Leaders Through The Ages
Women have played important roles in community since the beginning of time. The innate tendency that women have for nurturing and taking care of their own render them loyal citizens of their various communities. As a result, women readily contribute towards the development of their communities, and in some instances are willing to go the extra mile in order to sustain the societies they belong to.
From the various Queens of Ethiopia to the traditional Queen Mothers like Yaa Asantewa of Ghana, to political leaders like former Senegalese Prime Minister, Mame Madior Boye women leaders in Africa have gone to great lengths to defend the rights of their people and to facilitate development.
The Controversy Surrounding African Women Leaders
One cannot ascertain when or where the stigma against women leaders stemmed from. However there seems to be widespread reasons for why people think women should not take active part in leadership and governance.
The argument about the “biological clock” seems to be the most popular case against women leaders. In many African societies, it is believed that as a result of a woman’s metabolism and her duty of bearing and bringing up children, she has little time for any thing other than the upkeep of her household.
Although it is valid that the maintenance of a household and upbringing of children is time consuming, it seems that the proponents of this argument forget that the leaders in their societies were also brought up by women or maternal figures. In effect, African women do have the capacity to create a positive influence in the lives of people. Perhaps women leaders are even more adept at being leaders than their male counterparts as they spend a great part of their lives being unofficial leaders.
Another excuse used against the participation of women in leadership is the fact that they are usually sensitive and emotional and as such would not be able to perform to the best of their ability in stressful situations. True, women are usually very emotional. But does this necessarily have to be a bad thing? The empathy that women feel for people and situations make them better able to understand the people they are leading and this motivates them to work even harder to achieve the goals of the community.
A typical example is the case of Yaa Asantewa, the Ghanaian Queen mother of Ejisu who’s empathy for her people the Akans motivated her to fight for the protection of her people and land against the British colonists. Although she eventually exiled to Seychelles, she was able to inspire the Asante army to fight for the protection of their land and in effect, the Asante kingdom prevailed. Even today, it is one of the most diverse and rich ethnic groups in West Africa.
Demographics And Women
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.
From all indications, women form a dominant part of the global society yet their involvement in societal and global affairs is quite limited as compared to the participation of their male counterparts. In order for a more progressive development of the world, it is necessary that more women are educated and supported in their career pursuits and particularly in leadership situations.
The Way Forward
In order to encourage more women to participate in leadership and government, it is necessary that the community and world as a whole give them the support needed. Instead of downplaying the efforts of African women, people could encourage them either by listening to their views in an objective manner, participating in women initiated activities, and helping eradicate the social stigma and discrimination against women in leadership and African women in general.
It is undoubted that financial constraints could prove as a problem for African women leaders but with the relative acceptance of women leaders in countries like the U.S., U.K, Canada and Germany, and the support of organizations like the United Nations Development Fund for Women, these constraints could be overcome.