Which way? the ‘beloved’ African woman

Rwandan women parliamentarians

GIRL POWER; Rwandan women legislators at work. Photo by The Washington Post/Getty Images

 

Over the decades African women have bore the brunt of a hostile environment, littered with societal ills such as male chauvinism, brutality including rape and defilement, economic deprivation and, gender inequality among others.

Coupled with the social ills, are socio-economic challenges like lack of access to water and justice to name but a few.

Further, in most parts of Africa communities tend to be patriarchal, with men regarded as head of households and therefore considered breadwinners.

But some of the men abuse this privileged position, turning into ‘monsters’ against the very people that bear and raise children but also till the land and actually put food on the table .

According to UNWomen, a global organization that champions the rights of women, about 700 million women married today were engaged while below the age of 18, and about 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced sexual intercourse.

Of these the majority are found in Africa where recourse to justice is a nightmare.

Another challenge in Africa is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a ‘curse’ that has seen millions of youthful girls lose vital sexual organs (clitoris).
Closer home in the Horn and East African region the crude practice, carried out by non-trained elderly women, is widespread in Somalia and in Kenya and Uganda, among the Sabiny clans’ people.

The 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the follow up Fourth UN Beijing Conference in 1995 have done little to offer remedy to the pathetic situation faced by women, mostly in Africa.

For instance, a local daily in Uganda has reported that over 50% of the female Members of Parliament have admitted to facing some form of violence: emotional, physical or sexual, despite the Domestic Violence Act having been enacted in 2010.

Indeed, one of the high profile victims of domestic violence in Uganda is Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, a former Vice President who reported that her husband Charles Kazibwe (RIP) had on occasion slapped her

In South Africa it is reported that three women are killed every day, probably the worst global pointer to gender based violence (GBV) against women.

Winnie Byanyima

ONE OF AFRICAN WOMEN SUCCESS STORIES: Uganda’s Aeronautical Engineer. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International. She is also a champion of women’s rights

 

In Nigeria the kidnap of about 300 school girls from Chibok is still fresh in our minds, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is the photos that tell the story: thousands are shown fleeing the commotion in the eastern parts of the vast central African state that has lawlessness as its ‘middle name’.

four-women-carrying-firewood-1024x768

AFRICA’S UNSUNG HEROINES; African women carrying firewood./planeterra.org

 

Similarly, the raging supremacy war pitting President Salva Kiir against his erstwhile deputy Riek Machar Teng in South Sudan has exposed the women to untold suffering, forcing many into another round of exile after a short-lived reprieve home.

Such a pitiable situation comes against the backdrop of reports that several women in the country that was ravaged by a two-decade war bear the bitter experiences arising out of high illiteracy rates, early marriages and lack of access to quality health care facilities.

This story is not any different in Darfur, where the civil war that began in 2003 has seen thousands of women and children die due to attendant ills like starvation and diseases.

Some interventions in Eastern Africa

However, as celebrations for the World Women’s Day are going on across the region, not all is lost and governments across the region have over the years come up with interventions to check the abuse of women rights.
For instance in Uganda, affirmative action has been given leverage, with the government structuring political, educational and social participation of women.

Walk for Gender Equality

The Arusha City Council, Women Organisations, Staff members of the EAC and other invited guests partaking in a ‘Walk for Gender Equality’ around designated areas in Arusha town during EAC’s International Women’s Day celebrations.

 

For instance, in 1996 the Ministry of Education introduced a system where girls were accorded1.5 points to boost their chances of attaining a university education after completing A-level.

The scheme has now been given further lifeline after the Parliament of Uganda resolved that all girls joining university, irrespective of their entry design (Mature Entry, Diploma Holder), benefit from the 1.5 point system.
Further, women have been encouraged to join politics after government created a special parliamentary seat for them in every district, while at the same time many of those elected under this scheme have gone on to be appointed to cabinet.

Meanwhile, as a means of improving access to justice, the Uganda Police Force has now established a Family and Child Protection Department, while the High Court has also established the Family Division, providing a boost to the local women lawyers’ rights organization, FIDA.

Similarly, in neighbouring Kenya, at political level, the government has introduced women representative seats both in the Lower House and the Senate as an affirmative action aimed at enhancing the participation of women in politics.

Also, for the first time since the 30% (two-thirds rule) recommendation for participation of women at all levels of governance, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed six women to his 18-man cabinet.

While not much can be written about affirmative action in South Sudan, in Rwanda the government has prioritized gender equality; the central African country has the highest parliamentary representation (more than two-thirds) of women in the world.
The country also has strict conditions against gender based violence, with GBV perpetrators getting long jail terms.