This article is about the challenges facing African governments in women empowerment.
|The African Union (AU) has declared 2010-2020 as the African Women Decade. Within this period, it looks forward to seeing member states and other leadership bodies participate in and implement programs that would impact positively on women.
This program of action was officially launched in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in October last year with a call on the continent's governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in order to promote their socio-economic progression.
This idea by the AU is welcome news to a continent that has seen its women suffer all forms of discrimination from politics to sport and from education to economic empowerment.
Governments would be expected to provide a lead role here if gender equity is to be achieved by the end of this decade and this would include allocating a substantial amount of their budgets to support this drive.
Over the last few years however, budgets for gender related activities on the continent has been dropping and it behooves on the AU to put pressure on member states to do more to support this project.
A lot more therefore needs to be done if the promise of embarking on a massive campaign to thematically empower the over 530 grassroots initiatives by women by the year 2020 is to become a reality.
However, some gains have been made in Africa regarding women equality. Women involvement in government over the past decade, has been increasing rapidly and is expected to grow even further by the close of this period.
Liberia inaugurated Africa’s first female president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006. She won a round off with former FIFA player of the year, George Weah with nearly 60% of the votes.
In other African nations women make up a significant part of their governments. Rwanda leads all nations in this regard with 48.8% of its parliament being women.
In percentage terms, Mozambique at 34.8%, South Africa at 32.8% and Tanzania at 30.4%, have women representation in government and the number keeps growing elsewhere on the continent.
These are however achievements on the political front, elsewhere, there are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed for African women.
Education is key. There is some minimal gender disparity in primary education; but at the secondary level, the situation is different.
Lack of access to education is a major factor in reproductive health. Women that achieve more years of education are more likely to have fewer children and wait later in life to start having a family.
Africa also sees a disproportionally high maternal mortality rate. This is in part due to a lack of access to medical care and proper nutrition.
The criminalization of abortion and some cultural practices on birth control held in high esteem on the continent, also contribute to this problem.
Violence against women, conflict, poverty, and HIV/AIDS still need to be eradicated in order to ensure women in Africa (and around the world) are able to live up to their full potential.
Many African leaders and international and local NGO's are showing commitment in trying to accomplish these goals and empower women but as stated earlier, a lot more needs to be done to achieve this goal.
Violence and all forms of discrimination against Women must end and this is an area that African leaders must look at seriously so as to ensure that they participate fully in the development of their communities.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as adopted by the UN General Assembly over three decades ago, must be seen to be working on all fronts.
This is a challenge to all African leaders and it is expected that they will leave up to that responsibility by doing their best ensuring that they fulfill this promise and bring out the best in the African woman within the allotted period.