The late Mozambican President Samora Machel once said: “The liberation of women is not an act of charity but a fundamental precondition for the success of our revolution.” These words remain relevant as we reflect on the status of women’s participation in the sphere of politics and decision-making processes on the continent. South African opposition politician Julius Malema once bemoaned the lack of representation of the youth in the Pan African Parliament. Malema’s call comes against a backdrop of low participation in the representation of women and the youth in political processes.
Statistical figures show that more than half of the world’s population is female, but worldwide only 21 percent of national parliamentarians are women. Globally, according to UN Women, there are only eight countries – Bosnia Herzegovina, Brunei, Hungary, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Tonga and Vanuatu – that have no women in their governments. UN Women also noted that in Africa, strides have been made in South Africa, Cape Verde and Rwanda – where women account for more than 30% of ministers in the Cabinet.
Though it is significant, it still remains a small figure as far as the realisation of gender equality is concerned. It can be argued that the composition of legislative bodies can have a serious effect on the quality of laws passed where pushing the interests of women is concerned.
The participation of women in political decision-making positions was recognised as a political right after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. UDHR Articles 2 and 21 stipulate the equal enjoyment of political rights without discrimination on the basis of one’s sex or any other ground.
Hence, the strengthening of women’s participation in all spheres of life has become a major issue in the development discourse, and socioeconomic development cannot be fully achieved without the active involvement of women at the decision-making level in all society.
Thus we put out this special edition with a particular focus in celebrating International Women’s Day which is commemorated every 8 March.