Public accepts women in leadership

Africa has seen the shift from viewing women as belonging to the kitchen to accepting their playing parts in the political arena.

Over 60 percent voters in the world are women and the tendency to having more women parliamentarians is clear testimony that women voters are now aware of the need to uplift their fellow women.

The election of Ellen Johnson Sirleef shows that Africa has moved in great strides in recognizing women as an integral part of the development.

The dean of the diplomats in Zimbabwe said this at the symposium marking Africa Day in Harare.

The ambassador of Libya Hassul Patel also said the emergence of women leaders in Africa is a clear sign that the continent has accepted the fact that men are equal to women.

“Sirleef won the elections when competing against two very popular men and this shows that women have the capacity to do better than men,” he said.

He said the presence of three women ambassadors representing Namibia, Zambia and Kenya in Zimbabwe has changed a lot in the diplomatic field.

“The ambassadors team is now more representative with the presence of these capable women,” he said

In southern Africa, the appointment of two women as deputy presidents also shows that there have been great strides in the empowerment of women in the political arena.

Ngcuka Mlambo from South Africa and Joyce Mujuru from Zimbabwe are the two women who have risen to the position of deputy presidents on their own merit.

These women were now faced with the challenge to deliver in the face of the world’s critical eye.

“It’s now time for women in power to prove that they can do as well as their male counterparts or even better,” said Zambian Ambassador Sheila Siwela.

She said women had to show that they have been put into those positions because of merit not just because of the quota system.

Zambia introduced a quota system in political arena according to the SADC Declaration on gender and development, which called for 30 percent women in decision -making positions.

She said the good that has been brought in by these women is showing, as there is a new dimension in the political field.

“Women are hardworking, disciplined, patient and very generous, all of which are qualities necessary for a good leader,” said Siwela.

She added that women are team players and peace lovers and if these qualities are exploited the continent is set to gain a lot from this.

She encouraged young women aspiring to be leaders to take advantage of the favourable environment that has now set the stage for the success of women in Africa.

“There has been many changes in Zambian educational system which show an inclination to empower women,” she said.

She said during the time she went to school in the 70s the education was somehow divided on gender lines, with most girls schools taking domestic sciences instead of pure sciences at university level.

She also encouraged parents to invest in the girl child as much as they do to the boy child.

“I owe all my success to my father who believed in me despite the pressure during his time when parents did not recognize the value of teaching a girl child,” she said.

During Zimbabwe’s 2005 parliamentary elections, 22 percent of the candidates were women.

This fell short of the SADC target of 30 percent, according to the Women In Politics Support Unit survey.

The survey also revealed that there were 4 female cabinet ministers out of 31, and one out of 20 deputy ministers.

These statistics are a testimony to the need for more than “goodwill” to push women into political power.

Zimbabwe Gender and Development Minister Oppah Muchinguri said those women who are in power now should show the world that they are capable of delivering the goods.

“We know women are capable, but they have to show it to the world now not just by looking at gender issues, but also other pressing issues in the country,” said Muchinguri.

In the book “Women World Leaders” former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, discuses challenges facing women leaders.

“There is no point in getting too sensitive if you are in politics. What you have got to discern is that what you are doing can be justified by principle, by argument and to try to put it across. That’s the most important thing,” she said.

This is handy information for all women in leadership positions considering that the whole world is watching them with a critical eye. ‘ New Ziana

June 2006
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