Women in politics: in Sub-Saharan Africa and Beyond

There is an inequality between the number of men and the number of women who are involved in politics across the world. In 1995, the percentage of female members of national parliaments across the world was 11.3%. By November 2018, this had increased to 24%. This number, however, is still relatively small and many governments want to increase it.

WHY SHOULD MORE WOMEN BE INVOLVED IN POLITICS?

Currently, there are more men than women in senior positions (not only in politics) across the world. Women’s participation in government helps to tackle this inequality. This is because more women in politics means that young girls will have more female role models in senior positions to look up to. It also proves to the general public that young women can achieve ambitious goals. This will hopefully mean that in the future more girls across the world will have the confidence to fill senior positions in society, and there will eventually be complete gender equality not only in politics, but in other high-ranking jobs too.

It is also important that there are more female politicians because it means different viewpoints can be brought to the government, other than men’s viewpoints. This consequently means that a greater variety of issues can be discussed and different solutions can be proposed. Research has found that with an increase in women in government, there is an increase in policy making that focuses on the needs of families, women and girls, and ethnic or racial minorities.

THE CURRENT STATE OF POLITICAL WOMEN IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa is progressing in terms of women’s involvement in politics. As of November 2018, the percentage of women in parliaments in Sub-Saharan Africa has risen to 23.6%. This is almost exactly the same as the global percentage (24%), but there is still room for improvement. Several male politicians have recognised the inequality and are working to change it. In October 2018, half of the new set of ministers which Ethiopia’s Prime Minister (Abiy Ahmed) appointed were women. Soon after, the Ethiopian parliament voted for Sahle-Work Zewde to become Ethiopia’s first female president.

Furthermore, around the same time, Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, announced that Rwanda’s new cabinet would also be gender-balanced, like that of Ethiopia. In fact, Rwanda has the world’s highest percentage of women in a national parliament – as of October 2018, 61% of its parliament members were female.

THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN POLITICS

Despite these positive developments, there is still much progress to be made. In many countries it is unfortunately still widely believed that a woman’s place is in the home and that leadership is for men. This is an outdated assumption or idea which needs to be challenged. It is important that both men and women make an effort to change the gender-imbalance in politics.

Marwin Ramos

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