Africa is known as the land of opportunity – and it is rightly so. The continent is booming with institutions, businesses, and more recently, tech startups focusing on every sector of the economy.
All of these, however, doesn’t matter if the multi-faceted struggle for gender equality is not supported and, in fact, enforced.
At the root of gender inequality is the continued discrimination of women from participating in different aspects of culture, religion, education, business, and politics. Worse still, females suffer limited roles which are often dictated to them where they are allowed to participate.
Data from the Inter-parliamentary Union gives a glimpse of the issue in a political scene. According to the 2021 report, women make up only a mere 26.1% of parliaments worldwide. Statistics also show that only one of 45 countries in Africa has women occupying 50% or more parliamentary seats.
The United Nations further expresses the poor condition of gender equality globally in regards to climate change, and agriculture.
As it states, there are 1.3 billion people living in poor conditions and 70% of these are women. Also, even though women participate in over 80% of food production processes, they own just over ten percent of the lands used to cultivate food and other crops.
To put it in perspective, Africa has over 1,119 million hectares of farmable lands which employ mostly women yet the number of women and girls living in poverty is expected to rise by 24 million between 2021 and 2030.
It gets really worrisome to think that women are, again, exposed to climatic conditions on the farms where they work. They are also at risk of criminal activities, and are faced with the challenge of handling children in displacement camps.
Celebrating the Gender Equality Heroes
Africa’s human rights and gender equality issues are seriously concerning. Given all of it, African Vibes is moved to recognize black women who are championing the fight.
A Few of the Many African Women Leading the Fight for Gender Equality and Women Inclusion
Many people know Meaza Ashenafi only as the first female president of the Ethiopian Supreme Court. However, the Asosa-born has been instrumental in the fight for justice, human rights, and the fair and equal treatment of women all across her country.
In 1995, Ashenafi began the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA). She also served as the chairperson for Enat Bank, the first women’s bank that opened in Ethiopia in 2011.
Again, Ashenafi has made international strides towards women issues. This earned her a role as the Women’s Rights Advisor to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Angelina Jolie, a foreign actress, also reportedly produced an award-winning film called Difret based on a child-marriage case tried by the former lawyer
Glanis Changachirere began activism in her early years. It started with a fight against the culture of not educating females in Moshonaland Province of Zimbabwe where she grew up.
As a young girl, the Zimbabwean activist succeeded in getting into the university and was the only female member of the Student Representatives’ Council. She did not relent even though she was arrested a number of times for participating in protests.
Gaining positive recognition, Changachirere received an invitation to the National Endowment for Democracy’s Reagan-Fascell Fellowship in 2016. This would allow her contribute to increasing the participation of women in Sub-Saharan African politics.
Changachirere is now the proud founder of the Institute for Young Women’s Development.
Katongole, 19-years, is a youth activist with a motto “that young women of color are the experts of their reality.”
Hailing from South Africa, she is also a member of the South African Institute of International Affairs’ Youth Policy Committee on climate where she is making an impact.
Katongole fights for an equitable system, accountable solidarity from all corners, and the unity of young girls all across the globe.
Alice Banze is recognized both locally and internationally for her multiple roles in climate and gender-concerned organizations.
She was a former lead at Oxfam acting Pan Africa Gender Justice and Governance. Banze also played a role at the Pretoria office of the Oxfam Great Britain being the Regional Gender Justice Coordinator.
A major leap came with her appointment as the Gender, Environment and Climate Change Advisor. She held this position under a Minister of Environment in her country. During this time, Banze was able to sensitize entire communities on tackling the impacts of climate change.
The activist also has experience working as the Lusophone Executive Director for Gender Links, a reputable women’s rights’ organization.
Arikana Chihombori-Quao was simply a household doctor until she was called upon by the African Union. Occupying the office of the AU Permanent Representative to the United States of America, she rallied for international awareness of neo-colonial activities in what could be described as bold statements.
Chihombori-Quao was keen on pointing out that Africans have not only survived colonial rule but are still having to survive atrocities from many foreign countries. Even though she was relieved of her position at African Union, the Zimbabwean continues her push for human rights. She is the CEO of Bell Family Medical Center in the U.S.
Melene Rossouw has a long history of activism, especially toward gender equality and community development. She is a lawyer by profession and she helped start the Women Lead Movement in 2017.
Rossouw has served as the Obama Foundation’s Obama Leader in Africa in 2018. Again, she was chosen as one of 11 African Spokeswomen in the Global Campaign on Gender Equality. The International Human Rights Commission and the US Department of State also selected her as the Goodwill Ambassador for the World Youth Summit for Peace and as a Mandela Washington Fellow respectively.
Just as women are experts at maintaining a home, and joggling a number of tasks all at once, they can also perfectly function in companies, societies, and entire nations. The issue of gender exclusion, therefore, deprives affected communities and the world at large of the opportunity of being nurtured, taught, and directed by women.