MWANAMKE MWAFRIKA - The African Woman

Africa has millions of young, talented women. But most of them don't want to go into politics, because they are marginalized there. Men - old, power-hungry "big men," dominate the political sphere in Africa to a far greater extent than in Europe. Many African presidents are older than 70, while the average age in Africa is about 19. These men know nothing about the realities of life for young men and women.

Women are now beginning to take over the office spaces that men have been dominating. You get into government offices for example adorned with mahogany paneling, massive leather armchairs, fireplaces, English table clocks and views of the true future of African leadership and you realize these offices were not meant for women. When a woman takes charge in such an office she has to give it her female touch. At least place some white orchids into the urinals in the men's room.

For a long time things haven't gone well for the African woman, because the men thought, because she was either young, black, inexperienced and, most of all, a woman she cannot lead. When she spoke English without a strong Kikuyu or Yoruba accent, she was even accused of not being a real African.

As a man, I am lifting up my hat. Lifting it up because the African woman has prevailed, and she has even greater ambitions. Africa is in the midst of an economic boom. If this development is to be stable, we need new ideas and a younger elite. And, of course, we need far more women in positions of leadership. 

Bastions of power that were firmly in male hands until not too long ago are toppling all across Africa. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first female president in the continent's post-colonial history. In Kenya, a female foreign minister and female defense minister were sworn in for the first time since independence. Some 64 percent of the members of Rwanda's lower house of parliament are women, which gives the body the distinction of having the highest percentage of female parliamentarians in the world. When two African women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2011, women celebrated across Africa. Liberian President Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, a civil rights and peace activist, accepted the honor on behalf of all African women who brave the adverse conditions in their part of the world, including poverty, disease, the over-exploitation of natural resources, lawlessness and violence, and the chaotic forces of war. In April 2012, Joyce Banda, a former market woman, was sworn in as Malawi's president. Her most important objective was to fight poverty, which is especially prevalent among women and children. Her first official acts showed that she meant business, she sold her predecessor's jet and the luxury limousines used by senior government officials.

Africa's women are on the move. They are establishing law firms, Internet companies and fashion labels. They are managing banks, securing seats on corporate boards and running their own farms.

In Tanzania, Maasai women are fighting back against land grabbing and the forced displacement of their nomadic ethnic group. In Mali, Muslim mothers are rejecting the barbaric rituals of female circumcision that mutilate their daughters. In South Africa, tens of thousands of female activists have been involved in anti-rape campaigns. All of these women are taking advantage of the faster communication offered by technology and social networks. More and more women are no longer willing to be treated like house slaves and unpaid workers. And more and more are rebelling against the abusers, rapists, drinkers and good-for-nothings who exploit their families instead of providing for them.

The Washington-based International Center for Research on Women estimates that women in sub-Saharan Africa produce about 80% of all food products, and yet they own only 1 percent of arable land. In chronic crisis and war zones, like eastern Congo, it is primarily women who fight for peace and, with their reconciliation programs, attempt to heal the wounds of conflict. International aid organizations prefer to employ women, because they are more reliable and less susceptible to corruption. Women-run projects are generally more sustainable. Microloans are more effective when entrusted to women, with a repayment rate of 95 to 98 percent. Development experts agree that the continent would be in a far worse shape if it weren't for women.

Africa's future is female.

CHARACTERIZED BY - Ngina Kagera

MAKE UP & STYLING - Bahati Thambikeni

SHOT ON - The Phase One 645DF


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