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Friday, February 18, 2011

Increased political participation among African women

28 September 2008 [MEDIAGLOBAL]: Millions of African women’s progress is challenged by their everyday realities of hunger, violence, exclusion, sickness, and discrimination. According to the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), most African women are worse off today than they were a decade ago.
According to UNIFEM’s flagship 2008 publication, “Progress of the World’s Women”, eight out of ten African women workers have vulnerable employment, meaning they contribute to family work or are self-employed. These informal work arrangements are paid too low to generate savings and lack social protection. Through these jobs, women have become the backbone of Africa’s “informal” economy.
However, they have been unable to reap the gains from the sustained growth of their national economies because they are marginalized by deregulation and privatization, labor migration, and resulting changes in family structures.
The UNIFEM report describes women as “the face of poverty” and directly relates this to the lack of economic opportunities or access to resources, including credit, land ownership, inheritance, and support services.
Additionally, the maternal mortality ratio in Africa is 920 per 100,000 live births. Only 47% of all sub-Saharan deliveries are attended by a skilled health worker. More than half of the world’s maternal deaths (270,000-500,000) occur in Africa. This is less than one-fifth of what is needed to achieve the Maternal Health Millennium Development Goal (MDG). This is the MDG most lagging out of all eight. It is expected to fail because of the current state in Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa is also the region most populated by those living with HIV. Women account for three out of the five adults living with HIV in the region. About 60 percent of adults infected with HIV in 2007 were women, up from 54 percent in 1990. Among 16-24 year olds in Africa, 75 percent of those infected are women.
These startling statistics underscore women’s vulnerability and existing structural inequalities,” Micheline Ravololonarisoa, Chief of the UNIFEM Africa Section, told MediaGlobal.
However, also over the past decade, the political and social context in Africa has been noted for its increased political will by African States to address issues of gender inequality and women’s human rights.
“Where Africa is doing well is in increased women’s participation. The share of parliamentary seats held by women increased from 7% in 1990 to 17% in 2007,” stated Ravololonarisoa. Africa’s share of parliamentary seats held by women is now in line with the global average.
Rwanda ranks first among all countries with 39 women elected to parliament. Women outnumber men in the Rwandan Parliament.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia. (Photo: Press of Liberia)
Over the past ten years, the number of African women participating in politics has multiplied. A significant number of African women now hold offices such as President, Prime Minister, Vice-President, Ambassador, Minister of Gender, Committee Chairperson, Paramount Chief, Deputy President, Minister of Social Action, and more in their respective states.
In line with women’s increased political participation, there has also been an augmentation in African girls’ primary education enrollment.
“There has been a steady upward trend of girls’ enrollment in primary education from 83% in 1991, 85% in 2000 to 89% in 2006. At the same time, one must note that only 55% girls, compared to 65% boys, complete primary school,” explained Ravololonarisoa.
While it has been noted that a majority of sub-Saharan African girls have a primary school education, only 23 percent of these girls enroll in secondary school. This is the lowest girls’ enrollment rate worldwide.
“Factors such as violence in schools, including sexual violence, insecure school environments, and inadequate sanitation disproportionately affect girls’ participation and retention. This [low percentage] is significant because of the evidence indicating that post primary education has the greatest impact on women’s empowerment,” said Ravololonarisoa.

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