Powerful women in politics

Powerful women in politics, An Intro

This part of our website is dedicated to the most powerful influential women politicians of our time.  This has been made necessary by the consistent acrimoniously negative political culture of political mudslinging, character assassinations and personal smear campaigning tactics against women.  These tactics have left very little to be desired and have consistently discouraged women from effectively participating and contesting as candidates for elections. The unwarranted invasion of privacy to the women deters them from wanting to participate as openly their male counterparts in political spaces.

However, women have one way or the other always been involved in the political arena across many countries within and beyond Africa. For the longest time, they have been at the forefront of the struggle.  When men were fighting a system of oppression, women were right there in the trenches with them. Not as lovers, cooks or concubines, but rather as soldiers; comrades and partners in arms.  The history of women being involved in the politics and economics of a country date as far back as the 1700s, during slavery.   Women had no vote and had little or no influence on the political scene,  however, they played a significant role in the abolition of Slave Trade and Slavery particularly in Britain by writing imaginative literature on slavery.  In South Africa, on 9 August 1956, 20,000 women staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the extension of abusive pass laws. 

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The 1956 Women’s March which was led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Raheema Moosa and Sophia Williams played a pivotal role in women becoming more visible and active participants in the politics of the government of the day.  

Studies have shown that a higher numbers of women in parliament generally contribute to stronger attention to women and children’s issues. Therefore, greater participation of women in politics is an essential prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy.  This facilitates women’s direct engagement in public political decision-making.  Although, strides have been made in this regard, the continent still requires gender- sensitive reforms that will ensure that all elected officials effectively promote gender equality, implementation, good governance and accountability.

Barriers of entry for Women in Politics

Even though, women have consistently demonstrated great leadership across party they often have to prove themselves against their male counterparts.  There are various hindrances to the progress being made, such as lack of resources or a network of women in similar positions who can effectively provide support to each other during campaigning and while in office; the intimidation some may suffer from their male counterparts when they decide to participation, lack of support from the home/ family front.

Moreover, Africa is a largely patriarchal continent, therefore women are expected to be submissive to men, often when an interest is expressed by women to participate in a public elections, women are still expected to ascribe to the norms and conditions that have been predetermined for them by the status quo which often lead to little or no support from their communities.  As you navigate these pages on the history of women in politics, you will find that as a common thread.

What can be done to reduce these barriers?

African communities must intentionally send positive messages to women and girls about their role and place in civil society. The current women movements on the continent are strongly partisan and fractured and often still driven by a male dominated narrative.

There must be deliberate policies that can be adopted to ensure that the rights for women to participate freely in politics are protected and they can do so without intimidation.  Governments led by women politicians such as Ellen Eugenia Johnson Sirleaf, Nkosazana Dlamini – Zuma, Silvia Kinigi should endeavour to support opportunities for social and business networking and interactions in politics to enable the nurturing of a powerful network of women politicians who can pour resources into women’s political campaigns in the continent.  Their support will further strength the passing of the baton of mantle of leadership to the coming generation of women in politics.

At EMCA, we conduct public workshops and seminars on women leadership and participation in politics, voter education and training for women who are candidates whether on a partly list or independent.  These workshops and seminars, are to them in the different dynamics of campaign management and political strategy.

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Powerful Women In Politics, Their Profiles