The women on the rise in the African nations
Development is not always synonymous with women empowerment. The generalization that women are more empowered in the developed nations than in the developing ones may broadly be true, but often, it is the very lack of development which make women stand up and take the reins. It is the necessity for struggle which makes some women rise up and voice their feelings. A case in point being the fact that the United States of America, has not had a single woman president till date. However, the African nations have seen two already!
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first woman to head an African nation ( Liberia). She ran for the presidential election, and won in 2005, and she also won the next round of elections in 2011. She became the first female president, not just in the country of Liberia, but also in the whole continent of Africa. Sirleaf was born in 1938 to very poor parents, who were nevertheless very politically active. She made sure she got her education, and she studied economics as well as accounting. When she tried to run for vice-president in 1985, she was placed under house arrest, citing sedition as the cause. However, she was unrelenting in her efforts, and she took very brave and political stands which lead her to win the 2005 elections, which she won against many odds. She has worked towards the rights of women, she has worked towards the decrease of national debt, she stressed on education for all children, and she stressed upon the importance of an educated society, and she also stood for gay rights. On account of her work, she was also given the Nobel Prize in 2011, which she shared with Tawakel Karman and Leymah Gbowee, who are from Yemen. The three were recognized for their immense contribution to women’s empowerment.
And if one would insist on pegging her two-time presidential victory, then one should look at the second African woman to become the head of state in the continent of Africa. Joyce Banda became the second woman to become a president in an African country. She succeeded the previous president, Bingu Wa Mutharika after he passed away. However, she began to be opposed to his practices even before he passed away, and as such, she was not quite in favor of the previous president when he died. Banda had to face a lot of discrimination not only in the political aspect of her life, but also in the personal front. She had a very abusive husband whom she finally left in 1981, and she later founded the National Association of Businesswomen, in order to encourage entrepreneurship amongst women who wished to be financially secure. She was insulted by First lady Callista Mutharika who called her a simple mandasi seller who does not deserve to become the president. However, Banda turned this around to her favour, and proudly declared the fact that she was proud to be one, just because there are a lot of women in Malawi who are in the profession, and that it would help them connect with her even better.
Both these women fought against a lot of resistance by the more patriarchal systems which were at work. Both these women decided to not just stand up for themselves, but also to stand up for all those who do not have a voice to speak out with. They started out as simple women in difficult countries, and yet they have moved forward to make history as leaders of the respective African nations.