EMPOWERING THE AFRICAN WOMAN!!!
Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey, a famous Ghanaian intellectual and teacher said “when you educate a man you educate an individual, but when you educate a woman you educate a whole nation”. A South African song also says “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock, you have dislodged a boulder; you will be crushed”. These are sayings that depict the strength and importance of the African woman’s role in her society. However, is this the reality that exists on the ground in present day Africa? This blog seeks to establish the importance of the role of the African woman in “Developing Africa”.
The African woman has played a pivotal role in getting Africa to where it is today. However, little credit is and has always been given to the importance of the African woman in the African society. Take for instance agriculture, much credit has always been given to the African man for being responsible for majority of agricultural production on the continent. Yet, research has shown that predominantly small-scale subsistence farming systems with more than 50% of the agricultural activity is mainly performed by women, producing about 60-70% of the food in the Sub-Saharan region (Gawaya, 2008). Alderman in his book Gender Differentials in Farm Productivity also states that if women are given similar access to resources and inputs as men, they stand to achieve equal or higher yields as that of men, going a long way to ensure food security in Africa. Studies undertaken by the South African History Online Organization (SAHO), also reinforce the fact that women provide a source of readily available cheap black labor in the agricultural sector, which is necessary for the survival of the South African agricultural system. *Sighs* the list is endless…….. Countless examples can be made in relation to the contribution of the African woman in the development of agriculture.
Women have also fought to achieve equal rights in many parts of Africa. But as in other regions of the globe, a woman’s status varies by country and region. Bringing women on board would ensure a better and faster progress and this would serve as a means for boosting development in Africa. Matilda Kalibata and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are living testimonies as to the tremendous change that can be effected by women as and when they are given the opportunity. During her tenure in office Matilda Kalibata, the Rwandan agricultural minister has managed to lift a million Rwandans out of poverty through her agricultural policies which is now being touted as the most effective in the world. These include smart programs connecting farmers to their neighbors, innovative cow-sharing schemes, expansion of technologies like farmers to food buyers and localized cooperative farming programs. She also implemented restrictive policies such as bans on plastic bags, mandatory participatory in cleanup day on the fourth Saturday of every month which has gone a long way in improving the environmental conditions necessary for agricultural production.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is also another illustrious example of African women who have effected positive transformational change. She is the first female African President and also a Nobel Prize winner. She is also credited with achieving Liberian reconciliation, a feat which has long eluded the country’s previous male leaders.
There is the saying that ‘whatever a man can do a woman can do better’. However, this is not the reality that seems to exist on the ground, as less responsibility is almost always allocated to the African woman. Hence, the need to prove themselves beyond any reasonable doubt with every opportunity they get. Women are also known to be more transformational than men – they tend to care more about developing their followers, listen more like a mother would and often tend to stimulate others to think “outside the box”. They are also known to be more inspirational, ethical and less likely to be corrupt than their male counterparts. In our view, recruiting more women into public service may indeed decrease overall corruption, but there’s always a bad nut that exists amongst the lot. “Efie biara m3nsa w) mu”- an Akan adage basically implying that, there’s always the tendency for a wayward person or a bad nut to be found amongst the good lot.
In conclusion, little acknowledgement has been given to the role the African woman has and can play in the development of society. So much power has been allocated to the African man who seldom ceases to disappoint us. It is time we took a second look at women empowerment and how it affects the development of Africa, because it is obvious that there is a lot more she can offer if given the opportunity.
- Alderman, H., Hoddinott, J., Haddad, L. and Udry, C. Gender Differentials in Farm Productivity: Implications for Household Efficiency and Agricultural Policy. 2003. In Quimsumbing, A. R., Household decisions, gender and development: a synthesis of recent research, ISBN 0-89629-717-9
- Gawaya, R.Investing in women farmers to eliminate food insecurity in southern Africa: policy-related research from Mozambique. 2008. Gender and Development, Vol 16, No. 1
Ann Marie Mends & Kofi Biney