HARARE - Women are becoming more powerful in Africa; they are getting empowered and gone are the days when society would say “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.”
Now the African woman’s place is anywhere she wants it to be, whenever and wherever.
There are others who believe the increased visibility of women in key positions is a result of years of advocacy on gender equality, application of affirmative action policies or quota systems in some countries, and more educated women.
In recent years Africa has witnessed women rise to power with the example of Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who was declared “the Most Powerful Woman in Africa” by Forbes Africa Magazine.
The magazine notes: “Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected in 2005 Liberia’s 24th president and Africa’s first woman president. Prior to her election, she worked for the World Bank and Citibank.
She is a member of the prestigious Council of Women Leaders. In October 2010, she signed into law a Freedom of Information bill.”
Being the first woman president in Africa has inspired other women fighting for political domination in a world where female politicians had for decades failed to ascend to the presidium.
Malawi’s Joyce Banda, who was a vice president and took over the presidency from Bingu waMutharika following his death, has showed her political muscles by effecting drastic changes in the southern African country — some controversial and some widely accepted.
“I had to get on course with IMF, devalue the Kwacha (Malawi currency) by 40 percent, and I am grateful for some of this money that goes towards cash transfers which will help cushion the shock that (the) devaluation has brought about,” she was quoted saying.
Banda is in the process of turning around her country’s economy, which has been struggling for some decades.
Our very own vice president Joice Mujuru is another powerful African woman politician who steadily rose through the ranks to deputise President Robert Mugabe. She is also second in the pecking order in her Zanu PF party. Mujuru became the first female vice president of Zimbabwe and was number five among the most powerful women in the Forbes Africa Magazine.
Her credentials are punctuated with exploits in the armed liberation war during the colonial era and has held several ministerial posts since independence. She also made political history in Zimbabwe as the youngest Cabinet member taking the portfolio of Sport, Youth and Recreation and also as a Telecommunications minister.
Zimbabwe has also witnessed the rise of Thokozani Khupe — a Zimbabwean politician and the vice president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
She is former deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, serving from February 11, 2009 until August 2013. She is a senior member of Parliament for Makokoba Constituency.
In 2005, Khupe was elected vice president of the MDC taking over from veteran trade unionist Gibson Sibanda.
Born in Bulawayo on November 18, 1963, Khupe graduated from Turin College, Italy in Information Technology and also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies.
Another powerful woman is Luisa Diogo, Mozambican Prime Minister. She won the 2008 Global Women’s Leadership Award for her hard work as an anti-poverty and health advocate, waging a battle to stop the HIV/Aids epidemic in her country.
Africa has come of age. And 2013 will be a landmark year: it is the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity, now the Africa Union (AU); it is a year Africa celebrates progress in liberating Africa from colonialism; it is the first year the AU is being headed by a woman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
She was an anti-apartheid activist, participating in the fight for South African freedom and has held several ministerial posts which include Health, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma commented: “The African continent is increasingly seen as the continent of the future and we need to applaud the prominent role that women are playing in running the affairs and shaping the destiny of the continent.”
In Nigerian there is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Finance minister. Before she took this position, she was vice-president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group, a prestigious position for Africa, more-so being held by a female.
There are other women who hold high positions in banks, big corporates and many others.
Rural women are also producing the bulk of the food; women cross-border traders and women in the markets are contributing to the economies of their countries, women executives, women on corporate boards, women in the media are driving this economic growth for Africa.