THE BLOG

The Development Of The African Continent Lies In The Inclusion Of Women

The question of the old boys’ club remains: how do we ensure that women voices are heard where the “real decisions” are made.

29/08/2017 03:57 SAST
Getty Images

As the month of August draws to an end, we seek to understand the statistics that continually tell a story of women's voices that are often unheard. We look at the numbers of women in the boardroom, we look at the number of women in parliament, we look at the different spaces that we seek to find women's voices and it quickly becomes a telling story.

A story that is characterised by many paradoxes when we live in a continent that has declared 2010 – 2020 as the African Women's Decade, yet the picture that exists on the ground tells a story of an Africa that is characterised more and more by the male voice.

The question of the old boys' club remains: how do we ensure that women voices are heard where the "real decisions" are made. I recently hosted a Business Forum and invited Nnamdi Oranye, a renowned author known for his work documenting African innovation. Nnamdi tells a story of how in his journey to document African innovators, he continues to struggle to find female innovators.

This story shows the role of men asking the right questions of "where are the women"? We need to see more men ask this question. As we move towards amplifying the women voice "Do we need male gender advocates?", I would argue that male gender advocates are needed in this plight.

There is a critical role that men can play in advocating for more representation of women and this needs to be further explored. In Africa's struggle for liberation, a revolutionary leader emerged known as Thomas Sankara, a great male gender advocate of his time. Thomas Sankara is quoted saying "We do not talk of women's emancipation as an act of charity. It is a necessity for the triumph of the revolution. A revolution cannot stand on its own without a clear liberation of women."

Guided by the wisdom and foresight of our forefathers as Africans, men need to understand that the development of the continent lies in the inclusion of women.

The story of the girl child needs to be understood as the women in the boardroom, the women in parliament will never exist if the girl child is not supported.

In our contemporary times, the custodians of our African continent remain predominately male. The heads of state continue to be represented by male figures. In Kenya, a male gender advocate emerges which sees the life of the girl child move towards inclusion.

As the continent bore witness to President Uhuru Kenyatta sign the Basic Education Amendment Act, this act will compel the Kenyan government to provide "free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution." This gender advocate has liberated the girl child and as such, the girl child will stand in par with their male counterpart to access education.

As Kenya takes leaps towards women liberation led by a gender advocate, we need to celebrate this contribution to the girl child. The story of the girl child needs to be understood as the women in the boardroom, the women in parliament will never exist if the girl child is not supported.

Patriarchy exists in all spheres of our continent, there is a need for more men to advocate for the female voice. As males continue to dominate and occupy a pivotal role in driving the continent's agenda, there is no denying that male advocates are essential for us to see the progression of women.

There is an unconscious bias inherent within us, for our continent to move forward, for us to see the realisation of agenda 2063 of a prosperous Africa, we need diverse voices at all levels of society.