What the African Female Presidents have taught us over time

Is female presidency the future of Africa?

For many centuries now, Patriarchy has been the way and rule of life, in most African societies, women were not accepted to have any position of power as they were regarded as the inferior to men, good for sex and they were to stay indoors, looking after the children and the husband as sex roles were well defined and could not be defied.

Patriarchy, for those who don’t know, is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. In the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures hold authority over women and children. Some patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

It’s also because of this patriarchal nature that we have seen very few Female African Presidents over time, as many people, including women trust male leaders than they do female leaders. Many argue that the female species is a very emotional and non logical specie but I would choose to differ.

As the world is beginning to acknowledge the role of women in society and power, there have been many changes in the political sphere. In her entire history, Africa has recorded only seven female presidents – elected or interim and the tide is still turning.

In total, Africa has only had 7 female presidents and as we speak, there is only one female African President and that is Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius since 2015. The very first African female was Sylvie Kinigi, who served as acting Head of State in Burundi between 1993 and 1994.

Other female African presidents are; Ivy Matsepe- Casaburri, the acting president of South Africa in 2005 and 2008, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia (2006), Rose Francine Rogombe, Interim president of Gabon (2009), Agnes Monique Bellepea, president of Mauritius (2012 & 2015), Joyce Hilda Banda, president of Malawi (2012-2014), and Catherine Samba- Panza president of the Central African Republic (2014).

Equality takes time and we have to remain patient. It took 703 years for the UK to progress from the Magna Carta (1215) to the first votes for women (1918). A further 57 years elapsed before the sexual discrimination act (1975). Since few African countries have been independent for more than 60 years, it is unsurprising women’s legal and cultural status lags behind countries like the UK, but we are getting there.

The high number of women in Rwanda’s parliament (in 2011, Rwanda was the only country where women outnumbered men in government) has facilitated the passing of certain laws, such as stricter punishments for those committing violence against women. This further strengthens women’s rights and participation in issues that could develop a country.

“Ma Ellen. The Iron Lady. Africa’s Queen. People across the world regularly use these names to describe Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first female President of Liberia and the continent’s first female head of state. They hint at the immeasurable amount of strength, charisma, and conviction it required for her to win the 2005 election (and re-election in 2011), where she not only beat despotic leaders who used violence against her and the voters, but also convinced a nation that a woman could serve in the role. When she took office, Johnson-Sirleaf became a figure of hope and inspiration for a broken country—and for the rest of the world.”- Moira Forbes

There are very many useful lessons to be learnt from the female African heads of states but the most important one to pick from is the fact that not even one single female African president has tried to deter democracy in anyway, not even when single female African president has overstayed in power nor been a dictator like their male counterparts, now, that is something.

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