The early African woman was a mother, a keeper of the home, but she was nothing more other than ‘maker’ of children. Largely stereotyped and abused, she was never considered for what she could contribute to an economy. The widely held African belief of women being inferior to men was held until recently and the African economy has been better for it.
Gardiol van Niekerk of the University of South Africa once wrote; “the outcomes of historical research are to some extent a reflection of the researcher’s perceptions of historical events”. While we grew up believing that women were never reckoned with in time past, other historical records point to the fact that women have always been important in Africa, they are an integral part of African history.
The innate tendency of women to nurture and take care of their own has made them loyal citizens of their various communities; going an extra mile to ensure the sustenance of such communities.
From traditional Queen Mothers like Yaa Asantewa of Ghana, to Queens of Ethiopia, to political leaders like former Senegalese Prime Minister, Mame Madior Boye, African women leaders have fought hard to defend the rights of their people and to facilitate development.
Yaa Asantewa, the Ghanaian Queen mother of Ejisu could not watch her people suffer in the hands of British colonists. She fought for the protection of her people and land against the British. She was exiled to Seychelles because of this, but her people had already been inspired to stand their ground; the Asante army fought for the protection of their land and the Asante kingdom prevailed.
I was also amazed to see in the history books that Kano, Nigeria once had a queen. I doubt you’d believe it too. But, Kano was ruled by a woman from 1580-1582.
Angola’s Queen Ann Nzingha fought against armed Portuguese forces throughout her life for freedom of her people until she died at the age of 81.
Queen Nefertiti of Egypt also fought in active battle against foreign invaders.
Mauritanian freedom fighter Dahia Al-Kahina chased Arab invaders off their land in the battles of 690AD. She led an army and showed courage in defeat, taking her own life rather than succumb to the enemy.
Mbuya Nehanda of Zimbabwe, Empress Delete Rufael of Ethiopia, 1724, Queen Mother Ndlorukazi Nandi of the Zulu Kingdom of South Africa (1815-1827) are other women who have led their people with love, courage and pride. Sadly, they all seem to be fading off African history despite being part the ones who shaped the Africa we now have.
The African woman has always been like the hardest working employee who never gets appreciated when the boss appreciates others.
Women rights activists did their best in ensuring women are again reckoned with in our society, but activism never worked in Africa as much as action did. Women started standing up to show what they are capable of; excelling in academics more than their male peers and running for positions on the Students Union. Their workplace excellence started washing off the stereotype and Africa is now beginning to respect women for whom they really are and what they can to do to a dying economy.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the 24th president of Liberia in 2006, becoming the first elected female head of state in Africa.
A fire broke out at the Executive Mansion of Liberia on July 26, 2006, seriously damaging the structure. Instead of renovating, the president called funding for the repairs a low priority in the face of more pressing needs; that is the heart of a woman. She transferred her office to the nearby Foreign Ministry building and even chose to live in her personal home. Although Liberia still ranks close to the bottom of Human Development Index (HDI) at 174th position, Johnson-Sirleaf’s effort at improving the company’s economy is yielding results. Poverty rate reduced from 64 percent to 56 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to africaneconomicoutlook.org.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is arguably the best thing to have happened to Nigeria’s economy, with a 7.3 percent GDP growth predicted for 2014 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an economy that has also experienced unprecedented stability for years now, Nigeria couldn’t have gotten a better Minister of Finance.
Joyce Banda has been president of Malawi since 2012. She restored severed diplomatic ties with the international community; her predecessor, Mutharika had accused them of interfering in his government with plans to topple it. In order to reduce government spending, Banda sold her jet for $15 million. She also sold a fleet of 60 luxury cars held by her predecessor.
According to the World Bank, women account for 50.1 percent of the Sub Saharan African population (2011 estimate), but female literacy is still low. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) records that 38 percent of African adults are illiterates two-thirds of which are women. This statistics shows what Africa is missing out. If the ‘few’ literate women can contribute this much to Africa’s economy, how much more would women have contribute if more were literate.
Social stigma and discrimination against African women still exists in some spheres of our society. We should get out of this!
Women have proved us wrong. They are more than just baby-making machines and home keepers. More so, if a woman can successfully manage a home, she can manage an economy.
There should be no constraints anymore, let’s give them the chance to change our world.
As writer Patricia McFadden puts it; “African women have been an important and increasingly visible part of modern African political life. We participated in anticolonial struggles as trade unionists, political leaders, wives and mothers, often in the more traditional ways that women have entered politics. But we have also made fundamental changes to the body politic of Africa in very significant ways.”
Today, we celebrate the entrepreneur, the investment manager, the economic adviser; the African woman.
Women account for about 50% of the world’s total population.
Unfortunately, two-third’s of the women population is illiterate. In addition, the world percentage of women in parliament is currently 16.6%. In Africa, a greater percentage of the total African population consists of women and female children.