The progress of African women leaders in the past decade is undeniably on the rise. For example, while the high hopes of having the first female president in America came tumbling down when Hilary Clinton lost out to Barack Obama in the Democratic Party nomination last month, Africa already prides itself with a formidable woman president - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia. We boast of female vice presidents in South Africa (Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka), Zimbabwe (Joice Mujuru), and The Gambia (Dr Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy), in Mozambique Prime Minister Luisa Oi ' was given the Global Women's Leadership Award on 8 June 2008 at the annual Global Summit of Women, held in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Even as the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) held in Johannesburg last month launched the first ever Africa Gender Parity Group to collaborate ways to eradicate gender inequality and better engage women in the economy, many dynamic African women from all strata of life are already on the ball playing their roles in helping move the continent forward. From Algeria to Zimbabwe, African women are the backbone of their societies. With unmeasured resolve and selflessness, they are working hard to bring positive solutions to the plethora of economic and social hardship they encounter - as mothers, caregivers, household managers, or participants in civil society. They are also increasingly becoming major contributors to formal and informal economies as well as taking up major political roles. In all African countries, women do most of the work, including most of the agricultural work. It is estimated that women produce more than half the food in most African countries.
Due to their nurturing instinct, women bring different priorities and responsibilities, and they tend to value issues such as education, health, water and food as priority areas. In rural areas where male emigration to urban areas has created a gap in households, women have taken on increased responsibilities to fill the gap left by their spouses. They are therefore taking over their husband's roles and responsibilities, including heading households in the most challenging of times. These women of substance deserve recognition.
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This article originally appeared in the New African, July 2008.
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