Celebrating African Women as Change MakersYolandaAD
It is no longer a distant reality to have more women globally stepping into leadership positions. However, when faced with the statistics, it is apparent that a lot more still needs to be done to close the gender gap. In politics, only 24% of parliament members worldwide are women and even though women make up 50% of the global workforce, they earn on average 24% less than men. These statistics are not to suggest that women lack the ambition or intellectual know-how to break the glass-ceiling, but rather that they are unable to compete with the systematic oppression that they face on a daily basis.
The structural barriers that hinder women can be traced back to their childhood and adolescent years. According to a recent report from Ashoka, a global body of social entrepreneurs, during the early schooling years, a girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’. As they grow older, girls are measurably less interested in leading than boys – a trend which continues into adulthood. If the confidence gap starts this early, it is no wonder that women are still underrepresented in leadership positions.
Of course, the challenges faced by women in sub-Saharan Africa are a lot more complex than equal upbringing and representation in the workplace. In an area where more than 600 million people do not have access to running water and electricity, and over 700 million must rely on harmful fuels, it is often the women who bear the burden of this energy poverty and who shoulder the harmful effects of climate change. This, coupled with the inaccessibility to financial resources to support education and business ventures has often resulted in limited opportunities to aid women in achieving maximum success.
So how do we, as Africans, tackle issues women face on the ground while simultaneously breaking glass ceilings within corporate and political leadership? For starters, it is imperative that women in African countries are afforded the same rights as men. Without basic rights such as education, safety and sanitation, women in sub-Saharan Africa cannot begin to achieve their dreams. We cannot talk about bringing women’s rights to the front-line without mentioning the need for more women in leadership roles in Africa. As it stands, only 23.2% of legislators in sub-Saharan Africa are female, which could be the reason why women remain ill-equipped to become game-changers in society, let alone equal participants in it.
The progression towards an Africa that nurtures women and their needs is a responsibility that lies on the shoulders of change makers, or, as phrased by Ashoka: ‘ChangemakeHERS’. These include ordinary women and female social entrepreneurs who strive to walk the path less traveled in an attempt to open doors for women and girls across the continent. The social impact women can create when they unite and continue to push the envelope is endless. A continent lead by women is a content that caters to women.
This Women’s Month, let us unlock the ‘ChangemakeHER’ in each and every one of us as we push this agenda forward.
About the Author:
Yolanda Gossel is the Founder and Programme Director at Five Tulips, a South African based sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy. Five Tulips forges partnerships between communities, public and private sectors and individuals for social upliftment and preservation of our planets resources and ecosystems.
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