fund, women generally have less access to credit than men which is often due to a lack of assets to use as collateral, high interest rates, and stringent loan arrangements. This is coupled with women’s own perception that their applications would be denied. This is a major barrier to investment.

While many African women are active as leaders in their communities, running community groups or small businesses, across the continent, men tend to dominate in cash crops, whilst women serve as manual labourers. In both the private and public sectors, senior decision-making remains substantially in the hands of men thus giving them more control over resources.

UN WOMEN Gender Snapshot 2023 states that Women’s unequal status in society and agrifood systems spurs vulnerability to hunger. Nearly half of women in agriculture (49 percent) work as contributing family workers, receiving little or no pay, compared to 17 percent of men. Women are less likely than men to have ownership or secure tenure rights over agricultural land. Gender gaps range from less than 1 percentage point in Ethiopia and Kenya to over 50 percentage points in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger. Limited access to assets and agricultural inputs generates a gender gap in land productivity, reaching 24 percent between female- and male-managed farms of the same size. Addressing such disparities would both reduce food insecurity and boost global GDP by 1 percent (nearly $1 trillion).

WDN-Africa Recommendations

1. WDN-Africa is cognizant of the benefits of addressing gender inequalities between men and women, boys and girls on the African continent. It means growth for the continent in terms of unlocking the full potential of half of the continent’s population, leading to greater innovation, economic growth, and social progress. We therefore call on governments in Africa to:

  • Review policies and laws on education, education curriculum, and institutional mechanisms at all levels to ensure their gender responsiveness and improved access to quality education and training including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for girls and women free from all forms of violence and discrimination.
  • Appoint women to be Ministers of Agriculture, Energy, Environment, Finance, and Infrastructure Ministries and increase investment in infrastructure services, education on financial services and financial literacy and lower interest rates in banks, increase access to technology.
  • Adopt policies and laws that reduce the unpaid care work burden on women and girls to free up girls and women’s time and enable them to take up leadership opportunities and engage in paid work.
  • Recognise and support the important role of regional, national, and community-level women’s organisations and groups, and encourage donors and other funders to provide sustained support to them, including through international women’s funds.
  • Remove obstacles that affect trade across the African continent and ensure women benefit from increased trade across borders and receive higher returns from linking into regional and global supply chains.

2. We call on United Nationals, African Union regional mechanisms, and Parliaments to ensure government accountability to regional; and international instruments and commitments including SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all and A Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Article 9 to ensure state parties take specific positive actions to promote participative governance and the equal involvement of women in the political life of their countries through affirmative action, domestication of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance  

Article 29(3) calling on state parties to adopt gender parity at all levels including their legislatures; adopt enabling national legislation and ensure a) women participate without any discrimination in all elections; b) women are represented equally at all levels with men in all electoral   processes; c) women are equal partners with men at all levels of development and implementation of state policies and development programmes and states parties ensure increased and effective representation and participation of women at all levels of decision-making.

3. We all also call on Women of Africa to remain resolute, invest in self-development, build their confidence through taking advantage of mentorship and training opportunities both physical and online take up leadership opportunities, increase advocacy efforts to address legal and infrastructural barriers that prevent women’s participation in leadership and all spheres of society.

WDN Africa celebrates African Women’s resilience and consistent commitment, working hard in contributing to development and well-being at family, community, countries level, and the continent at large